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Sharpening photos

Posted by Harjo Neutkens  
avatar Sharpening photos
June 22, 2011 06:26AM
    
Sharpening photographs.
Many people do, the only problem is that most sharpening tools do not deliver very good results, the other problems being the fact that you often loose a considerable amount of resolution (for instance; sharpen a pic of 2.8Mb, with some sharpening tools you end up with only 1.5Mb) or end up with a very grainy photograph.
For anyone wanting to sharpen their pics there is an alternative way, where you don't have to use the obvious sharpening software, but will render very good results.
What you do is very simple: you stack (for instance with CombineZ) two frames of exactly the same photograph (the one that you want to sharpen). The result will be much sharper then the two identical initial frames. Afterwards crop the photo to get rid of the edges produced by the stacking sequence.
It beats most, if not all, sharpening tools.
Of course, a good photographer using the proper gear doesn't need to do any sharpening, but I'm afraid I do......

Cheers,

Harjo
avatar Re: Sharpening photos
June 22, 2011 08:57AM
Sharpening tricks and techniques vary significantly depending on your camera, and of course software available to you.

First of all, always shoot images from your camera in RAW format, otherwise sharpening is just going to emphasise the jpeg compression artefacts.

Using photoshop raw converter to load and process your raw images is a good idea. Read up online about the best settings for your raw images - this will depend on your camera.

This is also one area where the free 'gimp' software simply is no match for photoshop.

Jolyon
avatar Re: Sharpening photos
June 22, 2011 09:55AM
Hello Harjo,

I confess that I always check how shapening can improve my pictures. I use Helicon filter after stacking with Helicon Focus or Zerene stacker. Zerene stacker is an alternative with difficult stacks in pyramid modus but slow with 40 or so layers while Helicon focus is very fast now, with Version 5.2.4. Pro. I stack mostly with method B with JPG files. Stacks of 40 pics in raw .... ?.

Because I am used to it, I finish my pictures (resize and label) with Irfan View 4.2.8. I check sharpening if I have resized to my personal Website resolution (722 pixel hight) but it is mostly no improvement if I have used sharpening in Helicon Filter.

Cheers

Volker
avatar Re: Sharpening photos
June 22, 2011 01:37PM
You can do some fancy work in Photoshop with unsharp mask and high-pass filtering. Usually you only need to sharpen when there is a significant change in pixel size of the image, going from 3000 pixels to what Mindat asks for, 1024 pixels max, for example. I would not sharpen an image at its native (camera-produced) resolution. If and when I sharpen, it is the very last step, when I am ready to save the image as a jpg file type. I usually work in photoshop format, as I can save image layers.

"All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost," J. R. R. Tolkien
avatar Re: Sharpening photos
October 04, 2011 06:11AM
Actually when resizing it is not actually sharpness you are losing so much as local contrast, which is perceived by the human eye as a lack of sharpness. A simple use of curves and USM to do local contrast enhancement is typically more then enough. One should seldom ever use the "sharpening" tool in any editing program! You are always better off using the unsharp mask. But the settings for it are dependent on the shot, equipment used, etc., as Jolyon stated, there is no real magic setting. Although if you use Adobe Photoshop I do have an action set I wrote for sharpening that works fairly well universally, drop me a message if interested and I will email it to you.

Also, by sharpening an image you would NOT drop in image size. If you are dropping in image size you are resizing not just sharpening. Graininess is because you are either over sharpening or using the improper method of sharpening. Most often a curves adjustment is more useful then sharpening is.

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Re: Sharpening photos
February 10, 2012 01:19PM
I do it this way [photographingminerals.com] - Unsharp mask is best tool for me. You can use some other sharpening techniques with layers and so but you can not use that for every photo, it is too time consuming.

With unsharp mask is very wise to set treshold to 1, otherwise you "sharpen" also noise. If there is excessive noise better first denoise, then use brutal sharpening and downsize and sharpen again.

For resizing is good to use bicubic or bicubic sharper methods to keep maximum sharpness. And of course save as high quality JPEG, or you will loose details with compression.

RAW is great but most P&S cameras do not have it and even most enthusiast folks with DSLR do not use it. If you can use it, it helps a lot. But mostly with exposure, white balance and such things.
Re: Sharpening photos
February 10, 2012 03:54PM
    
I have tried so many sharpening methods in my life that I lost count - edge sharpening, high pass sharpening, mid tone sharpening, etc..

Nowadays I solely use USM (radius 0.5, threshhold 0) on two separate layers (one set to "darken", the other to "lighten" with different opacities). I have recorded this as a PS action with a Stop to adjust the USM setting (because this depends on the image size). So, no time loss at all.

cheers

Harry
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