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FORUMS Post Processing, Marketing & Presenting Photos RAW, Post Processing & Printing
Thread started 08 Mar 2008 (Saturday) 17:45
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STICKY: Sharpening Tips & Tricks, Tutorials, and FAQ

 
Perry ­ Ge
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Mar 08, 2008 17:45 |  #1

One of the most important steps in post-processing is sharpening, and whilst it may seem simple, it is a process that is actually rich with complexities. I noticed that this forum doesn't have a dedicated thread or section about sharpening, yet questions about sharpness and sharpening appear every day. I thought it'd be nice to get everything in one place.

So this thread is the place to post your vast wealth of knowledge about sharpening. Here, we'll cover everything from the basics to the highly technical complexities.

The things I'd like to cover in this thread (with the help of your contributions) are:
- Capture vs Creative vs Output sharpening
- Different sharpening techniques (e.g. USM, high-pass overlay)
- Sharpening for different types of images
- Tailoring your sharpening to your final display medium, i.e. output sharpening (web, print, canvas, poster, etc).
- Anything else related to this fascinating but difficult process!

I'll start us off with a couple things:

- There are really 3 sharpening steps in PP. Capture sharpening takes place at the beginning, and brings back any sharpness that was lost in capturing a photograph, e.g. because of the AA filter. Creative sharpening takes place during PP and is used to do things such as accentuate features such as eyes and control contrast locally. Output sharpening takes place at the very end, and what happens here depends entirely on your final display medium.

- USM (un-sharp mask) is the most popular sharpening technique. Canon recommends (for some cameras) starting with 150%, 0.3 pixels radius, threshold 0.
- Another popular method is the high-pass method. Here a very weak high-pass filter is applied on a new layer, and then the layer is set to overlay. I really like this method.

Hopefully this thread can grow and provide lots of useful information on sharpening.

Perhaps someone could start by writing a bit about sharpening for web, e.g. for displaying images on this forum?

Perry

Edit: I've learned a ton from this thread since I started it. I still do my capture sharpening in ACR, but I use the masking and detail sliders now by holding down the option/alt key - you get an amazing amount of control in ACR alone. I've also switched to smart sharpen on a separate layer (so I can make layer masks or reduce opacity) as my preferred output sharpening method over the high pass method. I no longer touch USM unless I'm using it for defogging.

I recommend that newbies read through this entire thread. Tons of different methods are covered and continue to be covered, using a variety of software.


Perry | www.perryge.com (external link) | flickr (external link) | C&C always welcome | Market Feedback & Gear | Sharpening sticky | Perspective sticky

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Aszental
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Mar 08, 2008 18:20 |  #2

tag! great idea!


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Bob_A
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Mar 08, 2008 18:28 |  #3

perryge wrote in post #5075028external link
One of the most important steps in post-processing is sharpening, and whilst it may seem simple, it is a process that is actually rich with complexities. I noticed that this forum doesn't have a dedicated thread or section about sharpening, yet questions about sharpness and sharpening appear every day. I thought it'd be nice to get everything in one place.

So this thread is the place to post your vast wealth of knowledge about sharpening. Here, we'll cover everything from the basics to the highly technical complexities.

The things I'd like to cover in this thread (with the help of your contributions) are:
- Capture vs Creative vs Output sharpening
- Different sharpening techniques (e.g. USM, high-pass overlay)
- Sharpening for different types of images
- Tailoring your sharpening to your final display medium, i.e. output sharpening (web, print, canvas, poster, etc).
- Anything else related to this fascinating but difficult process!

I'll start us off with a couple things:

- There are really 3 sharpening steps in PP. Capture sharpening takes place at the beginning, and brings back any sharpness that was lost in capturing a photograph, e.g. because of the AA filter. Creative sharpening takes place during PP and is used to do things such as accentuate features such as eyes and control contrast locally. Output sharpening takes place at the very end, and what happens here depends entirely on your final display medium.

- USM (un-sharp mask) is the most popular sharpening technique. Canon recommends (for some cameras) starting with 150%, 0.3 pixels radius, threshold 0.
- I usually start with 100%, 0.5 pix, threshold 0. Increase threshold if the image is noisy or the ISO was high.
- Another popular method is the high-pass method. Here a very weak high-pass filter is applied on a new layer, and then the layer is set to overlay. I really like this method.

Hopefully this thread can grow and provide lots of useful information on sharpening.

Perhaps someone could start by writing a bit about sharpening for web, e.g. for displaying images on this forum?

Perry

Great idea for a thread.

