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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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
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.