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In Photoshop CS6 for Photographers, author, photographer, and teacher Chris Orwig explores Photoshop from the perspective of the photographer.
The course details the features and techniques behind enhancing and retouching photos, preparing them for print and online publishing, and much more. Chris demonstrates how to make basic edits in Camera Raw, develop and save color profiles, work with layers and selections, tone and sharpen, and retouch images while retaining their natural character.
Chris also shares some creative tips and project ideas, such as converting a photo to black-and-white and enhancing a portrait with hand-painted masks. The course also covers workflow details, such as organizing images in Bridge and Mini Bridge, optimizing Photoshop preferences, and calibrating your monitor.
I love the process of sharpening a picture because typically it means that you're at the end of your overall workflow. You want to sharpen your image just before you're ready to send that to the client or to the printer or to post it online. So here in this chapter, we are going to focus in on how we can create tack sharp images. We are going to start off with this picture which I captured just a few blocks away from Adobe's headquarters in San Jose, California. Let's go ahead and double-click on the Zoom tool in order to zoom in to 100% on this image, so that we can see the color and tone and texture that we have in this image.
Well, the photograph looks pretty good, but I want to make it look better, and I want to do so using what's called Smart Sharpen. So in our Layers panel, let's duplicate the layer, because typically, you want to do the sharpening on a new layer so that you can modify or customize it if needed. Let's do that by pressing Command+J on a Mac, or Ctrl+J on Windows and let's name this layer Smart Sharpen. The next step is to navigate to the Filter pulldown menu, and here we are going to go to Sharpen, and the two options you'll use most frequently will either be Smart Sharpen or Unsharp Mask because they have controls; the other just apply the amount without many controls or controls at all, in other words, those filters are blind.
Therefore, we want to choose one of these two options so that we can specify the amount of sharpening which is appropriate for our image. Well, here let's click on Smart Sharpen. This will open up this dialog, and what I want to do first is just kind of deconstruct what we're seeing here. Well, we have an Amount slider. As you click-and-drag this up, it increases the sharpening, and then we have Radius. Well, as we drag Radius to the right, you're going to see that the edges will start to glow. Let me exaggerate this so that we have bad sharpening.
Notice the glowing artifacts there. If we click, you can see that before and after; how it kind of looks almost HDR or just kind of strange. Well, the Radius is how far out from the edges that Sharpening effect is being applied. Now, if we exaggerate this perhaps even more and then zoom in a little bit, we can take a look at a few other options that we have here when it comes to Sharpening. With Smart Sharpen, we can either remove Lens Blur, or on the other hand, Gaussian Blur. Gaussian Blur is a lot like working with Unsharp Mask.
Notice the glow around the edge, it's more diffused, it's more prominent. When we choose Lens Blur, it's a much tighter edge, in other words, it applies better sharpening. So typically, you'll want to use Lens Blur. Next, we have an option which is called Motion Blur. This option is great if you have photographs that you created when you were panning with a slow shutter speed. Yet, here we need to dial in the angle. You'll notice that the Sharpening is applied in this case to the top and bottom or on the left and right, depending on the overall angle.
Well, this image obviously doesn't have Motion Blur, so we will choose Lens Blur. Next, we have this option for More Accurate. As I turn this on, you are going to see all the texture is going to show up there. So More Accurate is going to focus in on these little teeny details in your photograph. Again, this works well when you want a lot of texture, or when you have really small details you want to draw out when you're sharpening. For this photograph, I am going to turn this off and then go ahead and bring these Amounts and Radius back to something which is a bit more reasonable.
Let's also zoom back to 100% so we can see an appropriate view of this image. Well, now that we have that, now that we understand these controls a little bit, how can we use this dialog? Well, the first thing you want to do is choose an Amount. Typically, your Amount is going to hover around 100. Then your Radius will really be dependent upon your file resolution; the higher the resolution, the higher the Radius, the lower the resolution, the lower the Radius. Well here, what we want to do is increase the Radius until we see that Glow Effect.
So as I increase this, I can then click on the image and I start to see that I have these glowing edges. It's a little bit too high. And then I am going to bring my Amount and also my Radius down a bit. In other words, you kind of want to go to that point where you've over-sharpened your image. You want to find that edge, and then kind of scale things back a little bit. You can click on the image to see that before and after, you can also click on this Preview button to see the before and after in the window behind this as well.
In doing that, what I'm noticing is that with this image, I need to bring my Radius and Amount down just a little bit more. You want to have sharpening which doesn't look overdone. I think this looks good for this image. So here, we will click OK. Now, having done that, we can then turn the visibility of this layer on and off. What we should see is that subtle kind of snap of our photograph, so it kind of pops just a bit. You want to look for any telltale sign of over-sharpening because that will then detract or pull the viewer away from the content of the image.
In this case, I think this looks really nice. Now, the last step that I recommend that you apply whether you're using Unsharpen Mask or Smart Sharpen is to change this layer's Blending mode to Luminosity. You may recall in the chapter on Blending modes, we talked about how this Blending mode allows you to blend the content in without creating any kind of exaggerated noise which sometimes happens when you sharpen your photographs. So by applying this, it will ensure that our photograph looks tack sharp, that it looks great, and that we're not bringing out any color noise or any artifacting.
And that's especially important if you use that More Accurate button inside of that dialog. Well, either way, now we have wrapped up our whole process of sharpening this image, we've applied Smart Sharpen, and then at the end, we applied this Blending mode of Luminosity, and here we can see our overall before and then after. And while that may be a little bit difficult to see in this compressed movie, my hope is that this movie has helped you learn how you can work with Smart Sharpen in order to sharpen your photographs.
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