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Thread: How to Sharpen Furry Things

  1. #1
    Suzan J's Avatar
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    How to Sharpen Furry Things

    Hello Everyone: Once again I am calling on your collective expertise in order to advance my modest photography skills. I am now attempting to dabble in post processing. I am using Aperture 3 and so far I mainly just play with the sliders until I feel there has been some improvement. I shoot in JPeg and Raw pairs and try to compare my processing of the Raw File to the JPEG to see if I am getting "close". In any event, I find that when sharpening anything furry, such as the squirrel below, the adjustment tends to make the fur look harsh and rough. (The sharpening scale in Aperture runs from Zero to 1.0) On some earlier shots I made of a rabbit, I must have over sharpened as the fur looks quite bad. On these shots, I went up to about 0.6 on the scale and I think in comparison to my earlier efforts, the fur looks a bit softer and better to my eye, but I'm still not sure. I would appreciate any tips on what you folks strive for when post processing birds and critters.

    How to Sharpen Furry Things
    _DSC0127 by Soo J, on

    FlickrHow to Sharpen Furry Things
    _DSC0149 by Soo J, on

    FlickrHow to Sharpen Furry Things
    _DSC0131 by Soo J, on Flickr

  2. #2
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: How to Sharpen Furry Things

    Gorgeous photos. Thank you for asking about this!

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    Re: How to Sharpen Furry Things

    Hi,

    Great shots. I perceive their sharpness just right.

    You're very observant and resourceful to notice vantage point from where your squirrels have that sky background. Thus assuring viewers' immediate focus/attention towards your squirrels. Which also contributes to the perception of your images' sharpness.

    No need to blur background/vignettes/etc. to isolate your squirrels.

    No distracting/cluttered backgrounds.
    (A dilemma encountered by Christina in her latest pictures of a raccoon and chicks - compounded by the difficulty of isolating the chicks from the almost same colored background.)

    I recall Terri had that shot of white egrets against green trees as background. White on green! Another shot which gets the viewer's immediate attention.

    I guess it's a combination of luck, anticipation/timing/experience which lets you know where is the best vantage point to shoot your subject.

    Cheers.......
    Last edited by nimitzbenedicto; 28th May 2013 at 12:52 AM.

  4. #4

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    Re: How to Sharpen Furry Things

    Hi Suzan- Great shots! I too use Aperture 3 and love it. What I found most helpful were videos on You Tube at the Applechamp channel. They instruct you on the various ways to use the sliders. Looking forward to seeing more of what you shoot!--mary

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    Stagecoach's Avatar
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    Re: How to Sharpen Furry Things

    Hi Suzan.

    You are correct in that over-sharpening can make these fury critters coats look harsh on screen but if you actually get up close to them with the naked eye their fur is rather coarse.

    Personally I think you have done an excellent job, especially with No 2. Great shots !

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: How to Sharpen Furry Things

    Susan - I don't know Aperture, so I can't comment in its specifics, but sharpening is generally viewed as a 3-step process is working on RAW files. The secret of sharpening is to do so on an image with 100% of the size. I'm a Photoshop CS6 user and tend to use the Unsharp Mask, although lately I've been using the Nik plug ins.

    1. Import sharpening - sharpen RAW image ever so slightly to compensate for digital capture / effects of the camera's anti-aliasing filter. This should be just done to the level where you make it sharp enough so that the image looks right to work with.

    2. In-process sharpening - this is where you apply local sharpening as you re-work the image. You may find that you do little or even no in-process sharpening in your work.

    3. Output sharpening - once you have resized your image to the final size that you will be displaying it or printing it, again at 100% setting of the output size. When you resize, you will loose some detail, and this step will just bring things back to look right after that step.

    I certainly would not suggest you assume that the jpeg has been sharpened correctly. Yes, there is sharpening and contrast adjustment done in camera, but these are average values, and for something as detailed as fur or feathers, I wouldn't necessarily assume the camera got it right.

    I hope that this helps.
    Last edited by GrumpyDiver; 28th May 2013 at 01:53 AM.

  7. #7
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    Re: How to Sharpen Furry Things

    Hi Susan,
    I forgot to add that I think all these photos look beautifully sharp... I'm following simply because I wish to learn more about sharpening.

  8. #8
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    Re: How to Sharpen Furry Things

    Very nice shots. With the closeup range of these images you can really push for more details and sometimes overlook or overshadow the main subject.

  9. #9
    James G's Avatar
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    Re: How to Sharpen Furry Things

    Susan, firstly I think you have judged the sharpening very well. Capturing sharp images of squirrels is not that easy, they are always on the move, even when apparently sitting still. (There was a thread on this a couple of years back.)
    I'd echo everything Manfred has said about technique and would emphasise the point about the difference between sharpening for screen and for print. Usually it is necessary to provide additional sharpening for print. i.e. when preparing the image for print it will look somewhat over sharpened on the screen. (Crunchy)
    Getting the balance is a bit of a black art, since it requires an understanding of your particular screen/print set up and requires some trial and error until you are confident you know how much compensation is needed. As a slight deviation, you also usually need to adjust brightness when printing.)

