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Image Sharpening

Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.

  • Intro 0:00
  • Lesson Overview 0:07
  • What is Sharpening? 0:30
    • What is Sharpening?
    • Auto Sharpen
  • When and How Much to Sharpen? 2:58
    • Noise Reduction Before Sharpening
    • Sharpen Your Image When You First Open It
    • Do Not Oversharpen
  • Sharpening Methods 8:31
    • Adjust Sharpen
    • Unsharp Mask
    • High Pass Filter
    • Methods Summary

Transcription: Image Sharpening

Hi, everyone--Michael Brown back with you; welcome back to Educator.com's Adobe Photoshop Elements Beginning and Intermediate course!0000

In this lesson, we're going to discuss image sharpening--a very important feature.0007

We have exposure, color, and sharpening; this is the sharpness and how crisp your image looks.0012

We're going to talk about what it is, why you need it, and how to apply it.0020

I'm going to try to simplify it, but it's a little complicated.0025

Let's get started!0028

The first question: What is sharpening?0030

Sharpening is increasing the contrast between lighter and darker pixels, which increases edge definition.0033

Darker gets darker; lighter gets lighter; you see the contrast.0042

Let me show you an example of that: we're going to zoom up this image here (I just want to double-check where we are), and (let me do that...rename, rename, rename) OK.0046

Here is an image I took of a landscape--we're going to zoom it way up and look at the pixels.0063

The area that I want to look at is right in here: you see that the tree looks rather soft; you can't see much detail in there--it's just a little blurry, or it appears to be, at this magnification.0070

Let's go even higher: we're at 600%; let's go to 700%.0083

You can begin to see pixels, but they are not very distinct.0087

So, what we're going to do first is apply Auto Sharpen (under the Enhance menu, Auto Sharpen); this is a fixed amount of sharpening; that is it; you do it or you don't.0092

You put it in, and immediately (zoom it up one time)...I'm going to do an Undo; that is where we were; and that is where we are.0104

You can begin to see detail popping out of the image.0113

We're going to apply it a second time: now, you see...I'm going to undo it twice...there is where we started; there is the first time, and the second time; and look at the increase in edge sharpness.0118

You can see it, really, right in here; and if we zoom back out, we look at our image now (we'll do it just one more time...there we are); let's go out twice, and you can see it looks a little soft; look in the trees over there.0134

We put it back in twice, and that should be (oops, I went too far)...there it is, and there it isn't.0149

It is; and it isn't; and you can see that a lot of detail has come in as we applied the sharpening, due to the fact of the contrast of the pixels.0160

That is Auto Sharpen.0175

Now, you say, "OK, you put it in twice; when should I use it, and how much should I sharpen?"0177

A couple of things that you want to do, if you're being precise (if you're just taking a generalized image, and you're working in Quick or Guided Editor, put a little bit of Sharpening in until the image looks a little crisp, and let it go at that): if you're working in Expert Editor, as we are right here, and we're doing really high-quality work, you want to be very careful how you do this.0187

The first thing is that you want to look at your image to see if it's noisy.0208

Let's say, for example, that you took a picture at night or late afternoon, in a dark area, and you upped the ISO rating on the camera very high; you're going to get a very noisy image.0212

Since sharpening increases the contrast between lighter and darker pixels, if there is noise in your image when you sharpen it, the noise is going to show more.0224

So, the first thing you want to do (and you can do this in the Camera Raw, or you can do it right here) is noise reduction, if you have any noise.0236

You go to the Filter menu (let's go to this image here): Filter, Noise, Reduce Noise, and you're going to have to play with it; the more...I'm going to do this a lot just to show you--I'm going to put a lot of reduction in, and no detail, and look what happened--the image got far worse than when it started!0247

That is because, as you reduce the noise, you also soften the existing pixels; so what you have to do is play with the sliders, and usually somewhere in this range will do it.0271

You maintain the details; you watch your image as you play with the sliders, to keep as much detail as you can.0285

In this case, we don't need it on this image--there was no noise.0293

You take the noise out; that gets rid of excess pixels, so do that first.0296

Then, sharpen your image when you first open it--take the image, such as I did here (and I have duplicated...these are all the same original layer; now we have the Auto Sharpen that has been added, but it's the original layer); duplicate it one time, because you sharpen on that layer, and you still have the original below it.0303

Turn this one off; go down to that one; and go back.0327

Sharpen first; that way, if you do any retouching, you will not smear the original soft pixels.0330

