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Thread: Quick, easy (and cheap!) tips for sharpening images

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    Ausphotography Veteran Geoff79's Avatar
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    Quick, easy (and cheap!) tips for sharpening images

    Hey guys,

    I see there's a few threads on sharpening, and I did just have a look through the large comprehensive one. Most of that is completely foreign to me and seems to be with regard to specific programs which I sadly do not have.

    I was just wondering, because I'm still in the early stages and far, FAR from advanced... is there a quick and easy way to sharpen your photos, without spending money on Photoshop tools and extensions?

    I am using a trial version of Photoshop CS5 at the moment but can't seem to find (or figure out?) a way to simply sharpen a photo.

    At this point I'm not looking for perfection (yet), but I'd really appreciate if someone could give me a couple of basic tips on how to sharpen a photo either using what I have with Photoshop CS5, Picasa, Microsoft Office Picture Manager, or if there are any other superior FREE programs from the net that would be well appreciated too.

    Thanks guys.

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    try smart sharpen in photoshop Geoff, usually soes a good job.
    Darren
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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Dunno what CS5 has besides, but Smart Sharpen is usually how I do it in CS2. Usual settings are 50%, 1 pixel, Lens Blur. If the pic doesn't respond then I usually give up.
    Am.
    Edit: I thought you had some.
    Last edited by ameerat42; 19-05-2011 at 1:34pm.
    CC, Image editing OK.

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    Member KevPride's Avatar
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    I quite often use FastStone which has a very quick Sharpen tool with a slider - allows easy sharpen & a hold down button to quickly see the original. Irfanview also has good tools within it.

    Not saying any are superior to PS or PSE which I use - but they are cost free & worth a try.
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    Rather than just try and find a easy fix, I would spend the time to try and understand how sharpening works and when it should be applied.

    There are a number of distinctly different times when you need to apply different sharpening techniques. The Smart Sharpen will probably help you out if you want a quick fix, however I think you need to look at progressive sharpening for web presentation and also the combination of large/small radius sharpening to sharp a slightly fuzzy image.

    Why are you sharpening? is it for downsizing and web presentation? or is it for printing or is it for tweaking a image to get a generally sharper result?

    In terms of the software, are you using nikon or canon or something else, that might help in terms of recommending a software package.
    Some Nikon stuff... gerrys photo journey
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    Thanks guys, that's awesome! I had not been able to find that Smart Sharpen tool in Photoshop yet, so as simple as it is, thanks... that looks great.

    And Kev, thanks for that tip too. I might try that program and see how it compares.
    Last edited by Geoff79; 19-05-2011 at 1:59pm.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gerry View Post
    Rather than just try and find a easy fix, I would spend the time to try and understand how sharpening works and when it should be applied.

    There are a number of distinctly different times when you need to apply different sharpening techniques. The Smart Sharpen will probably help you out if you want a quick fix, however I think you need to look at progressive sharpening for web presentation and also the combination of large/small radius sharpening to sharp a slightly fuzzy image.

    Why are you sharpening? is it for downsizing and web presentation? or is it for printing or is it for tweaking a image to get a generally sharper result?

    In terms of the software, are you using nikon or canon or something else, that might help in terms of recommending a software package.
    The reason I'm sharpening is purely for my own enjoyment. As you say, just general tweaking to get a better / sharper result when I print my pics, or even just for posting on this forum.

    As for software, I have a Canon 40D.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KevPride View Post
    I quite often use FastStone which has a very quick Sharpen tool with a slider - allows easy sharpen & a hold down button to quickly see the original. Irfanview also has good tools within it.

    Not saying any are superior to PS or PSE which I use - but they are cost free & worth a try.
    Hey mate, just gave FastStone a go. I like it. As you say, not so much better or worse than Photoshop, but it's nice and easy to use. I think I'll find myself using that a little more in the future. Thanks for that!

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    I like Fastone's Viewer program too, and I was going to recommend it as well.

    One thing I didn't like about it was it's raw to raster conversion.(but that's just me).

    I found that if I used FSViewer, I would convert a raw file using the software from the camera manufacturer(in my situation Nikon's ViewNX), convert to tiff, and then operate on the tiff file using FSViewer.

    Did you know that you can also download a portable version of FSViewer, so that if you are 'out on the road' and not able to access your PC(with all of it's software), you simply keep this portable version of FSViewer on a USB thumb drive and use it as normal from there. AFAIK it has the same functionality save for a few caveats on where you can save images too.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff79 View Post
    I had not been able to find that Smart Sharpen tool in Photoshop yet,
    Filter -> Sharpen -> Smart Sharpen

    My own technique is fairly simple.

    I firstly apply pre-sharpening during the raw conversion phase (in Adobe Camera Raw).

    After I've processed my image in CS4, I create a new layer consisting of all the layers below (Cmd-Opt-Shift-E) and then apply either the Unsharp Mask or the Smart Sharpen filter to that composite layer.

