Visit MPB Visit MPB Visit MPB

Sharpening in Photoshop

Posted 28/02/2013 - 04:59 Link
arto wrote:
Any discussion of Photoshop's native sharpening options would be incomplete without mentioning Smart Sharpen. If Lens Blur and More Accurate are selected, you get a deconvolution sharpening method that does a great job of tightening up the image and drawing out small details - much better than Unsharp Mask. Adjusting the Radius slider is akin to adjusting the Point Spread Function in a standard deconvolution process. Use with caution, and always use the Advanced options and fade the Shadows and Highlights to lessen haloes.

You can also reduce sharpening artefacts by sharpening on a separate layer (set to Luminance, as previously suggested) and doing a custom blend on that layer - setting the Blend If values to gradually fade out at either end, thus concentrating the effect on midtones.

Lastly, I would add that increasing mid-tone contrast is another good way of increasing perceptual sharpness. The easiest way is the USM method - make a new layer (set to Luminance) and apply a wide-radius USM to it: say, Amount 20, Radius 60+, Threshold 0. Then do a custom blend as described above to avoid blocking up shadows and highlights, and adjust opacity to taste. Works very well, especially when printing on matte paper.

Lightroom has a specific slider to tweak midtone contrast. It's called 'Clarity' --- I often apply a little of it, but don't like too much
[i]Bodies: 1x K-5IIs, 2x K-5, Sony TX-5, Nokia 808
Lenses: Pentax DA 10-17mm ED(IF) Fish Eye, Pentax DA 14mm f/2.8, Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8, Pentax-A 28mm f/2.8, Sigma 30mm F1.4 EX DC, Pentax-A 50mm f/1.2, Pentax-A 50mm f/1.4, Pentax-FA 50mm f/1.4, Pentax-A 50mm f/1.7, Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.8, Sigma 135-400mm APO DG, and more ..
Flash: AF-540FGZ, Vivitar 283
Posted 28/02/2013 - 08:52 Link
McGregNi wrote:

An alternative though would be to work in a non-destructive manner, which would include any layered techniques (such as the High Pass for example) and maintaining the original base layer as the 'Master'. You could then create a different layer with the specific shapening applied for each output and simply switch the other layer off when saving out each version. In this way your 'Master' file includes ready made output shapening options there already - very handy no doubt if sending the file to anyone else for printing different sizes if needed.

This is pretty much the process I use with the "photokit" is designed to apply sharpness based on the output type (web image, matt or gloss print etc) at the output resolution (800x600 web image, 30x20inch print etc). It helps simplify the sharpening process as I now use ACR to add "capture sharpness" to the RAW file, do any necessary editing in ACR, open Photoshop and all within an "action" resize the image as needed and apply the appropriate sharpening using the plug-in. I then save these in specific folders for future use.

Edited by simonkit: 28/02/2013 - 08:53
Posted 28/02/2013 - 20:28 Link
It is a good idea to integrate sharpening approaches firmly within a workflow, and keep the purpose of each stage / type of sharpening clearly defined.

Apart from globally applied 'Capture Sharpening' (which could be on camera as in John's JPEG), or in a parametric editor rendering a working file from RAW (eg Lightroom, PDCU, Bibble etc), I am firmly of the mind now that selective sharpening to specific areas of an image is the best way to go.

There are clearly now a wide range of possibilities for this type of flexible and targeted work - Photoshop offers layering techniques or blending modes for example - other newer solutions take a different route. For example, the Topaz Detail Photoshop plugin (works in 16bit within Elements too) offers three groups of sliders divided into 'Large' 'Medium' & 'Small' detailing (these are basically predefined pixel radius ranges). You use a 'Boost' slider to adjust the precise radius setting within the overal range and the strength slider to ramp up (or down) the micro-contrast.

If more precise selective targeting is needed then the Plugin can be applied to a duplicate layer and masked as required. The plugin helpfully offers a selection of fine tuning sliders needed to restore any altered brightness caused by the detailing (eg white point and saturation adjust).

