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Thread: Professional Sharpening in Photoshop

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    Member Majik Imaje's Avatar
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    Default Professional Sharpening in Photoshop

    Written by a world renown EXPERT !!

    Now you can CLEARLY understand what this confusing subject is all about.

    Great tips for YOU to UNDERSTAND !!

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    Default blur to sharpen

    That's excellent! I've worked with photoshop for 14 years and still learn more.

    I especially liked the part in that article on creative sharpening, about blurring the background to sharpen your target.

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    Member Majik Imaje's Avatar
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    To say the least - I was very impressed with that article ! Thus I posted it for everyone to learn from.

    What I like about that article was that it put EVERYTHING in the proper perspective !! No mumbo jumbo - plain to the point - simple to understand.

    I especially liked that part where the author said. the best way to achieve sharp images is to focus properly!!

    My best friend has a nikon (I have no idea why) because 90% of the images he posts are CLEARLY out of focus.

    AUTO FOCUS - AUTO WHITE BALANCE - AUTO EXPOSURE - AUTO EVERYTHING and yet 'some people' just have no clue how to create a SHARP image !! (go figure) !!

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    Quote Originally Posted by FamilyMan View Post
    That's excellent! I've worked with photoshop for 14 years and still learn more.

    I especially liked the part in that article on creative sharpening, about blurring the background to sharpen your target.
    That is a relatively good write up... but alas it suffers from many of the usual problems in articles about "sharpening". The biggest problem is that it is PhotoShop specific, rather than a generalized discussion applicable to any image editor. My preference is for tutorials that lead to understanding well enough to make adjustments when some parameter (or the editor) changes, rather than rote and note directions. Of course a lot of non-techies want exactly the opposite, so there really is a need for both.

    Even after warning that the amount of overall sharpening needed depends on the size of the final image (the resolution is what counts), the article does not provide an explanation of why, or how to select relative starting parameters based on image resolution.

    Here's a commonly used rule of thumb (for what that article called "output sharpening"). The most that Radius should be set to is about: Radius = Pixels_Per_Inch / 150.

    0.50 for 72 ppi low res web image (e.g., 800x640),
    0.64 for 96 ppi high res computer image (e.g., 1024x768),
    2.00 for 300 ppi high quality print (e.g. 3000x2400)

    The "Amount" value should be roughly 50-100x the radius. Various editors use different scales, so the values might all be 1/10 that, but it will always be the same multiple whatever it is.

    There is no discussion of setting "Sigma", which is the distribution across the radius, because with PhotoShop that is always on "auto" and the user cannot set it. With programs where Sigma can be set, using the square root of the Radius value will give an even distribution, while higher numbers will push the effects toward the outer edge of the radius and lower numbers will concentrate the effects towards the inner part of the radius.

    The Threshold value is more difficult to think of in terms of a rule of thumb. An image with more noise, or a lot of fine detail that is not enhanced by increased contrast, will do better with a high threshold to avoid sharpening noise. Perhaps the way to determine what will be best is to try it on an image scaled for a high res display (96 dpi, for example, and an image size that matches the screen size in resolution) to select what looks best, and then proportion the actual amount to the actual final image resolution. (Scale a copy of the image to 1024x768, experiment with the amount of sharpening to pick what looks best, the scale the parameters to the actual image that is being edited, and apply "scaled sharpening".)

    Note that all of the above applies to either convolutional sharpening/blurring or to the use of an UnSharp Mask tool. However, many programs reduce "Sharpen" to just a percentage value, while USM almost always has at least three of the four parameters that can be set.

    I would not recommend any sharpening applied in the way that article describes "Capture Sharpening". "Creative Sharpening" really should be done after an image is scaled to size.

    Indeed, no "Output Sharpening" at all should be used if "Creative Sharpening" is done. It is just absurd to suggest careful selective blur/sharpen adjustments followed by an overall sharpen that necessarily causes the work already done to be little more than a guess and even reverses part of it.

    Here are some images to demonstrate sharpening. The first one is without any sharpening:





    Next is the image after using a "sharpen" tool at 60%. The places to look for effects are the fox's tail and its face, and the grass just right and just left of its head. This is significantly over sharpened to illustrate the problems and effects. In particular, look at the foxes feet, and how each blade of grass in front of them becomes so distinct as to be a distraction.



    Next is the first image with USM applied. This is an approximately "right" amount of USM for the fox itself. Unfortunately it also enhances all of the grass, which is just excess detail that is distracting from the object of interest.




    Last is an image that has had several things done to it. First, 35% sharpening and then USM to an area that includes only the fox. Then the selection was inverted and everything else was blurred. I still didn't like the distant background, so the non-grass part was additionally blurred three times as much of the grass had been blurred. And last, a blur tool with a relatively small circle for a cursor was used to blur all of the grass around the feet and under the tail.



    The obvious effect of using blur (which is exactly the same computer process as sharpen, except with different values) is to create "better" bokeh!

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    that last one is so sharp it looks fake, ... just saying. JMO

    If you cant stand behind the troops in Iraq.. Feel free to stand in front of them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ret25yo View Post
    that last one is so sharp it looks fake, ... just saying. JMO
    It's not "production image", it's an example demonstrating how to use sharpen/blur techniques to make a subject stand out. Obviously, those tools are very effective!

