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Sharpening: To Unsharp or Not to Unsharp?
Old 08-22-2007, 11:27 AM   #1 (permalink)
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I've always used the unsharp tool as my choice for sharpening. I've used different variations of it, like just sharpening one color channel rather than all the color channels, and I've been relatively content with the tool.

i know there's different ways to sharpen. yesterday i came across one on a forum that was new... make that new to me. I tried it and liked it and it's probably going to be my preferred choice for sharpening. Just thought I'd share in case others weren't aware of this technique.

Here it is. It was posted by a Sean Elliot on the iStockphoto forum:

unsharp mask is ok though there are better ways, I lecture in digital photography and photoshop and I know through an awful lot of experience that all though unsharp mask is good, there is a better alternatives.To gain more controll and sublty try this method......

IN PHOTOSHOP>
firstly duplicate your layer so you have tour image and a copy on a layer , then go to: filter> other> highpass.
in the highpass dialouge preview you'll see that the image turn grey almost looking (kinda like a slight emboss effect), this is infact picking out the edges of your image. In terms of the amount of highpass you apply of course depends on the image, though i tend to find that i rarly go above 4.0.

Now press ok to confirn that you are happy with this setting. Now on your layers pallete apply one of these two layer blend modes: try Softlight for a subtle amount of sharpening and for a more dramatic shapening try hardlight and hey presto!!!

you should see that theres a hugh difference, if not a little to shapre, this is when i generally reduce to opacity to suit the image and or even apply a layer mask to the highpass layer and mask off the areas i dont want to effect, ie keep eyes mouth details shapr and leave the skin and background.

this gives you far greater controll over what is actually being sharpened and the ability to apply thr opacity of the highpass layer again allows more control.
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Re: Sharpening: To Unsharp or Not to Unsharp?
Old 08-22-2007, 11:46 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I have used that method in the past. The one nice thing about it is that you can save the sharpening level with the image. Of course this results in a larger file which is why I don't use this method any longer.

I'm back to unsharp mask now, but my technique is so much simpler and consistent than before.

For a full resolution image I zoom in to 100%.
Then I set my unsharp mask to 500%, .1, and 0.
I put my cursor in the .1 box and bump my arrow upwards until the image literally pops. Usually around .3. Then I save my JPG and send it to print.

For web sized images I usually work at 250% or 300% and use the same method.
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Re: Sharpening: To Unsharp or Not to Unsharp?
Old 08-22-2007, 05:49 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Looks like this method adds a lot more contrast to the image too.
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Re: Sharpening: To Unsharp or Not to Unsharp?
Old 08-24-2007, 05:20 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Jimmy
This has been my preferred method for girl pictures for some time as it has the advantage of sharpening detail without sharpening skin areas.

Try this slight variation as well.
Apply the high pass filter and reduce it so you are picking out just the edges, then apply the unsharp mask filter to this layer.
wind up the sharpening in the unsharp mask to oversharpen those edges before converting to softlight.
You can pull back any remaining oversharpening by reducing the layer opacity later.
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