© 2004, Rick Sammon, All Rights Reserved
Thanks to image-editing programs,
turning soft shots into sharp shots is relatively easy. I do it all
In this article, I'd like to share with you some of my tips and
tricks for sharpening pictures. I use Adobe Photoshop CS, but you can
use these ideas with other image-editing programs.
Now let's take a look at a way cool plug-in that makes sharpening
a picture extremely easy. It's a plug-in from nikmultimedia called
nik Sharpener Pro!
(1) An easy way to sharpen a section of an image is to use the Sharpen
tool, found in Photoshop's toolbar. Simply click on the tool,
select your brush size and move the brush over the area you want sharpened.
Be careful about the Strength setting, indicated by my red arrow. If
you start sharpening at 100 percent, the effect will be applied too
rapidly and you'll quickly over-sharpen an area. I usually start
out at 50 percent.
(2, 3) For this picture of my friend Chandler, `I wanted to sharpen
only the eyes. In photo 2, the eyes are not sharpened. In Photo 3, the
eyes are sharpened. You'll need to look closely to see the difference.
(4, 5)Under Photoshop Filters
you have a choice of three sharpening techniques. It's okay to
use Sharpen, Sharpen Edges, Sharpen More...but you'll have
much more control if you use Unsharp Mask. Keep the Radius and Threshold
relatively low, and use the Amount slider to achieve the desired degree
of sharpness. For accurate control, view the image on your monitor at
(6, 7) When using the Unsharp
Mask, be careful not to over-sharpen an image. If you do, you'll
get a very noisy (grainy) image, as illustrated in these examples.
Let's take a look at
an advanced sharpening technique using Unsharp Mask and Layers. Basically,
we will be selectively sharpening part of an image--the Reclining
Buddha's toes in this case.
(8) Here's my original shot. As you can see, the toes are out
of focus. To sharpen only the toes, I used this technique:
(9) I made a duplicate layer. Then I turned off the top layer and activated
the bottom layer. I applied the Unsharp Mask to the bottom layer. The
amount of sharpening (469 percent) over-sharpened most of the frame--except
for the toes.
(10) Next, I went to the top layer (showing soft toes) and used the
Eraser tool to erase the area over the toes--letting the sharp
toes show through below. By turning off the bottom layer, I could see
the area that I had erased.
(11) Here is the final image--now showing the entire scene in focus.
(12) Here's a shot I took of a butterfly in Florida. It's
a bit soft.
(13) After you load a plug-in into Photoshop (or any plug-in compatible
program), it appears at the bottom of the Filters Menu. Here's
a look at some of the options that nik Sharpener Pro! offers.
(14) When you select the option you like, a window opens that gives
you control over the sharpening effect. Those controls include: Image
Width, Height, Source, Image Quality, Printer Quality, Eye Distance,
and Personal Profile. After you have made your adjustments, click OK
and the sharpening effect is applied.
(15) Here is my final image, sharpened with Sharpener Pro!
(16)When it comes to ink
jet prints, you can control the sharpness of a print in the printer's
menu, by setting the Print Quality to Fine (or Best or Highest).
Have fun sharpening. But please remember: it all starts with the image,
so strive for the sharpest original picture possible in your camera.