    In fact, a lot more care and a few other methods go into making a finished product. This is a production image that from that picture, that was been posted previously to this forum:


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    Floyd, no offense but look at his front feet where they go into the grass and the leading edge of the hind legs....

    I think #3 is the best...

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    Quote Originally Posted by hunt_ak View Post
    Floyd, no offense but look at his front feet where they go into the grass and the leading edge of the hind legs....

    I think #3 is the best...
    Well, they go into the grass... Would you do something to make the feet draw a viewer's eyes? Or would you make them something that doesn't?

    It's really interesting that you like #3 best, too, because it demonstrates a vital point to this discussion. To me #3 has so much harsh detail in the grass that I find it grossly annoying. But some people like exactly that! There is no right/wrong, it's just a matter of what to you want to produce. The text and images demonstrate how to use blur/sharpen to make one part of the image stand out from the rest. That doesn't mean that it necessarily is what you want to do to either every image to any given image.

    The point was not to suggest that any given amount of blur/sharpening is "right". Everyone differs on what a "good" photograph is. A tutorial should teach each person how to repeatedly get precisely what they want. That will be distinctly different for each photographer.

    I'm not sure which image your grass comment is about, but it really doesn't make any difference. The demo images do nothing other than demonstrate what was discussed. All four are horrible! Even the fourth one, just to a greater degree than #3 that you like, is exactly what ret25yo said, the effects of the manipulations described make it look "fake" because they are so dramatic. Dramatic enough to stand out in a demonstration so that virtually anyone can notice what the text was about!

    The production image posted later doesn't have a problem in the areas you mention, as near as I can tell. If that is the one you are referencing, tell me what you see and what it means to you.

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    Member Majik Imaje's Avatar
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    Mike Fitzgerald has written more than 3 huge books about photoshop and lightroom.

    He has been teaching professional photographers for more than 20 years time.

    According to adobe - He is just one of a hand full of Adobe Certified Instructors.

    I tend to agree with the 'author' - the only reason to use sharpening is when you have not focused properly !!

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    Even though I embrace digital photography and tossed my film in the garbage I find all these computer enhancements only detract from the profession. I want a photograph to capture nature in her glory, not create it on a computer.
    Tennessee

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    Default Bravo !!

    Standing - clapping - cheering !!

    Yes !! I agree 10,000 %

    If you cannot create a sharp image using a camera - something is wrong !!

    I really miss using film - It was a disciplined process that demanded exacting techinques to acquire the necessary results.

    Now - 7 billion people suddenly THINK - instant results have made them into a 'photographer' !!

    Photography (to me) is about producing a stunning image (in the camera).

    No software package - No EXPENSIVE DSLR - has ever been made that can impart or teach correct composition.

    GOOD photographs impress me !!



    When one studies Ansel Adams'photographs you will notice one thing instantly about all of his work - EVERYTHING is always in FOCUS!!
    Last edited by Brian M; 12-05-2009 at 00:46. Reason: negative comments

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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowwolfe View Post
    Even though I embrace digital photography and tossed my film in the garbage I find all these computer enhancements only detract from the profession. I want a photograph to capture nature in her glory, not create it on a computer.
    Photographs do not capture nature. After multitudes of "enhancements" to mold a photograph to be a work of art, it is clearly the photographer's impression of nature that is captured. That includes massive pre-exposure as well as post-exposure manipulations.

    Unless you shoot with a Kodak box camera (which has no adjustments) by randomly clicking the shutter while blindfolded (to avoid manipulating what the camera can see), every photograph you produce is the product of your "enhancement" to give nature a glory that can only exist in the human mind.

    A few months ago on a mailing list forum the following was posted, and I think it sums up very nicely the issues:
    Larry Bolch <lnbolch@gmail.com> wrote:
    Ansel Adams ... once said - in musical terms - that the exposure was the score, but the print was the performance. Once past the newbie stage of being thrilled just to get a recognizable image, Photoshop is not there to correct your beginners errors, but to achieve the vision you had in creating the photograph - interpretation - not correction. This is the art of photography, and it comes with time and experience. It also requires a high degree of fluency with the whole photographic process from concept, through exposure and interpretation to the final presentation. Once you have achieved this fluency, you are ready to become an actual photographer.
    Budding photographers that limit themselves and then justify it by suggesting others not equally limited are somehow less able... are not likely to even develop the talents they do have. They certainly are never "professional" in the usual sense of the word.

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    Default Ansel Adams -- the Score and the Performance, in focus

    Most people, particularly non-photographers, are unaware that Ansel Adams was a consumate commercial photographer. He is famous for his landscapes of course, but he did product photography was very good at "people pictures" too.

    Landscapes, by their nature, generally are done at small apertures to get maximum depth of field where the entire image appears to be sharply focused. Rarely is any kind of "subject isolation" ever used.

    Product photography is a little different, and of course people photography is vastly different. With people photography subject isolation is everything. Controlling depth of field, using lenses with good bokeh, and manipulation of composition to isolate the subject are all very normal.

