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Thread: How much sharpening is enough

  1. #1
    The Stig's Avatar
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    How much sharpening is enough

    Hello all,

    I'm wondering how much I should sharpen my pictures. I've read the tutorials, but I still feel a bit uncertain as to how much is the right amount. In my album here on CiC I have done some PP, but left out the sharpening process until I exported the images. Then I set LR to sharpen for the sizes used in the gallery. Examples here:

    http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/for...p?albumid=1113

    So, what do you think? Is this enough sharpening or should I work on it a bit more while still in full 12 mpx mode?

    Thanks,

    Stig

  2. #2
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: How much sharpening is enough

    They all look good to me.

    I think we can probably all agree when an image is significantly over-sharpened. And I think we can all agree that in portraits and in closer up shots of animals, we need the eyes in focus and sharp.

    But, apart from that it is down to your artistic interpretation. If you want all or some of an image seeming to be softer, then don't sharpen as much, etc.

    So, its not an exact science. It is a matter of human judgement. And, on that basis, if it looks and feels right to you, then it's fine.

  3. #3
    The Stig's Avatar
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    Re: How much sharpening is enough

    That made a lot of sense - thanks. I think it's easy to let your own insecurities and neuroticism lead you astray, but what you said sounds like good common sense. Thanks.

    Stig

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    Steaphany's Avatar
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    Re: How much sharpening is enough

    Hey Stig,

    I tend to skip sharpening in PP and put the time into getting the focal depth where I want it when capturing an image. This usually requires Aperture priority mode and occasionally a tripod to keep the camera stable should a longer shutter be required. ( For astronomical images and images with heat caused atmospheric distortions, I'll use multiple exposures and stack them to refine the image )

    If your after the whole scene in focus, learn about the Hyperfocal distance. ( It will soon be your best friend ) This will mean some playing with formulas and doing some calculations, it's not all that hard especially if you have a spread sheet to crunch the numbers for you.

    A parameter that you'll find in the Hyperfocal distance calculations that isn't used or mentioned much else where is the circle of confusion. Despite the terminology, the circle of confusion simply means the greatest diameter of a point projected onto the film/imager plane that will still be considered acceptably focused. On sites like http://dofmaster.com/, they will utilize what are considered standard values for the circle of confusion based upon the camera and frame size, 30um for a 35mm frame. When I'm going for optimal focus, I find the standard values too large and I calculate everything myself using a circle of confusion equal to the imager's photosite to photosite dimension, with my Sigma SD14, the value is 7.8um. With digital, the imager can not resolve anything below this value, so the greatest error a point in the scene would have on the imager plane is no larger than one photosite width. ( There is no point trying to PP sharpen an image focused to this extent. ) With film, I calculate the average resolution from the high contrast and low contrast values from the film's datasheet and calculate the width of each line of a line pair. For example, 100 LP/mm corresponds to 5um. ( Some may say I'm pushing a lens beyond is performance limit or that it's insignificant to use a circle of confusion of 5um or 7.8um when "everyone else" uses 30um to 200um based on frame size, but remember, I do not want to sharpen in post. )

    In practice, set your camera to manual focus, set the Aperture for the Hyperfocal distance you want, Here is a handy chart, set the lens to focus at the Hyper focal distance, or to be safe possibly just slightly farther to ensure infinity, and be ready to use your tripod if the shutter ends up being too long for a hand held shot. Now you'll get the scene from one half of the Hyperfocal distance all the way out to infinity in perfect focus.

    How much sharpening is enough
    Last edited by Steaphany; 15th September 2011 at 01:39 PM.

  5. #5
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    Re: How much sharpening is enough

    Hi Stig (are you the real one?).

    Sharpening is something that all digital images need. Some need more than others, but you must resist the urge to over-sharpen because you'll get halos, and that way madness lies.

    They are several ways of sharpening an image in Photoshop and no one is better, or more correct than another. It's more about control and how comfortable you feel with the process.

    I use Unsharp Mask and as a general rule use the following settings:
    Landscapes: Amount 100%; Radius 1 Pixel; Threshold 5 Levels
    Still Life: Amount 125%; Radius 1 Pixel; Threshold 3 Levels
    Portraits: Amount 100%; Radius 6 Pixels; Threshold 5 Levels

    These are just starters and I make minor adjustments from there.

  6. #6
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: How much sharpening is enough

    Just struck me (as someone who has never used an App and sort-of doesn't really know what an App is - I haven't got the right sort of mobile/cell phone anyway) as I read Steaphany's post, that if it hasn't been written yet, someone should write and App for calculating hyperfocal distance. If anyone on here does it, I want a commission for giving you the idea.

    Sean could adapt that table that's in the tutorial.

  7. #7
    Steaphany's Avatar
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    Re: How much sharpening is enough

    Donald,

    DOFMaster already beat you to it:

    DOFMaster for iPhone and iPod touch

    and

    DOFMaster for Android™

    I didn't mention it since I, and I'm sure many others, don't have SuperPhones. Those who do would find the app ( Software Application ) links when going to the DOFMaster web site from the links I put in my original post.

    Other software that DOFMaster offers include:

    DOFMaster Depth Of Field Calculator for Windows

    DOFMaster LE - Depth of Field Calculator for Palm OS

    DOFMaster Hyperfocal Chart Creator for Windows

    plus web hosted:

    Depth of Field Table

    Depth of Field Calculator
    Last edited by Steaphany; 15th September 2011 at 02:14 PM.

  8. #8
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: How much sharpening is enough

    Quote Originally Posted by Steaphany View Post
    Donald,

    DOFMaster already beat you to it:
    Oh well. That's why I'm still a poor public servant working in child protection services.

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    Re: How much sharpening is enough

    Hi Stig,

    I wrote a bit about sharpening a while back - you might find this of use to you.

  10. #10
    The Stig's Avatar
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    Re: How much sharpening is enough

    Thanks for the insights. Colin - the thread you linked to is permanently bookmarked. Regarding DOF calculators on the iPhone, F/8 is by far the best one I've tried - and I've tried a few of them. A steal at $3.99.

    Stig

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