    I don't spend much time on sharpening, and when I do sharpen (not always), it's a quick operation as per above.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Ditto! Or doesn't CS5 call it "Smart Sharpen". Here is a CS2 screen shot. What does your CS5 screen look like when you do this...?
    Am.
    Smt-Sharp.jpg
    Last edited by ameerat42; 19-05-2011 at 4:53pm.

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    ...and if you don't have the money to buy Photoshop but need more than the simpler tools will do, investigate The GIMP. It's FREE, Open Source software with a bunch of tools for photographic work. Many of its plug-ins are converted from PS anyway, so you don't miss much by going free.
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    To understand how sharpening works, begin with Unsharp Mask. It doesn't matter if that doesn't end up being your method of choice, the principles are vital.

    Understanding Unsharp Mask
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    i like using the high pass filter and playing with the layer properties - overlay - soft light and my favorite hard light, the only thing to watch out for is oversharening and ending up with halo's
    http://www.photoshopsupport.com/tuto...harpening.html
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    Quote Originally Posted by Damo77 View Post
    To understand how sharpening works, begin with Unsharp Mask. It doesn't matter if that doesn't end up being your method of choice, the principles are vital.

    Understanding Unsharp Mask
    whilst I agree with your comment, it feels like a info-commercial when you have to jump to another site.

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff79 View Post
    The reason I'm sharpening is purely for my own enjoyment. As you say, just general tweaking to get a better / sharper result when I print my pics, or even just for posting on this forum.

    As for software, I have a Canon 40D.
    Remember there are different techniques for different situations

    Here's an example I often use, this is for progressive sharpening for web presentation - essentially program independent (however i use CNX2)

    Step 1; resample image at a small size/resolution, typically 50% of the original.

    Step 2: Sharpen using unsharp mask with the following values:
    Radius 3
    Intensity 15%

    Step 3: Fit photo, basically to the final size 800x800 for typical web presentation.

    Step 4: Sharpen using unsharp mask with the following values:
    Radius 3
    Intensity 25%

    This basically takes care of the fine grain sharpening, now you can also add in another unsharp mask using a larger radius if the image is slightly (and only slightly) OOF, I find typically radius of 75-80 at no more than 7-10% can salvage well.

    (note: the following image is pretty darn sharp anyway, however this is an example of progressive sharpening for the web)

    below are the two images, the first is a nef file that was made to fit 775x800 then saved as jpeg at 84% quality, the second is the same nef with the steps outline above applied.

    no sharp


    progressive sharp


    and a zoomed in version of the two to compare




    and just for reference, crop from the nef file, no sharpening, either in camera or PP (other than what happens when converting to jpeg)




    hth

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerry View Post
    whilst I agree with your comment, it feels like a info-commercial when you have to jump to another site.
    Damo is an AP site advertiser who offers photoshop training, so linking to his site is quite a good idea, when you see what he has on offer.
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    I would suggest if you are going to go with Photoshop, Geoff, that you look at investing in one of the Scott Kelby books, preferably Adobe Photoshop CS5 for digital photographers, it will be a super way to learn how to use the software, then when you have the basics down, you can learn more from all sorts of sources.
    Last edited by ricktas; 20-05-2011 at 6:23am.

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    Geoff, it was foolish of me not to ask earlier - are you asking about sharpening for print, or web?

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff79 View Post
    The reason I'm sharpening is purely for my own enjoyment. As you say, just general tweaking to get a better / sharper result when I print my pics, or even just for posting on this forum.

    As for software, I have a Canon 40D.
    Sharpening for print and sharpening for web are two different things. But for now, learn the basics of sharpening. Photoshop is not something you can learn in a week. Work at it slowly, but it can take years to come to grips with all you need to know to edit photos 'perfectly'.

    Try the smart sharpen and the other sharpen fliters on offer, google their names to learn more about them and how they work. Knowledge is power when it comes to Photoshop, but there is so much knowledge to get, that you can confuse yourself by trying to get to much of it all at once.
    Last edited by ricktas; 20-05-2011 at 7:30am.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ricktas View Post
    Damo is an AP site advertiser who offers photoshop training, so linking to his site is quite a good idea, when you see what he has on offer.
    yep, i am aware of that, however justing posting links in threads to shoot people out of the forum imo does not value add to the thread. Would you have the same opinion if everyone just put a google search link as response? What would be helpful and beneficial to both the poster/advertiser and the thread (and hence OP) would be to add an excerpt quote from the linked site with info that responds to the OP query then as further reading link to the source site.

    Quote Originally Posted by Damo77 View Post
    Geoff, it was foolish of me not to ask earlier - are you asking about sharpening for print, or web?
    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff79 View Post
    The reason I'm sharpening is purely for my own enjoyment. As you say, just general tweaking to get a better / sharper result when I print my pics, or even just for posting on this forum.

    As for software, I have a Canon 40D.

    Someone has already mentioned, sharpening is not program specific and its one of the aspects of PP that can be applied (albeit in slightly different ways) in similar theory across programs, hence its one of the few PP steps that I reckon you need to have a deeper understanding (more than just dragging a slider to see what happens) of how it works.

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