    Here are a pair of wonderful examples taken by none other than Ansel Adams (at the Manzanar Relocation Camp, in 1943). The first is a fabulous example of progressive defocusing, where each line of young women becomes more out of focus than the previous:
    The second is one of my favorite portraits. Notice that everything in the background is out of focus to the point of being obliterated. The nurse is Aiko Hamaguchi, who must have really caught Adams' eye, as he took about 4 times more photographs of her than of any other individual at the camp.
    Knowing what should be in focus and what should be out of focus, and being able to accomplish that, is just as important as knowing how to focus on some specific place. That's choosing which part of "nature in her glory" is most important for a given photograph!

    Here's an image that I shot, showing the same effects on a much tighter scale.
    The subject is Italian travel photographer Raffaella Milandri, who spent a day with me here in Barrow. This image was her first choice out the hundreds I shot of her. This shot was not in any way an accident either, it was taken towards the end of a fun day, by which time I had gotten a fairly clear idea of what she would appreciate! At the click of the shutter I knew it was nailed!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Floyd_Davidson View Post
    Photographs do not capture nature. After multitudes of "enhancements" to mold a photograph to be a work of art, it is clearly the photographer's impression of nature that is captured. That includes massive pre-exposure as well as post-exposure manipulations.

    Unless you shoot with a Kodak box camera (which has no adjustments) by randomly clicking the shutter while blindfolded (to avoid manipulating what the camera can see), every photograph you produce is the product of your "enhancement" to give nature a glory that can only exist in the human mind.

    .
    Totally disagree. Maybe you manipulate your photographs pre exposure and post exposure but I don't. The company who prints my photogrpahs prints whats there, nothing more. If the image can't stand on it's own it doesnt get printed. If you want to call using a different apeture setting manipualting then I am guilty of that.
    You guys can play around with photoshop all you want but I want my customers to know what they are buying is what I observed.
    End of story for me.
    Tennessee

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    Thank you so much for posting those outstanding examples which re-enforce exactly what I have been CLAIMING !!

    In each of Ansel Adams images : Notice the subject -

    100&#37; of that 'subject' is in perfect focus !! razor sharp

    Again I say - thank you for showing us (by comparison) the HUGE DIFFERENCE !!

    Your outstanding excellent example proves my point beyond any shadow of doubt !!

    Thank you !!

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    I agree with what snowwolfe said so eloguently : These last two images - straight out of the camera - no post processing. Created using 'film' !!


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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowwolfe View Post
    Totally disagree. Maybe you manipulate your photographs pre exposure and post exposure but I don't.
    You manipulate your photographs. Your camera has settings for sharpening, contrast, white balance, hue, and perhaps other characteristics, or not? Pre/post-exposure manipulation is merely when those parameters are adjusted.

    With pre-exposure adjustments you set them, and then keep or cull the resulting image depending on how well the results matched your perception of what the photograph should look like. With post-exposure adjustments the same thing happens, except the parameters are set by optimizing them after exposure, and only then is a decision made to keep or cull the image.

    Either way, you have done exactly the same manipulation.

    I would also suggest that yes setting aperture is in fact a manipulation. You might put your camera on auto aperture, and then just accept or reject based on results? I tend most often to use manual exposure controls, and set the aperture according to the desired Depth of Field and lens sharpness characteristics. What I do is definitely intentional manipulation of the results; and that seems to be pretty much the most common way that photographers approach taking pictures.

    Granted that it's quaint and a bit cute to claim no manipulation, but it isn't true. If you provide extra light, with a flash for example... that is a manipulation. The rules of good composition... are almost all merely instructions on image manipulation. In addition to DoF manipulation via aperture, motion blur manipulation selected by shutter speed adjustment is equally a common technique. As I said, the only way to avoid it would be a Kodak box camera that is used only when blindfolded.

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    Bull crap. I am a photographer, not someone who sits and tries to enhance images on their computer and then claims it is ok to do so. None of my business if you want to, but its not for me or my customers.
    Just like the photos being sold at Saturday market with the Northern lights, and the caribou walking across the hill, with a bear in the background and the eagle flying. All made up on someones computer. If thats your game go for it. But don't try and put me or others in your group who dont want to enhance by using a computer.
    I'm done with this.
    Tennessee

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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowwolfe View Post
    Bull crap. I am a photographer, not someone who sits and tries to enhance images on their computer and then claims it is ok to do so. None of my business if you want to, but its not for me or my customers.
    Just like the photos being sold at Saturday market with the Northern lights, and the caribou walking across the hill, with a bear in the background and the eagle flying. All made up on someones computer. If thats your game go for it. But don't try and put me or others in your group who dont want to enhance by using a computer.
    I'm done with this.
    There is a computer in your camera, and when you set the camera's configuration what you are doing is "to enhance by using a computer". Setting sharpness, contrast, hue, white balance etc with the computer in the camera is not different than setting it with a raw converter an hour later on a PC at your desk.

    Ansel Adams is perhaps the most famous American photographer, and he is best known among photographers for his post processing. Adams is never considered less of a photographer because he used massive amounts of post processing manipulation with even the simplest images.

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