Join Tim Grey for an in-depth discussion in this video When to sharpen, part of Photoshop: Sharpening Power (2011).
It's generally a given, that you'll be applying Sharpening to your photographic images, but what about the issue of when to sharpen? Generally speaking, I recommend making sharpening the last thing you do to an image, before printing or otherwise sharing the image. That means you're applying Sharpening after you've optimized the overall appearance of the image, and after you've re-sized the image for printing. Saving sharpening for last, ensures that the Sharpening you apply is optimized for the actual pixel dimensions of the image. If you were to re-size after sharpening, you would be making changes that can alter the Sharpening, either causing the Sharpening Effect to not be as effective as it should be, or potentially exaggerating sharpening artifacts. As with any general rule, there are certainly exceptions. For example, in some cases, you may want to apply sharpening in multiple steps, at different points in your workflow.
You might also wish to apply Sharpening as a Creative Effect, which would call for applying the effect in the context of your normal image optimization workflow. But in general, sharpening is something done to an image, to prepare it for output, and should be applied during the process of preparing the image for its final output. This approach often means that your master image, the image file that consists of all the various adjustments and corrections you've applied, will not be sharpened. Or at least it won't be sharpened for the final output.
In other words, from my perspective sharpening is best thought of as a tool used to optimize the final image you share, not to optimize the appearance of the image while you're working on it. As you continue to explore various Sharpening strategies and techiques, you'll gain a better understanding of the issues related to Sharpening. You'll learn to appreciate the reasoning behind applying Sharpening at the end of your workflow. And you'll also discover situations where you want to apply Sharpening earlier in your workflow. The key is to understand the tools and techniques involved, so you can make an informed decision, optimizing to each individual image you work on.
- When to sharpen
- Zoom settings for sharpening
- Sharpening RAW captures
- Preparing a photo for output and sharpening
- Using Unsharp Mask and Smart Sharpen
- Creative and targeted sharpening
- Using advanced blending options
- Multiple-pass sharpening
- Using third-party tools