This type of software does give us perhaps an easier to understand and more intuitive means to achieve very sophisticated results without the complexity and number of preparatory steps required using Photoshop. I am trying to learn more about PS blending modes though, specifically those that isolate colour channels out from luminance data, as a means to prevent having to make counteradjustments (as I referred to with the Topaz Plugin).
My Guides to the Pentax Digital Camera Flash Lighting System : Download here from the PentaxForums Homepage Article .... link
Pentax K7 with BG-4 Grip / Samyang 14mm f2.8 ED AS IF UMC / DA18-55mm f3.5-5.6 AL WR / SMC A28mm f2.8 / D FA 28-105mm / SMC F35-70 f3.5-4.5 / SMC A50mm f1.7 / Tamron AF70-300mm f4-5.6 Di LD macro / SMC M75-150mm f4.0 / Tamron Adaptall (CT-135) 135mm f2.8 / Asahi Takumar-A 2X tele-converter / Pentax AF-540FGZ (I & II) Flashes / Cactus RF60/X Flashes & V6/V6II Transceiver
Posted 17/08/2013 - 08:34 Link
FAT8BIKER wrote:
Going to put the camera back to default and forget about the magic of manipultion, to much grey matter overload.
Photoshops heading for the recycle bin.
Dave the nearly raving looooony

If you do so, you let the camera do all the processing - I prefer to control these things the way I want it instead of having to accept how my camera decides to process a picture - hence a good RAW shot and some skills in LR CS6, PS CS6, NIK Suite etc. are a good combination. Btw - 20 years ago, when ethusiastic photographers spend days in their dark rooms, they did exactly the same - manipulating the final picture with playing with their paper selection, chemicals, filters or ways to lighten the raw paper - this hasn't changed - just the toys are different these days

Colors are the lack of darkness

You find more of my pictures here: or on my web page:
Posted 11/02/2014 - 12:28 Link
Ive been using PS for nearly 10yrs but picked up some decent tips here.
Thanks guys!
Posted 23/07/2014 - 00:48 Link
sharpening for print is quite different than sharpening for online. For print and assuming a 300dpi output use a radius of of 2 or 3 to compensate for the "softening" that happens when printers introduce screens (stochastic or otherwise). For online where the scale is 1-to-1 as viewed by the visitor, use a radius of 1 or less.

The AMOUNT should change depending on how much sharpening you want.

Adding a layer is a good choice as it allows both selective sharpening via masks but also one can bias the sharpening either towards or away from the highlights (generally highlights need less sharpening than shadows in most typical photos)


Posted 23/07/2014 - 12:06 Link
A lot of things I didn't know about in this thread. Might cut and paste the sections into a single reference and print it out Thanks to everyone for sharing

Posted 23/07/2014 - 21:13 Link
gartmore wrote:
Maybe the kernels of this should be a stickie, I've learned a lot.

So have I. It would be so useful to have this readily to hand if we could, John.
Best wishes,


"These places mean something and it's the job of a photographer to figure-out what the hell it is."
Robert Adams
"The camera doesn't make a bit of difference.  All of them can record what you are seeing.  But, you have to SEE."
Ernst Hass
My website:
Posted 23/07/2014 - 23:23 Link
This thread is already a sticky. The essence of sharpening is also in the six Beginners articles I wrote, to be found very early on in the articles section of the site.
Best regards, John
Posted 15/12/2015 - 06:12 Link
I've learned a lot. Thanks a lot..
Posted 25/02/2016 - 02:31 Link
Thank you. This very help me.
Aku Dan Dia
Posted 03/10/2018 - 11:06 Link
I generally use Unsharp mas followed by Smart sharpening if the image is for web and only unsharp mask if it is for printing.
Posted 12/08/2019 - 01:36 Link
photographyaxis wrote:
I generally use Unsharp mas followed by Smart sharpening if the image is for web and only unsharp mask if it is for printing.

It's my favorite method. I always find it sufficient.
Posted 22/08/2020 - 17:24 Link
Thank you for the tutorial johnriley
Posted 17/11/2020 - 04:05 Link
yes, agree!

Add Comment

To leave a comment - Log in to Pentax User or create a new account.