    As regards sharpening technique, I tend to use several iterations when sharpening to build up the effect. This also allows me to mask out areas where the effect may be too intense. (I mask out areas of cloud and sky automatically since cloud does not usually need sharpening and areas of colour like sky can develop sharpening artefacts quite quickly).
    I use CS6 and can apply layers, which allows me the control I want. I have no real knowledge of Aperture so am not sure if you can do the same.

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    Suzan J's Avatar
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    Re: How to Sharpen Furry Things

    Thanks for the tips everyone. If I understand the process correctly, the workflow would generally involve an overall gentle sharpening of the entire initial RAW image after import, at 100% of the viewing size. This would be followed by local sharpening of the parts of the image that would need it. (Excluding things that don't look good sharpened, such as sky) Aperture does allow me to use a brush to apply any effect to only part of an image.

    Where I'm still confused is the concept of "output sharpening". I guess I don't understand what the initial size entails and why, or how, you would ever resize. Currently, if I post a photo to this forum, I do so my simply sharing the edited photo by uploading it directly to Flickr. From there, I just copy and paste the BB code. I have printed a few photos in the past by simply placing them onto a flash drive and having the local photo lab make a few prints for me. And you are right about the brightness as I always found the printed photo to be somewhat darker than what I would have expected. From now on, I will definitely brighten up the picture a bit before having it printed. I have never "re-sized" anything as I never paid attention to that aspect. Can you kindly expand on what exactly "output sharpening" and "resizing" entails?

  11. #11

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    Re: How to Sharpen Furry Things

    The CiC tutorials discuss both output sharpening and resizing in great detail. I highly recommend them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Suzan J View Post
    I don't understand...why, or how, you would ever resize.
    You would downsize the photo for display on an Internet forum if you want total control over both the downsizing method and the sharpening that should be done with it. As an example, I upload to CiC directly from my computer using images that I have downsized and sharpened. If you are relying on software such as Flickr's software to do that, it's ideal that you know what that software is doing to your image beyond your control, especially if you are unhappy with the results. You would also probably downsize a photo if you want to send it as an attachment to an email.

    From now on, I will definitely brighten up the picture a bit before having it printed.
    I recommend that you start a new thread to discuss that topic or that you search the forum for threads that already discuss it. Several factors are involved when trying to get a printed photo to appear reasonably the same as viewing it on your monitor. Any single factor could result in a considerable difference between the appearance of a print and the display of your photo on your monitor. Consider that the extensive discussion of printing photos provided in the CiC tutorials doesn't seem to mention any need to brighten the photo before printing, at least not that I could find when quickly looking for it.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 28th May 2013 at 12:41 PM.

  12. #12
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: How to Sharpen Furry Things

    Quote Originally Posted by Suzan J View Post
    Thanks for the tips everyone. If I understand the process correctly, the workflow would generally involve an overall gentle sharpening of the entire initial RAW image after import, at 100% of the viewing size. This would be followed by local sharpening of the parts of the image that would need it. (Excluding things that don't look good sharpened, such as sky) Aperture does allow me to use a brush to apply any effect to only part of an image.

    Where I'm still confused is the concept of "output sharpening". I guess I don't understand what the initial size entails and why, or how, you would ever resize. Currently, if I post a photo to this forum, I do so my simply sharing the edited photo by uploading it directly to Flickr. From there, I just copy and paste the BB code. I have printed a few photos in the past by simply placing them onto a flash drive and having the local photo lab make a few prints for me. And you are right about the brightness as I always found the printed photo to be somewhat darker than what I would have expected. From now on, I will definitely brighten up the picture a bit before having it printed. I have never "re-sized" anything as I never paid attention to that aspect. Can you kindly expand on what exactly "output sharpening" and "resizing" entails?
    Hi Susan – you certainly have the first two steps figured out. So let me suggest where your confusion on output sharpening might come from; because in the case of many websites and printing processes, the resizing mechanics are hidden from you.

    Whether you print or display on a screen for a website, the software used in these processes has to resample your image to make it the right size to fit the format; unless you as the photographer have done the sizing work yourself. The automated algorithms that do this are outside of your control and you may end up with an over or undersharpened image. Flickr is a bit different as it allows you to save your image at full size, but many sites do not; for instance one travel website I post on downsamples everything to 1280 x 800. Knowing this, I resize my shots to that size manually, output sharpen and my images look exactly the way I want them to. A similar thing occurs when go to print my images (I have my own pro photo printer, so it lets me control things far better than using a commercial printer). I will size to the photo paper size I will be printing at and will then output sharpen at that resolution. If I am printing on 17” x 22” paper, I will resize the image in Photoshop to that size, at 360ppi for Epson (use 300 ppi for Canon and HP printers) and then output sharpen accordingly

    Your issue with prints coming out darker from the printer than expected is that your screen is too bright. I have to increase my image brightness by around 20 (I do this with an adjustment layer in Photoshop). It doesn’t look right on screen, but the print comes out looking fine. The only way to find out what works for you is to do some test prints and once you get what looks right, stick with it.