In their guide "Getting the Most from Your EOS-1 Class Digital SLR", page 4 and page 30 Canon recommends the following USM settings for A4 sized prints as a rough starting point:

Amount 300%
Radius 0.3 pixels
Threshold 0 pixels


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Perry ­ Ge
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Mar 08, 2008 18:55 |  #4

Ok so let's take a look at a simple sharpening process. I apologise for the ugly model, but below are images taken of my eye.

First, let's look at some capture sharpening.

The first image has had no sharpening applied. The second is with a bit of very light capture sharpening done in ACR to cancel out the effects of the anti-aliasing filter. Sharpened 35%, 0.5pix radius. You really don't wanna overdo it at this point.

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Perry ­ Ge
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Mar 08, 2008 18:59 |  #5

Now, using the capture sharpened image, I moved from ACR to Photoshop, and now it's time for some more sharpening. I did nothing else to these photos except for various sharpening processes.

So first we have creative sharpening. In the first image, I first did a local contrast enhancement by using an unsharp mask at 20%, with a radius of 70 pixels (some would argue that this isn't actually a sharpening procedure, but whatever). I then selected the eye, and sharpened it a bit further with a 130%, 0.5 pixel USM.

In the second image, we're ready for output. Here I sharpened using the high-pass method. I duplicated the layer, and set it to overlay. I then ran a high-pass filter and tweaked the slider until I could see the details of the image in the grey filter, but stopped before any halos or much colour was visible. This gave me a high-pass filter of 1 pixel. And we're done sharpening at this point.

Compare the final output image to the original, unsharpened image. The only thing that was done was various degrees and stages of sharpening.

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Perry ­ Ge
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Mar 08, 2008 19:08 |  #6

And here's a comparison of the 4 stages, in a little bit of an easier-to-view format.

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Perry ­ Ge
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Mar 09, 2008 00:24 |  #7

Of course, output sharpening depends on your final medium, so what might look horribly oversharpened for web might be perfect for a large print.


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mdm
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Mar 09, 2008 00:57 |  #8

Thank you, when I sober up I'll review this and try and learn something.




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Perry ­ Ge
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Mar 09, 2008 14:07 |  #9

Anyone else wanna contribute to this thread?


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Glenn ­ NK
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Mar 09, 2008 14:21 |  #10

perryge wrote in post #5079497external link
Anyone else wanna contribute to this thread?

After seeing what you've done, I wouldn't dare add anything; because when it comes to sharpening, I'm really out of my league and have much to learn.

Thankfully, I've learned quite a bit here. Thanks.

I've just recently started using high pass sharpening, most likely because it's quite easy, and isn't destructive. In fact (in PS Elements 6.0), I often create several overlay layers at different radii for comparison. It doesn't provide any other controls other than the radius setting - this simplicity is attractive for PS newbs like me.

On your sharpening examples, the HP method seems to provide relatively good results.


When did voluptuous become voluminous?

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Perry ­ Ge
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Mar 09, 2008 14:24 |  #11

I'm glad it's helping you, Glenn! But I am by no means a guru of sharpening, which is why it'd be awesome if some of the masters could chime in. This thread could become a useful sticky, in my view, because I'm often on the hunt for good info on the process of sharpening, and it's hard to find on this forum at times.


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Pete
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Mar 09, 2008 14:38 |  #12

Here's my creative sharpening tutorial that I knocked up last year.

http://www.the-aperture.com/EdgeMaskS​harpen.htmexternal link

Basically, it's a technique for targeting extreme sharpening at finely defined parts of your image.

This allows you to achive tack sharp results without affecting the fine, subtle detail.

Compare how sharp the detail is on the nut of this wheel with the subltly kept on the laquer finish.

http://www.the-aperture.com/EE/photos​/large/IMG_0788.jpgexternal link


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Perry ­ Ge
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Mar 09, 2008 14:43 |  #13

That's very cool, Pete! I hadn't seen that before.


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Glenn ­ NK
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Mar 09, 2008 20:22 |  #14

And thanks to Pete, I've learned some more. That's a very well written tute.

I am beginning to suspect that the reason this topic isn't discussed more is because many of us (includes me for sure) are afraid to expose our lack of knowledge. Maybe I'm not quite as timid?


When did voluptuous become voluminous?

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Apshiso
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Mar 10, 2008 08:03 as a reply to Glenn NK's post |  #15

I must be blind.

I read the tutorial and looked closely at the images - especially the before and after ones. - I dont see hardly any difference at all. - What am I missing?? :(


Think about NOT using the word "retarded" in a derogatory manner - it insults those who cannot defend themselves - and hurts the ones who love them. Please see: http://www.r-word.org/external link

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