You did every­thing you could, but the pic­ture does not reach the qual­i­ty of “that pho­tog­ra­ph­er” in any way? Does the pic­ture seem a lit­tle fuzzy? When shoot­ing a large por­trait, do you want to focus on the eyes? Pho­tos lack­ing expres­sion?

In any of these sit­u­a­tions, ask your­self — did you sharp­en up? This is a sim­ple and quick way to make your pho­to more catchy and high qual­i­ty. We tell you what sharp­en­ing is and how to sharp­en for free online, as well as in Pho­to­shop and Light­room.

Sharp­en­ing will add glossi­ness to the pic­ture and raise its qual­i­ty / Pho­to: Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa

Photo sharpness — what is it?

Image sharp­ness is how much dif­fer­ent pix­els of dif­fer­ent bright­ness that are next to each oth­er dif­fer from each oth­er. Sim­ply put, the greater the dif­fer­ence between light and dark in the pho­to, the high­er the sharp­ness.

The place where light and dark areas of the pic­ture meet (for exam­ple, eye­lash­es and skin, dark hair and a light back­ground, sky and for­est line, etc.) is called a con­trast­ing bor­der. And, speak­ing of sharp­ness, it is assumed that the effect occurs pre­cise­ly due to an increase in the con­trast of the con­trast­ing bor­der.

What is the dif­fer­ence between sharp­en­ing and con­trast enhance­ment? Visu­al­ly, these are com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent oper­a­tions, but it turns out that they are almost the same!

Indeed, the def­i­n­i­tion of sharp­ness is some­what sim­i­lar to the def­i­n­i­tion of con­trast. The dif­fer­ence is that by increas­ing the sharp­ness, we increase the micro-con­trast — we make light pix­els lighter and dark pix­els dark­er, but only along a thin line of con­trast­ing bor­der.

Look at how the high­lights in the eyes have changed after sharp­en­ing — dark, almost black rims appeared on the con­trast­ing bor­ders (high­light and white, high­light and iris) / Illus­tra­tion: Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa, Photosklad.Expert

It turns out that when we turn up the sharp­ness, we just light­en the light and dark­en the dark. Thus, we deceive our per­cep­tion and it seems to us that the pic­ture has become clear­er and more detailed.

How to Sharpen in Photoshop

Often in Pho­to­shop, the same action can be done in more than one way. Sharp­ness is no excep­tion. We’ll show you two ways to sharp­en in Pho­to­shop that will take less than a minute. Which one to use is a mat­ter of per­son­al con­ve­nience, since the qual­i­ty of the result does not depend on the method, but on the set­tings you choose.

Improve sharpness through Edge Contrast / High Pass filter

1. Open a pho­to and be sure to dupli­cate the orig­i­nal lay­er. To do this, being in the palette Lay­ersright click on the lay­er back­ground and select com­mand Dupli­cate Lay­er / Dupli­cate Lay­er.

An impor­tant note: if before you sharp­en, you have already worked with this pho­to — retouch­ing, chang­ing col­or, rais­ing con­trast, apply­ing fil­ters, etc., then your first step changes.

Instead of a dupli­cate of the source, left-click on the top­most lay­er and cre­ate a merged copy of all lay­ers by press­ing the key­board short­cut Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E.

Click on the dupli­cate source / merged copy of all lay­ers and go to the menu Fil­ter / Fil­ter — Oth­er / Oth­er — Edge con­trast / High pass / Screen­shot: Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa, Fotosklad.Expert

2. If the pho­to turns into a gray print, don’t be alarmed — that’s how it should be. Now you need to choose the strength of sharp­en­ing. To do this, adjust the para­me­ter Radius / Radius.

Sim­ply put, it indi­cates exact­ly where and how thick dark and light halos it will cre­ate on con­trast­ing bor­ders. Sim­pli­fy­ing even more — what will show through on a gray print will be sharp­ened there. The more, the more and coars­er the sharp­en­ing will be.

A good work­ing radius for accu­rate sharp­en­ing is from 0.5 pix­els to 1.5. At the same time, the larg­er the pic­ture, the larg­er the radius can be set / Illus­tra­tion: Eliza­ve­ta Lentchevicha, Photosklad.Expert

After select­ing the desired radius, click Ok and move on to the next — final — step.

3. Pho­tog­ra­phy is still an incom­pre­hen­si­ble gray mess. To fix this, set the gray lay­er to blend mode. Over­lay / Over­lay.

After the pic­ture gets the desired blend­ing mode, details and col­or will appear again, but the sharp­ness will also rise / Illus­tra­tion: Eliza­ve­ta Lentchevicha, Fotosklad.Expert

Three options for what to do if the result is too rough:

- instead of mode Over­lay / Over­lay set over­lay mode Soft Light / Soft Light - the result will be more accu­rate.

