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The effects of sharpening

From: Photoshop CS4: Sharpening Images New Features

Video: The effects of sharpening

In this exercise, I am going to give you a sense for the effects of Sharpening inside of Photoshop. So in the unlikely event that you've never witnessed Sharpening before, you'll see it in just a few seconds. And for those of you who have seen Sharpening inside of Photoshop, you'll get a sense for why it is so essential to the imaging workflow, why every image you work with requires some degree of Sharpening inside of Photoshop, not to compensate for it's focus, but to support it's inherent focus.

The effects of sharpening

In this exercise, I am going to give you a sense for the effects of Sharpening inside of Photoshop. So in the unlikely event that you've never witnessed Sharpening before, you'll see it in just a few seconds. And for those of you who have seen Sharpening inside of Photoshop, you'll get a sense for why it is so essential to the imaging workflow, why every image you work with requires some degree of Sharpening inside of Photoshop, not to compensate for it's focus, but to support it's inherent focus.

So I'm working with this image called Star eyes12x8.jpg. And it comes to us from photographer Alexandra Alexis of my istockphoto.com. And it's available to those of you who are premium members of the lynda.com Online Training Library, or if you have access to the DVD version of this series, then you have this sample file as well. And you can see that it is impeccably focused, that is to say the portions of the image that should be in focus are in focus, and those portions that the photographer has chosen to leave out of focus, are out of focus, just the way the photographer wants the image to look.

Now the whole point of Sharpening is to make sure that that inherently sharp focus remains intact throughout the entire lifetime of the image, from the moment of capture, through and including all of the resampling and resizing that we might do to the image, and then of course, finally, outputting the image, which introduces a little bit of softness as well. So, here's what I am going to do. I am going to zoom in a little bit so that we can take in those eyes. And notice that this eye on the right, her left eye, is in sharp focus. So sharp that we can see this star shaped strobe pattern right here in the iris.

Meanwhile the left-hand eye, her right, is out of focus and this is of course a choice that the photographer has made. While the hairs in front of that are sharply focused and then other details inside of the image like these background hairs are out of focus. Everything that's out of focus is going to remain out of focus. I can't suddenly switch the depth of field inside the image. I can take details inside Photoshop and make them blurry, but I cannot take blurry details and make them sharp. So, if the image is out of focus, it's going to stay out of focus.

I hope that at least is understood. All right. So, let's say we want to sharpen this image. We want to make it more tactile. Then, I'll go to the Filter menu. I'll choose the Sharpen command. And then I'll choose a command that I never ever use, Sharpen More. And the whole reason I'm using it for demonstrational purposes here, is just because it will produce an effect and we'll see what that effect is, and we don't have to discuss any of the underlying options or how anything works. We will be discussing the much better commands: Smart Sharpen, Unsharp Mask and others in future portions of this series, so never fear, we will get to the good stuff.

But right now, I am just going to apply Sharpen More. And you'll notice, perhaps, the image changing here inside of the video. Now, we downsample our videos here at lynda.com in order to compress them, so they are a nice size for online delivery, so that they start playing almost immediately. And that's a good thing, however we do lose a little bit of detail inside of our images sometimes. So what I'm going to do is zoom way in on this eye and I am going to take it up to the 200% view size right here, so that we can really see the difference.

Now this is the before version of the image. Notice the sharpness of the detail right now. We can see every single one of these eyelashes. So it's not like we are hurting for detail. We can see everything just fine. We can see these lights inside of her iris. I mean how much more could we ask for than to see reflections in somebody's iris. But after I apply the Sharpen More command, and this is the after version of the image right here, you can see that things are really super-tactile. And we are seeing not only all of these eyelashes, but we were seeing slight halos around those eyelashes, slight light halos.

And I'll tell you about those and why those are contributing to our perception of sharpness in the very next exercise. But for now just know that they are. You sometimes hear an image like this called 'Over-sharpened,' because we've gone too far with it. It's gotten crunchy or brittle. We have jagged little sort of edge transitions going on. The thing is, you have to bear in mind that we are ultimately going to be printing that image. And as we print it, we are compressing more and more pixels into a smaller amount of space, and we need that crunchiness in order for the details to survive here.

All right, I'll go ahead and check out a couple of other details inside this image. For example, let's take a look at the nose right here. Now before, we've got this nose. And we're awfully darn close to this woman's nostril at this point, but for a good reason. You can see a little bit of hair and a little bit of pore detail, but as soon as you sharpen, the after version right here, we can see a lot of pores. We can see fine hairs all over the place, on top of the nostril, inside the nostril. We all have hairs all over the place and the reason I'm bringing this up is because sharpening not only brings out, not only what we would term to be good details like the eyelashes, but also bad details like body hair that we might not want to have seen.

So you have to be aware of sharpness from a cosmetic vantage point. Then again, we are going to see great details, for example, on the top of the lip here. We are not seeing much detail inside of the mouth. We are seeing that there are teeth there, but they are softly focused. I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac. So, this is the before version of the teeth. They are blurry. And this is the after version, after I apply Sharpening. Are they any more focused? No, they aren't. What are we sharpening? We are sharpening noise detail, inside of the image.

And this is the same for any of these softly focused areas inside the image. Now, we are looking at those hairs that are out of focus in the background. This is the before version of them. This is the after version. I'll go ahead and zoom in even farther here. All we are doing is bringing out the noise detail in the JPEG compression artifacts and the artificial information. This is not information that was really part of the scene, when it was captured. It's inherent in the capture process, and that's the kind of bad detail that you also bring out with Sharpening inside of Photoshop.

All right, so now we have seen the effects of Sharpening on an image. On an impeccably focused image. Wonderful contribution it can make. It can really make sure that image in print or on screen looks its absolute best. In the next exercise, I'll walk you through the mechanics of Sharpening. In other words, I'll show you how Sharpening works.

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Image for Photoshop CS4: Sharpening Images New Features
Photoshop CS4: Sharpening Images New Features

13 video lessons · 12248 viewers

Deke McClelland
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