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Thread: Sharpening

  1. #1

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    Sharpening

    Any thoughts on sharpening photos? Best tools - Unsharp Mask? High Pass? How much to sharpen, or not at all?

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    ajohnw's Avatar
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    Re: Sharpening

    When shots are viewed on a PC screen they are usually reduced so can go a bit mushy and unsharp mask can help clean that up. How much varies but as little as possible seems best. One problem I had at one time is that a poor quality monitor tended to make me sharpen too much. Since then I have bought a new monitor and calibrated it. That way I can be more sure that what I see matches other peoples view. Here is one that has been described as slightly over sharpened by some one. I might say far too much sharpening now.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/4899461...5352/lightbox/

    It's a problem area in photography. Much depends on the monitor that is used to view the shot. This version in my opinion is much better when viewed on my machine against the flickr web view but maybe still a touch over sharpened. Actually I will be interested in how it appears in this post. My system is colour managed as well so should show the same as it does on my machine.

    Sharpening

    John
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    Re: Sharpening

    Then, when you think you understand the subject have a read of this, in 6 parts!

    http://ronbigelow.com/articles/sharpen1/sharpen1.htm

    I have tried High Pass method but found in most cases it was complicated for no extra benefit.

    There isn't one fixed method, or simple settings. It is a case of gradually learning what suits each particular image.

    For example, I often create a duplicate layer and sharpen than, then add a mask and edit it to vary the mask opacity (and sharpening amounts) over different parts of the image. Changing the mask blend mode to Luminosity can give benefits where problems are occurring.

    I usually prefer to leave my photos a fraction on the soft side then do a slight additional sharpen to suit each individual use. For example web upload or printing.

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    Re: Sharpening

    Prior to picking up NIK Sharpener Pro 3, I pretty well exclusively used the Unsharp Mask for most of my sharpening needs. Now I pretty well exclusively use the NIK product for import sharpening of RAW images (I don't generally do this with jpegs as I use the camera settings for sharpening there) and output sharpening; the important thing is to view the image at 100% magnification when sharpening.

    I still use the Unsharp Mask for my in-process sharpening. I will mask off the area I am sharpening and will apply the sharpening where it is required locally on the image. I've tried the high-pass filter, just to see what it can do for me, but franlkly found that there are far easier approaches.

  6. #6
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    Re: Sharpening

    There are some interesting sharpening techniques shown here along with examples of what they do.

    http://wiki.meetthegimp.org/doku.php?id=sharpening

    Photivo is mentioned but that is intended for whole image processing. It can be downloaded and used for free. Some allow areas to be sharpened with the mouse as well as via the use of masks. I understand some Adobe packages automatically sharpen when a shot is reduced. I don't use them so am just repeating something I was told.

    As pointed out really. Some sharpen in the camera, some don't and in real terms much depends on the shot plus preferences to a certain extent.

    Out of interest the church shot I posted on here has come out maybe 20% smaller dimensionally than when viewed against the same shot on my desktop. There is a noticeable loss of impact as a result especially in the walls of the church. Must find out why this happens before posting another.

    John
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  7. #7
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    Re: Sharpening

    Hi Sue

    I've tried most of the methods available in CS PS and frankly I'm not sure there's a lot of difference. I think the main thing is not to overdo it but of course different people have different tastes. It's useful to review your work in 100% view to look for excessive haloing and other artefacts.

    Currently I do a fair bit of sharepening with the minimum pixel radius in ACR before moving the image into PS where I use the Unsharp mask as a Smart Filter (so it can be re-adjusted at a later date). I also use Smart Sharpen for output sharpening after downsizing for the web. I have used the High Pass Filter method too as it also is a process that can be re-adjusted later.

    In relation to John's comments in post 2,I have seen people complaining about the "new" Flickr- the Lightbox view does seem to add extra sharpening.

    Dave

  8. #8
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    Re: Sharpening

    The flickr shot I posted is the same image I posted on here but different processing Dave. Posted by mistake but as some one commented on the over sharpening great as it gives me some indication that my monitor is ok. As it looks like way too much to me maybe too ok.