- Decrease Opac­i­ty / Opac­i­ty sharp­en­ing lay­er. The but­ton is to the right of the blend modes.

– Delete the sharp­en­ing lay­er and redo it with a dif­fer­ent radius.

Sharpen with the Unsharp Mask filter

This method is also good and fast, but the dif­fer­ence is that the dupli­cate lay­er does not need to change the blend­ing mode, but instead of one para­me­ter — Radius — here the pho­tog­ra­ph­er adjusts three slid­ers at once.

1. Cre­ate a dupli­cate of the source (hot keys Ctrl + J), or, if you have already processed images and it has sev­er­al lay­ers, stand on the top lay­er and make a merged copy of all under­ly­ing lay­ers (hot keys Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E)

2. Left-click on the dupli­cate / copy of all lay­ers you cre­at­ed and go to Fil­ter / Fil­ter — Sharp­ness / Sharp­en — Unsharp mask­ing / Unsharp Mask.

3. In the win­dow that opens, increase the sharp­ness by adjust­ing the three slid­ers:

If you click Pre­view / Pre­view, you will see how the sharp­ness changes in the final image. If you leave it as in the screen­shot, the result will be vis­i­ble only in a small win­dow. Con­ve­nient to look before and after / Illus­tra­tion: Eliza­ve­ta Lentchevicha, Photosklad.Expert

- Quan­ti­ty / Amount. The strength of the fil­ter. The larg­er this set­ting, the high­er the sharp­ness. It is bet­ter not to bring the slid­er to the high­est val­ues ​​— the result will turn out to be rough and ugly, nois­es may come out. The rec­om­mend­ed val­ue is no more than 200%.

- Radius / Radius. Sets the width of the halos to be cre­at­ed. The larg­er the radius, the thick­er and more notice­able the halos will be. The rec­om­mend­ed val­ue is from 0.5 to 2.

- Thresh­old Allows you to tell the pro­gram what exact­ly to con­sid­er as a con­trast­ing bor­der, where to sharp­en, and where to leave it as it is. This is nec­es­sary to adjust the sharp­ness more accu­rate­ly, try to remove pos­si­ble noise that may have appeared in the process, and pre­vent the sharp­ness from ris­ing where you do not need. Mea­sured in lev­els. The high­er the num­ber of lev­els, the more it sup­press­es sharp­ness. There are no rec­om­men­da­tions here — every­thing is indi­vid­ual and depends on the spe­cif­ic pho­to. Some pho­tog­ra­phers don’t touch this slid­er at all.

4. Hav­ing set the desired val­ues ​​of the slid­ers, click Ok. Ready!

Quickly Sharpen in Lightroom

To increase the sharp­ness, the first two slid­ers may be enough — Amount and Radius / Illus­tra­tion: Eliza­ve­ta Lentchevicha, Photosklad.Expert

1. Upload a pho­to to Light­room and go to the tab Cor­rec­tion / Devel­op.

2. Find a tab Detail and a group of slid­ers Sharp­en­ing / Sharp­en­ing.

3. Raise the sharp­ness by adjust­ing the 4 slid­ers:

- Quan­ti­ty / Amount. The pow­er of sharp­en­ing. The larg­er the val­ue of the slid­er, the high­er the sharp­ness.

- Radius / Radius. We already know the width of the dark and light halos, which are respon­si­ble for the sharp­en­ing effect. The larg­er the radius val­ue, the thick­er and more notice­able the halos. The ide­al val­ue is 0.5–2 pix­els.

- Detail / Detail. Shows fine tex­ture. Can exhib­it sig­nif­i­cant noise, so this slid­er should be used spar­ing­ly and infre­quent­ly.

- Mask­ing / Mask­ing. The same as Thresh­old in Pho­to­shop. The larg­er the para­me­ter, the greater the num­ber of con­trast­ing bor­ders, the sharp­ness dis­ap­pears. For exam­ple, with the right set­ting, it will remain in front of your eyes, but will leave the skin.

Sharpen online — three free services

If you are too lazy to open Pho­to­shop or Light­room, you can sharp­en it for free online. We have col­lect­ed three quick and intu­itive ser­vices for you.


Sharp­ness is con­trolled by two slid­ers Radius (like Radius in Pho­to­shop or Light­room) and Strength (cor­re­sponds to the Amount slid­er in Pho­to­shop or Light­room) / Screen­shot: Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa, Fotosklad.Expert

2. Anytools.pro

After sharp­en­ing, select an image for­mat. To do this, click on the For­mat but­ton in the Mass-images.pro ser­vice and the Type but­ton in Anytools.pro. / Screen­shot: Eliza­ve­ta Lentchevicha, Photosklad.Expert

3. wtools.io

Sharp­ness is adjust­ed with a sin­gle slid­er. You can down­load a pic­ture in just two for­mats to choose from — PNG or JPEG / Illus­tra­tion: Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa, Fotosklad.Expert