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    Re: How to Sharpen Furry Things

    Susan, Manfred has explained the relationship between sizing and sharpening and there is nothing I can usefully add.
    Further to his comment about your screen being too bright, I would point out that everybody works with a screen that is too bright for print. (unless they are in a special print environment) I usually apply an increase in brightness between 30 and 40% depending on the paper I am printing on.

    The 'rough science' is that your screen is transmits light which is much brighter than paper. There is a slightly silly demonstration, to illustrate the relative brightness of the screen in respect of print paper which involves looking at a clean sheet away from the screen and then holding it up next to an image on the screen. It will immediately look very dull in comparison and the previously white and apparently bright sheet will look fairly grey .
    Print images can only be as bright as the white of the paper itself, with colours resulting from partial reflection of the daylight spectrum. (eg red is red because the red ink only allows reflection of the red element of daylight. All other colour is absorbed.) Its a bit counter intuitive, since you would think that turning down the brightness of the screen would resolve the problem but brightening the image on screen is actually what does the trick.

    Sorry if you are already aware of the science, but I've had a lot of people I've worked over the years who with have had the same difficulty trying to understand why their prints seem very dull when they first started printing.

    As Manfred suggested, about the best way to learn and solve the problem, is to try a few test prints with different levels of brightening applied before you print.
    One rule of thumb I suggest to get a starting point, is to brighten your image until average bright areas lose their detail and are blown. It will look awful on screen, but your print will be much more what you hope for. James

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: How to Sharpen Furry Things

    Just to confuse things a tiny bit more; adding to James’s already excellent answer on why your prints appear too dark; this is a highly simplified view of what is going on.

    Our visual system; our eyes and brains working in concert to interpret what we see are influenced by external factors. With your screen settings fixed; if you work in a dark room, the colours on your screen will look a lot brighter than if you are working in a brightly, sun-lit room. Try to do your adjustments in an environment that is reasonably consistent, and you will probably get more consistent results. Even the room colours can influence your colour perception; experts do recommend neutral walls in the room where you are doing colour work.

    A secondary issue are the lights you are viewing the images under; because you are relying on an external light source when you view your prints. View them under a relatively dim light source, they will look too dark. View them under a very bright light source, they may look too bright. The colour temperature of your light source is going to affect how the prints look as well. View them under tungsten light and the skin tones will have a warm colour cast, perhaps even looking too orange; tungsten light is rich in reds and yellows, but deficient in the blue tones. Look at them under a cool-white fluorescent light, and the skin tone will seem cool and pasty, because cool-white fluorescents are deficient in the reds and often exhibit an overabundance of green.

    Again, ideally you should be judging prints under the light that they will be viewed under, and in the absence of this, a nice mix of “normal” light sources that cover the complete spectrum. Companies like X-rite make special viewing “booths” for viewing and interpreting prints, if you want to get really into it. I personally find an indirectly lit room with daylight is a pretty good compromise for amateur work.

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    James G's Avatar
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    Re: How to Sharpen Furry Things

    Manfred, excellent

  16. #16
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    Re: How to Sharpen Furry Things

    Some excellent replies in this thread as usual.

    The only thing I can add is that this question has popped up quite a few times over the years on many different forums but the best advice I ever received was here (naturally) from Colin Southern. (I've tried to find the original thread but there are too many)

    I think that thread referred to sharpening technique and which was best overall.

    Colin advocated the book "Real World Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop CS2, by Bruce Fraser". At the time it was referred to as the industry standard.

    For those of us Photoshop geeks the name Bruce Fraser will most likely be familiar. It's his techniques that have been adopted into the main algorithms in ACR for capture sharpening in CS5 and 6.

    Sadly he passed away some time ago but his legacy lives on in the Real World books series.

    I would encourage any photographer to read any and all of these books. But to start with the one mentioned above as, not only will it give the reader a deeper understanding of why and what happens when we sharpen an image, it will also, on the flip side, give you as much of an understanding of noise and other artifacts and how to deal with it in much the same way.

    Anyway, it really helped me, as this forum usually does,

    And some great printing tips above too. Mint.

  17. #17

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    Re: How to Sharpen Furry Things

    Hi,

    Here are some very informative CiC threads about sharpening.

    2 links to very good sharpening threads:

    1.) Help with sharpening

    2.) When/How to Best Sharpen a Digital Photograph

    Link to sharpening in relation to noise reduction

    Sharpening and Noise Reduction Sequence

    links to CiC threads about ACR sharpening:

    Which is "better" - sharpening in ACR, in PSE, or both?

    Adobe ACR Sharpening for Nikon D3

    HTH
    Last edited by nimitzbenedicto; 28th May 2013 at 11:16 PM.

  18. #18
    Suzan J's Avatar
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    Re: How to Sharpen Furry Things

    Thank you all for taking the time to provide such detailed explanations. I shall be busy following up on all your helpful tips and suggestions. This forum truly does have the best contributors!

  19. #19
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    Re: How to Sharpen Furry Things

    Just imagine how much easier it is to do than making sharp things furry.

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