    Posting the shot again has proved interesting as well due to the slight size reduction having an effect. I feel unsharp mask is the best for sharpening the final image if it's going to be shown on the web. I don't think it would be possible to apply lots at this stage as things like the trees on the skyline would show hallows. It's clearly possible to use too much though and finish up with something that is very obviously sharpened everywhere. The main thing is often showing the main object in the picture as well as it can be shown without making the rest look too artificial unless that is deliberate.

    John
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  9. #9

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    Re: Sharpening

    Sharpening is a black art with many disciples offering numerous alternatives ....
    These days I just click 'sharpen more' one... two... three times Sometime I undo all that and just use sharpen.
    Occasionally for variety I use High Pass but steer clear of unsharp mask.
    Another angle is ... do you spilt the file into LAB or CYMK and just sharpen the L and K versions? That was the 'buzz' a few years back

  10. #10
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    Re: Sharpening

    After you find your software, you might want to consider a slightly different approach is to complete your sharpening efforts. It's to take a look at to getting or putting together a two-headed computer system. Two identical, large monitors with extremely narrow edges to enclose the screens can give you enough space to display many images at around 50% of their original size which makes zooming to the original size for fixing small booboos not so difficult. I have my two-headed system set up with two ViewSonic Pro monitors and love it. The only thing that might confuse people is that you'll need a graphics card (or computer) that can accept two video connections (the card commonly comes with the software to drive the card). You'll find you have two choices for vendors for the dual card, nVidia and Radion. The application software I use for 3Dmodeling requires an nVidia card and I've been very happy with that. Regardless of vendor, I suggest that you may want a middle to high end card which means that the graphic processor on the card will go progressively faster as you pay more. I got one about halfway between mid price and absolute top price that I've been happy with.

    BTW - The first time I looked at doing this was in the late 1980s after IBM came out with its PS/2 series computers, but the dual card was almost $600 and the monitors were the PS/2 monitors which were good for other purposes but really sucked for this purpose because they were so tiny and because the bezel surrounding each screen was so wide that you'd be looking about a 3" gap between the left half and the right half of your image.

    Good luck.

    virginia

  11. #11
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    Re: Sharpening

    I have followed this thread and have not read anyone write why sharpening is necessary. The reason sharpening is necessary in digital photography is to overcome a slight softening introduced by the Bayer Filter and the process of demosaicing. It is not for an out of focus image, back focused image, front focused image. I do all of my sharpening in Lightroom 5. I have tried Unsharp Mask in Photoshop, High Pass Filter etc.. In my experience Lightroom does it better, it is a software designed for professional photographers to accomplish their tasks quickly and efficiently.

    Before I describe how I sharpen I believe one should mention what should not be sharpened. There are five... blue skies, smooth flowing water or smooth surface water, out of focus backgrounds, large areas of constant color, and human skin especially facial skin in portraits. These are also the same areas that Clarity should not be used on.

    Here is how I sharpen an image. I open the Detail Module in Lightroom. I set the image to 1:1 (100%). The default sharpening in Lightroom is an amount of 25. Using the on/off switch I view the image to evaluate if the setting of 25 in enough, in my experience it is not. I set the amount to 50 and using the Masking slider decide what edges I want to sharpen. The Masking Slider is used to eliminate areas for sharpening...white gets sharpened, black does not. Using this the areas I listed that should not be sharpened can be eliminated from sharpening. After setting the amount of 50 and masking the image to control sharpening I use the on/off switch to evaluate the sharpening. What I am looking for is to see the image change from very slightly soft to become more distinct along the edges. If in doing this you have to move closer to the monitor to see any change it is not sharpened enough. I normally move in increments of 25 along the Amount slider, anything less is hard to see a change. How much to sharpen I have seen described as... just enough. That is when you will see a change from a slightly soft image to a more distinct (sharpened) image. If the image begins to look crunchy, grungy, or you begin to see artifacts caused by the sharpening the image is sharpened too much. The image should appear to be a photograph not a line drawing.

