Sharpening more effectively
Sharpening more effectively
Here, I want to share with you a really simple tip that will help you get even more out of using your noise reduction in your sharpening controls. Well, the first thing that we need to do before we do anything is we need to get into 100%. Let's do so by way of a shortcut, press Command+Option+0 on a Mac, Ctrl+Alt+0 on Windows. Next, let's navigate to the Detail panel by way of a shortcut as well. This one is Command+Option+3 on a Mac, Ctrl+Alt+3 on Windows, or of course, we can simply click on the tab here, or to zoom into 100%, we can also just double-click on the Zoom tool. All right.
Well, here we can see as we zoom in on this photograph that there's a lot of noise in the background, and that this image is going to need a little bit of work. So, let's say we go ahead, and we've reduced some of the luminance noise here, and we maintain some details by bringing that Detail slider up there, nice amount of contrast, a little bit of color noise reduction. Now our noise reduction is set, yet we need to sharpen the image as well, because if we press the P key, here we can see our before, and then our after. The image is a little bit soft. Let me zoom in even further, so you can really see this. Here we have our before and then now our after.
You can zoom in and out on your photos by pressing Command on a Mac, Ctrl on Windows, and than Plus or Minus. I'll go ahead and zoom out by pressing Command+Minus or Ctrl+Minus. Well, now that we've seen that the image is indeed a little bit soft, how can we sharpen this file? Well, what you can do is you can actually hold down the Option key on a Mac, Alt key on Windows, and then click and drag the various Sharpening sliders, and you'll get a different perspective of what's happening. Well, if we hold down Option or Alt and click and drag Amount, here we see a grayscale version of the image.
As I drag this to the right, this really helps us identify what's happening when we sharpen the image. Now let's exaggerate the sharpening for a moment, so we'll leave this really high here, and then make our way to Radius. Now, if we do the same thing, hold down Option or Alt, and then click and drag Radius, what we're going to see is that the sharpening is going to extend out from those edges. Now they're almost glowing. If we want to tighten this up, so the radius is really close to the edges, we can have a really small or low amount with regards to our radius. Okay, well, how then does detail work? Well, we already know a little bit about this.
If we hold down Option or Alt and click and drag, here we're going to see all the little teeny details are now sharp, and then if we drag to the left, those little details aren't sharp. Okay, but what about masking? Well, you may remember that what I said about masking is that as you increase this, it focuses in on the edges more and more, and if you've worked with Photoshop before, you know that a mask in Photoshop is either in black or in white. Black conceals and white reveals. We'll hold down Option or Alt, and then click and drag this slider, and here you can see that what's happening is it's going to limit the sharpening to a particular area.
As I click and drag this up, black is concealing the sharpening effect from the sky. Now, that's really helpful, because we typically don't want to sharpen skies. Skies are one of the most problematic areas in digital photography, just because of the color variation, the gradation. So therefore, we don't want to exaggerate that. For that matter, soft skies or soft clouds typically look best. So in this case, I'm now limiting the sharpening just to the areas where it's white. Now, if there's an area where it's gray, like on some portions of the motorcycle, then it's going to be a little bit less sharpening amount in those areas.
So again, we have this really nice mask, which is limiting the sharpening to particular areas. Now, my sharpening amount is way over- exaggerated, but by increasing my masking amount, it's now limiting that sharpening just to the cyclist here, and it's not that bad. Well, of course, we need to bring our Amount back down, but this just kind of illustrates really the power of this last slider. It's incredibly strong! All right. I'll go ahead and bring my Amount down a touch, and then my Detail, I'm also going to bring down as well.
I don't want to go too far with that one. Now, let's press the P key. When we do so, we can see the before and then now the after, really adding a lot of snap back to that cyclist there. Now, if ever we've gone too far or if we feel like our radius is too high, well, we can lower that of course, and we can lower our amount until we find just the right sweet spot, just the right mixture or combination of these different controls. I think right here it looks incredibly good! Why I can say that is because I'm really looking at my edges, I don't want any glowing edges.
I want to have nice detail across the image. I want to have the sky nice and smooth in the background. So, in this case, I might even go ahead and just lower a little bit of that detail there, in this case, to bring just a little bit more noise reduction in the background. A lot of times, you'll bounce back and forth between these controls. I'll bring up my Luminance Noise Reduction a touch more there. Okay, I think that looks good. Let's press the P key. Here we have it before, and then now after. I'll zoom in a touch further, so you can see that. Here we have our before, and then after, really natural-looking sharpening, great noise reduction, and along the way, we learned a valuable tip about using the Option key while clicking and dragging these sliders.
Now, the last thing that I have to point out here is that sometimes we may work on our noise reduction or sharpening, not at 100% or higher. So, let's say that we decide to zoom out. I'll go ahead and click on the Minus icon to zoom out, or I'll hold down Option or Alt while I have the Zoom tool selected. Then I'll click to zoom out as well. Now, as I do this, you can see here I'm at 50% zoom rate. Well, let's say that here I decide I want to apply some sharpening. So, hold down Option or Alt, then I click and drag my Detail slider.
Well, at this juncture, I can't really see these details very well. The further that I zoom out from this, and the further that I try to evaluate the details, it really becomes quite irrelevant. Now, on the other side of the equation, sometimes what happens is we really get into our images. Let's say we zoom way into our files, and we keep clicking and clicking and clicking, and we're here at 300%. Then we try to dial in the right detail amount. Well, it's near impossible. It's as if we're looking at our images under a magnifying glass.
So, one of the things that you're going to have to do is try to find the sweet spot. Now sometimes, that's 100%, but sometimes with higher megapixel cameras, 100% is even too much. So again, you're going to have to do a little bit of a give-and-take, zooming in and out right around 100. Typically, what I do is I look at the image at 50%, at 100%, at 150%, and I go back and forth between the zoom rates, just to take a look at how the detail looks at those different rates, and I also think about the final intent of the photograph, because what we're doing here is input sharpening and noise reduction.
And I need to think about, okay, how am I going to print this image, where is it going to be displayed, what type of paper will it be printed on, what type of magazine will it be printed in? And I think of all those different factors, and then that helps me dial in the most appropriate amount of sharpening and noise reduction.
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