What I'm talking about is this (let's move it back up): notice the softness of the unsharpened image, versus the sharpened--look, this was the Auto-Sharpened; see the pixels?--They're crisper.0337

So, if we do retouch work, it's not going to smear them as much as if we tried to do on an unsharpened image.0353

Therefore, sharpen an image first: that way, if you do any retouching, it will not smear the soft pixels and cause degradation to the image quality--because we want to maintain the quality from start to finish.0362

Remember: Garbage in, garbage out.0374

Then comes the third key: do not over-sharpen; you can always add more later.0376

Too much sharpening will add noise and cause light halos along the edges.0383

Let's go back and take a look at this Auto Sharpen layer.0388

Remember, we applied it twice; and we're going to come up another notch, and we're going to hit it again with Auto Sharpen--a third time.0395

You can begin to see that the pixels are looking what I call "harsh," because you can see the pixels, and they are getting really vibrant, almost too vibrant.0408

You can see it right here, and what we are picking up (I hope you can see this) is two things (I keep zooming to find a spot): we're beginning to get this kind of blue edge between the sky and the darkness: that is called haloing.0422

I'm going to apply it another time, and now you can really see how harsh the pixels are looking; even when we get down here, it's kind of too bright, and "brittle" is the word that I think; the detail is overdone, and you can see that blue edge running around there.0435

We're going to go to the History panel: notice, we have added it four times; we'll come back two; go back to zero; one, two, three is getting a little harsh, and I'm also beginning to notice that I'm picking up noise in the sky.0454

We're going to balance it out (this is why you play with it): we're going to hit the Auto sharpness just twice, and that is as far as we're going to go.0471

That goes back to what I was talking about: don't over-sharpen it; just get enough; you don't want to degrade the image--don't want to get it too harsh, and don't want to get the halos.0480

You can always come back at the end and add a little more sharpening if you think it's too soft, but always sharpen at the beginning so that you don't degrade.0492

All right, so that gives you a basic idea of what to do: just follow (I'm just going to go ahead and turn that layer off) this advice in the opening here.0500

Now, we're going to take a look at (let's go ahead and delete all of that--oops, wrong thing got deleted--we'll delete that) the sharpening methods.0511

We're back, and we have the Auto Sharpen; you have already seen that, and it works OK--not too bad.0524

There is a little bit of noise in the sky, but it did a decent job with two hits.0531

Now, we're going to look at the Adjust Sharpen, under the Enhance menu: Adjust Sharpness.0535

This is pretty good, but it takes more time, and I don't think you want to waste time.0545

Here we have an unsharpened image sitting right in front of us, and we have two sliders (let's go right down to 0 here): we have the amount slider--that is the amount of sharpening--now you have an adjustment; you can do more or less, whereas the Auto Sharpen was just a fixed amount.0552

Then, we have the radius, and the radius is the distance, from a specific pixel out, that the effect applies.0571

In other words, right now, there is no effect at all--if I slap in a lot of sharpening, you don't see any change, because there is no distance at all.0582

As I increase the radius to about 1 and release, you will begin to see how much sharpening is already in, and you notice, over in the original picture, that it is almost over-sharpened, because we have haloing, and I'm beginning to see noise in the sky.0592

I hope you can see that--let me come up one more time--twice more, and move it over a little bit--see the blue edge, and see a little noise in the sky?0614

I'll turn off the preview; it takes a minute to calculate; and there, you have the original; and we'll show you what it looks like when it's sharpened--it's calculating for a while, and it will kick in.0624

And you see noise, so we have too much; so let's bring that down to about 80 and let it recalculate.0635

It should get it right here in a moment; we'll turn it off for the preview and get back to our original no-sharpening; it's still thinking; and we'll turn it back on.0646

This is not too bad; we have a little bit of haloing; take the radius and the amount down, even a little further; down to 70--now it looks pretty good; we'll go ahead and say OK.0662

You play around with it, and you come up with this; so now, let's compare the two.0677

We'll turn on the Auto Sharpen; we got a little more sharpening there than we did in the adjustment; we could have played with that a little bit more, but it still looks pretty good.0682

But, that took more time, obviously--the Auto Sharpen was easier.0692

Let's now take a look at Unsharp Mask.0696

Unsharp Mask is fairly similar--it has the two sliders and a threshold.0700

The threshold is the difference in intensity between adjacent pixels; with no threshold at all, every single pixel will be affected in your image; as you move it up, the lesser contrasts will begin to be unaffected.0705

