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How To Sharpen Images in Photoshop


In this tutorial, you will learn how to sharpen images in Photoshop.

Almost every photo that you take can benefit from some amount of sharpening.

Photoshop gives you several options for applying sharpening to an image as you will see in the corresponding video for this tutorial.

But no matter what method you use, you have to understand that Photoshop CC cannot bring back or add any new detail to the photo.

Photoshop, can only create the illusion of sharpness by increasing the contrast of edge pixels. Making it seem as if there is more detail in the image.

The tools that we will look at to sharpen images in Photoshop are the Smart Sharpen Filter, and the Camera RAW filter.

There are three types of sharpening that you can apply to a photo, Capture Sharpening, Creative Sharpening, and Output Sharpening. But in this video, we will mainly focus on capture sharpening.

Types of Sharpening

Capture Sharpening

The sharpening that you apply to an image brings back the sharpness lost through the process of capturing the image to a sensor and converting it to a digital format. The demosaicing process.

To offset this loss of detail, when you open a RAW file in CameraRAW or Lightroom you will see that the Sharpening “Amount” is set to 25 by default.

If you open a JPG, instead you will see that the Amount is set to 0, because your camera or the device adds sharpening during the compression process.

Creative Sharpening

Applied selectively based on artistic intent. It is an effect that tends not to be realistic or subtle.

Output Sharpening

The last step before output. Done after you reduce the size of the image and before exporting it as a JPEG, or before printing the image. Both printing and downscaling an image may soften it, and it may require a bit of sharpening to bring back some detail.

How to Sharpen Images in Photoshop’s Camera Raw

In this written tutorial we will focus on sharpening photos in Photoshop using Camera Raw. The video for this tutorial shows other methods.

I think that Camera Saw offers the best solution.

100% View

Start by changing the View.

When applying sharpness, always view the image at 100% so that you can see how the image is being affected, any other view is inaccurate or misleading.

The Amount Slider

The Amount slider controls how the intensity of the sharpening effect.

If you push sharpening too far, it can create edge halos or increase the noise in the photo, so it is always a good idea to keep your adjustments as subtle as possible.

There are no rules or settings that you should always use. The amount of sharpening that looks good depends on the contrast of the texture of the image. The only thing that seems to hold true in most cases is that you should apply subtle adjustments.

The Radius Slider

Remember that the Sharpening Slider is only creating the illusion of detail and sharpness by adding contrast to edges. It makes one side of the edge darker and the other side brighter.

This effect is more noticeable on edges that already contain contrast. Like a mountain against a sky.

No matter what image you have, if you look closely, you can see the contrast, the dark and bright edges, that create the sharpening effect.

The Radius slider controls the thickness of the edge where the contrast is applied. Lower values give you a thinner edge, while larger values give you a thicker edge.

The Detail Slider

As the name suggests, the Detail slider controls the amount of sharpening to the details in your image

A low value such as 0 only sharpens large edges, while a high value will sharpen even the smallest edges or details.

Notice that as you drag the Detail slider to the right, you start adding the sharpening effect to areas with small detail.

Pushing the Detail slider to the far right increases noise because the sharpening effect is applied to even the smallest details in the photo.

The Mask Slider

The Masking slider controls where the effect is applied.

At “0”, no masking is applied to the image, and the entire image is sharpened.

As you drag the Masking slider to the right, the sharpening effect starts disappearing from the areas without much detail, such as the sky.

If you are having trouble seeing what the Masking Slider is doing,  you can hold the Alt (Mac: Option) as you drag the sliders.

With the Masking slider set to 0, you will see that the image turns white, which means that the sharpening effect is applied to the entire image.

But if I move the slider to the right, you will start to see some areas become black.

Black hides the sharpening effect, while white reveals the sharpening effect.

The Masking slider helps you remove the extra noise produced by the “Amount” and “Detail” sliders.

Reduce The Noise Caused by Sharpening

Pay attention to the noise in your image as you are sharpening it.

You can avoid the trade-off between sharpness and noise to a certain extent by using the Masking slider. But in some cases, you will still have noticeable noise around your edges.

Reducing noise is simple to do in Photoshop’s Camera Raw.

Click on the Detail tab, and under Noise reduction, drag the Luminance slider to the right.

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