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Photoshop CS4 for Photographers is an essential course for any digital photographer who wants to master the software's vast array of image enhancement techniques. Professional photographer and instructor Chris Orwig uses his own compelling images to demonstrate how the power of Photoshop can make photographers more passionate about their work. He covers many aspects of the application, such as working with RAW images, using curves and levels, making images snap, and enhancing bland photographs by converting them to black and white. Exercise files accompany this course.
In this movie, we will be digging into another type of sharpening. We will be looking at the filter Unsharpen Mask. It's a great sharpening filter and we will be working on this file, corwig_ surf_artist.tif. Go ahead and open that one up, press F to go to Full Screen View mode. Here we have this portrait of this Central California artist. He is a surfer and he does this really interested in surf art sculptures and I here he is standing with one of his sculptures and what I want to do is sharpen this image up. Now before we actually begin to sharpen our files, here is something we have to talk about. I'll go to my Adjustments and click on Curves. I know if I drag this down or I make this curve much less steep so it's much more flat. Well, the image is much more flat as well and I lost a little bit of sharpness, interesting. On the other hand, if I increase the contrast, I'll go ahead and do that. Well, the image now feels much more sharp, it's that interesting.
So I just want to point this idea out, that sharpening and contrast are actually pretty closely related. So as I said in one of the previous movies, a lot time you wanted to sharpening at the end, but keep in mind you definitely want to do it after you have added the contrast, you are going to add for the image. Now with this particular image it feels a little bit flat, so I'm going to go ahead and add some contrast. Here is my before and after, because I want this image to have a little bit of an emotional feel. I want it to be pretty high contrast. So I'm going to increase the contrast and all of that idea there was on that curves adjustment brought on those two points. Now of course, I could go further, if I want to modify that and add some points on the curve and then I get back this off a little bit. Say if I added a little bit too much contrast in there as well then modify the points on the curve. All right, well the point isn't just talk about contrast, except to say that contrast and sharpening go hand in hand.
All right, well let's close that now and let's right-click on our Background layer, choose Convert to Smart Object, navigate to our Filter pulldown menu, choose Sharpen and then Unsharpen Mask. Now Unsharpen Mask is actually a pretty strong type of sharpening. I'm going to go ahead and reposition this so we can see some different details here and what I have is Amount, Radius and Threshold. I'm going to exaggerate these overall Amount, Radius and Thresholds here and I'm going to do that to kind of illustrate how threshold works. Currently the image looks horrible, right. I just have way too much of amount, that's the overall intensity to radius is the reach. We know how that works, right. How far out that sharpening actually extends? So it's really close to the edges and then we are going to start to see that halo glow or snap out. We can see it on the shadow especially well. Well, the Threshold I like to think of, as the save the day adjustment. This is the one, it's like, hey, you guys come on.
All right, talk some sense and do it and it says, let's back this off, let's deescalate this conflict and so this is kind of the save the day superhero slider and then when I increase my Threshold, all of a sudden if I look at my before and after. I don't even have that much sharpening, even though, I have a really high amount and also a really high radius. Now that being said, the amount and the radius will be contingent upon the resolution of the file. This is a pretty small file. I have sized it down. Typically, what you are going to see is that, you are going to have an Amount, somewhere again, between 100 it's up to probably 200, depending on the resolution. Your Radius is going to be relatively low for an 8 x 10 print.
Let's say, my radius is going to probably fall somewhere in between the ones and twos, very rarely gets up to three. So again, your radius is going to fall on the lower end of the spectrum. So let's go ahead and take a look at how we would sharpen this particular image. What I want to do is zoom-in, so I'm going to go ahead and press Command+ on a Mac, Ctrl+ on a PC. I want to be at 100 % there, so I can see that and increase my amount. I know that my amount is going to be pretty high and typically a nice way to find the sharpening is to bring your amount up to somewhere in the high 100s and then to bring your radius up and bring it up till you just start to see the halo.
So I just notice the halo there. What this is telling me is that this is a pretty low res file, i.e. low radius amount, and then I'm going to drop that underneath that. So again, I used a high amount to find that sweet spot, then I'll lower this back down and then I'm going to bring my threshold just to soften things off a bit. Click on my Preview to look at the before and after or click on this Preview to look at the before and after as well. Now because it tricky to see the sharpening into these movies. I'm going to increase this even further, so you can kind of get a sense for our before and after. But do keep in mind that when you are sharpening your files, you want your sharpening to be pretty unnoticeable. Yeah, you wanted to add a little bit of a snap. You wanted to make the image look that much better, but you shouldn't go over the top.
So I'm just going to try to find a sweet spot where I can show you some sharpening that you guys will still be able to notice that. We will zoom-in even more here. We can see that around this piece of the image here and again, in my case, when I'm looking at the 100 % view, I think that looks pretty good. I'll go ahead and click OK to apply that. Now the next little tip that I want to sneak into this movie is that, when you are sharpening you typically want to change your blend mode and here as why? Let me go ahead and create a new layer for a moment. I'll grab my Brush tool and I'm going to paint with a couple of colors. There is some red, there is some green and then there is some blue. So now I have these colors and I'll move them over the road, so you can see them a little bit better. When I take these colors to a blend mode of Luminosity, I'm just going to see there are luminance values.
Now a lot of times what happens when you are sharpening a photograph is you are actually bringing out some of the noise in the photograph and that's not very good, right? So we want to then double- click this icon here and take our blend mode to Luminosity. So should I apply this to smart sharpening as well? Yeah, definitely. You should apply this to Smart Sharpen and to Unsharpen Mask.
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