We're going to leave that alone; I always do; we're going to put in a radius of approximately one and a half, and we'll match up that 83 that we did with the Adjust Sharpening.0727

This time, we'll click OK.0741

Again, it's a similar type; we'll turn on the other one, and turn off; it's almost the same; I like Unsharp Mask--it's a little bit quicker; the calculations work faster.0743

It's my favorite at the moment: Auto Sharpen is pretty good; look at the difference between the two--not too much; Adjust Sharpening took a little too long.0754

Unsharp Mask and Auto Sharpen work pretty well and pretty quickly.0763

But, I'm going to show you my favorite method, and that is called the High Pass Filter method.0767

What you do is this: you duplicate your layer twice; the second layer, you make in overlay blend mode (and we'll turn this off), and what you see is that it makes the image look very contrast-y.0776

Anything brighter than neutral gray gets really bright; anything darker gets really dark.0795

It basically increased the contrast, but it blocks up the shadows and blocks up the highlights.0799

We're going to go to the Filter menu, Other, High Pass.0804

The High Pass filter just looks for edges; basically, it's neutral gray, which means, if you have the layer with the overlay in contrasting mode, on neutral gray, there is nothing brighter and nothing darker, so nothing happens.0810

That is why you see the image looking the same in the window.0825

If we up the radius, it just looks for edges, so as we pull it up, you begin to see the tree.0830

We'll go right over here and begin to see the trees; if you go too far, you begin to see color, and you see all of that blue haloing, so you want to come down until you see the trees, somewhere between 2 and 5, and not a lot of haloing.0838

What I want to show you is that, in the open areas, it's still gray.0853

In the blend mode, there will be no effect at all in the open areas; it will only affect what you see.0858

Let's just go ahead and drop that down to about 2, click OK, and there is the High Pass sharpening.0868

Now, there is nothing in the sky; if I turn on the Auto Sharpen and zoom up, I don't know if you can see it on your screen, but I can see some noise, and there is no noise from the High Pass.0876

We'll zoom it out and compare the sharpness; we're a little bit sharper with the Auto Sharpen, but we can increase the sharpening of the High Pass filter by doubling the amount, simply by duplicating the layer (Command+J).0889

It doubled the sharpening; now, you see how sharp things are, with very little change in the sky, and look: much sharper, but no harshness (what did I just do?...) in the pixels.0907

Notice how nicely that did--and put nothing in the sky; look at the difference--it's even better than the Auto Sharpen.0925

There you have it, and the final thing that you want to do: you have these two layers that look gray; you want to do Command on a Mac/Control on a PC, click...0933

Oh, and by the way, if the second layer is too much...let's go ahead and have a third layer--Command+J...now it's too much; I can back down the opacity of that layer to maybe 20%, and now we'll look, and look at the amount of sharpening--it's wonderful--and still no effect on the sky.0941

So, we did one time, we did it twice, we did it two times plus 20%; you have infinite adjustment by adjusting the opacity of the layer or duplicating.0961

So, we do Command on a Mac/Control on a PC, highlight all three, plus the layer below, and do Merge Layers, and we'll call that High Pass.0971

And now...we didn't really like the Adjust Sharpening that much--it took too much time; we'll dump that one.0985

It's either Auto Sharpen (you can see that the High Pass does a better job already) or it's Unsharp Mask, and again, the High Pass filter is much better.0992

Look at the difference between this image and the original image--phenomenal!--and look up here in the grass...watch this: there, the grass is sharpened up, and it's less in the Auto Sharpen or the Unsharp Mask, but not bad.1005

There are your three primary methods that I consider for sharpening, and I will give them my ratings: The Auto Sharpening I would call a 1 1/2; the Adjust Sharpening takes too much time, and doesn't do any better; Unsharp Mask with a 2; and the High Pass filter--I would give it a 3.1027

So, if you want to do it quickly, use Auto Sharpening; if you want to do it a little bit better, do Unsharp Mask; but if you really want to do a great job, follow the High Pass filter method.1054

I will put up another little video following this, just demonstrating the High Pass filter on a subject for you.1065

That is the discussion of image sharpening: what, why, and how--what it is, when and how much to sharpen.1073

Follow the instructions here, and all four sharpening methods--three of them are under the Enhance menu (Auto Sharpen, Unsharp Mask, and Adjust Sharpness); the fourth one is the High Pass filter.1081

I will see you back in the next lesson!1094