    In theory because sharpening is to overcome the Bayer Filter and the demosaicing, all images should require the same sharpening once a person is familiar with their camera. I have found this to be true in my photography, I use an amount of 50 for images without noise reduction and 75 for images that have noise reduction applied. The increase of 25 is because noise reduction causes a slight softening of the image.

    Sharpening has to begin with a well focused image and then overcomes slight softening inherent in digital photography.

    Hoping the helps you Sue.

  12. #12
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    Re: Sharpening

    Thanks, Joe, for an admirably succinct summary.

    If anyone is interested in an an expanded version of why sharpening is necessary, then I found the first couple of parts of the the link that Geoff suggested

    http://ronbigelow.com/articles/sharpen1/sharpen1.htm

    as very helpful, in spite of his health warning! I gave up on the niceties of PS tools, because I don't use it.

    The other part of the need, of course, is the only tool that we have to explore images - our eyes, and how they work. On that same theme, if my understanding of biology is right (?) then our eyes are optically far inferior to a DSLR or a Smartphone, for that matter. The difference is that they have a heck of a processor sat behind them
    Last edited by davidedric; 12th July 2013 at 09:53 PM.

  13. #13

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    Re: Sharpening

    There is also the cultural change which has arrived on the scene which has resulted in a demand for sharp images becuase of the technical nature of digital .... the whole technician's approach that becuase we can do it we should do it. Forgetting that photography is an endless compromise from start to finish.

  14. #14
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    Re: Sharpening

    John, I looked at your image (very pretty scene) on my calibrated NEC PA271W monitor. It looks very good to me. I use a NiK Sharpener Pro 2 Photoshop plug-in for sharpening. It's quick and gives me good control and results.

    Paul S

  15. #15
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    Re: Sharpening

    Quote Originally Posted by jcuknz View Post
    These days I just click 'sharpen more' one... two... three times Sometime I undo all that and just use sharpen.
    Occasionally for variety I use High Pass...
    That seems simple enough! - To which software are you referring there, please, jcuknz?

    Quote Originally Posted by jcuknz View Post
    ...but steer clear of unsharp mask.
    Although it is not sharpening, another application of the unsharp mask that can really add the "pop" to an image is described here -
    http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tut...nhancement.htm

    Philip

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    Re: Sharpening

    Quote Originally Posted by MrB View Post
    That seems simple enough! - To which software are you referring there, please, jcuknz?
    Philip
    Paint Shop Pro X4
    Apart from selecting certain areas for sharpening occasionally I do not see the finer points of sharpening so keep it simple ... if it looks sharp to me it is sharp ... though knowing what judges usually look for I 'over sharpen' for them on occasions.
    With my 'bird brain' every time I go to unsharp or high-pass I think OMG "what were the settings I read about? "

  17. #17

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    Re: Sharpening

    Quote Originally Posted by sleith View Post
    Any thoughts on sharpening photos? Best tools - Unsharp Mask? High Pass? How much to sharpen, or not at all?
    Read Colin's definitive thread 'When/How to Best Sharpen a Digital Photograph':
    When/How to Best Sharpen a Digital Photograph

    Ken

  18. #18

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    Re: Sharpening

    I am VERY new to this but I agree with Jcuknz in that i find that if you overdo images they lose some of their integrity. (you may look at some of the stuff i've posted and giggle at my arrogance here but... ) There is a trend at the moment for overproduction in that colors must be over vibrant, scenes overdramatic and the whole notion of the camera never lies is done away with. At the same time some of the results are artistic in the extreme and lovely to look at. I saw some images for sale locally where the photographer had so overtoned the images to add drama that they looked false and untrue. Any shot will have small regions of low resolution through the way the light falls to a tiny bit of camera shake. People are trying to get "studio" shots of outdoor scenes and maybe this isn't right. Then maybe I'm about to get reamed in public for talking rubbish we'll see. Love the church image though No criticism there.
    Kenny F

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