10 camera techniques to master in 2014: sharpen photos like a pro
In this section we’ll explain how to master image sharpening to give your pictures more impact.
Getting the most from your imaging software is a skill that takes time to master. It’s tempting to think that the more sharpening you apply to your images, the sharper they’ll appear.
But you need to exercise some restraint; otherwise you’ll end-up with increased noise and ugly ‘haloes’.
One of the most common causes of over-sharpening is applying it at the wrong stage in your processing, or even applying it to images that have already been sharpened.
If you shoot JPEG images, these may have been sharpened already in-camera, so you need to take great care when applying extra sharpening.
Raw files won’t have had any sharpening applied in-camera, but it can be applied when processing your images. You just need to decide whether it’s best to apply it to your raw conversions, or later on.
By shooting in your camera’s raw quality format you have much more tonal and colour information to work with, which enables you to produce better-looking results in your final image.
Adobe Camera Raw is your best starting point for sharpening raw files. Camera Raw opens automatically when you open a raw file in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.
The sharpening controls are found under the Details tab, but before you set to work, use the drop-down menu in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen to set the preview to 100%.
Camera Raw’s sharpening controls are similar to the USM controls, with Amount setting the level and Radius dictating the width of the area along the edges that is sharpened.
The Detail slider is similar to Threshold in that it is used to control the haloing and determine how much emphasis is given to the edges, but its impact decreases as its value increases.
A Detail setting of 100 is effectively the same as a zero Threshold value and vice versa.
Finally, the Mask slider is used to restrict where the sharpening is applied. Hold down the Alt key while making Masking adjustments to see where is affected, the black areas will be left untouched.
You can also use Camera Raw to sharpen JPEGs. Just select the image in Bridge, right click with the mouse and select Open in Camera Raw.
In this tutorial we show how to subtly sharpen delicate mid tone details using Camera Raw’s sliders to reveal midtone texture and detail while masking out unwanted noise.
The key to this process is to preview which areas are being sharpened, so that you can get a balance between revealing detail and losing noise.
Overall, the best way to avoid over-sharpening is to make it one of the last adjustments that you make to your pictures, so if you are going to be editing your shots in Photoshop Elements or CC, then it’s best to turn off any in-camera or raw conversion sharpening.
The most obvious side-effect of applying too much sharpening is a halo around details in your shots, the result of using a high Radius setting. To spot this, zoom in to 100% on an area of the image containing dark lines or fine details against a lighter background.
Best settings for sharpening
If applying sharpening to your images using Photoshop’s Unsharp Mask filter, the key is to be subtle. As a starting point, try to use an Amount of between 50 and 80%, a Radius of 1 and a Threshold of between 2 and 5.
Camera Techniques for 2014: 01 Take control of focus
Camera Techniques for 2014: 02 Get white balance accurate every time
Camera Techniques for 2014: 03 How to focus on moving subjects
Camera Techniques for 2014: 04 How to use exposure compensation
Camera Techniques for 2014: 05 Ways to cope with high-contrast lighting
Camera Techniques for 2014: 06 How to position your subject in the frame
Camera Techniques for 2014: 07 Learn basic TTL flash techniques
Camera Techniques for 2014: 08 Sharpen photos like a pro
Camera Techniques for 2014: 09 How to control the saturation of colours
Camera techniques for 2014: 10 Add depth by using different apertures
Sharpen photos the smart way: demystifying Photoshop’s image-sharpening tools
Raw Images: 10 tips every photographer must know before ditching JPEG
Unsharp Mask – how to ensure the sharpest images possible every time
Adobe Lightroom Basics: 6 things you need to know getting started
10 reasons your photos aren’t sharp (and how to fix them)