Sharpening and the various techniques available to apply it are hotly debated topics. Everybody has their own favourite way of doing it, and they tend to stick with it. I certainly have mine. I’ve got 2 or 3 go-to methods I bounce between depending on the image in question. There are also techniques I don’t use because I just don’t like what they do.
This video from Jesús Ramirez at The Photoshop Channel covers pretty much every main method of sharpening images within Photoshop. How each of the different methods work, their advantages and disadvantages. He also talks about the different times during a photograph’s life when you’d actually need to sharpen an image.
Ramirez begins by covering that old favourite, the High Pass filter. This is still one of my favourite methods, personally, from within Photoshop itself. I do apply it very selectively, though. I use different strengths with multiple layers. And I use a lot of masking to target specific areas differently, as well as edge detection masks. It works for me, I’m comfortable with it and it usually gives me exactly what I need.
For Ramirez, it’s the opposite. He feels the global nature of the High Pass filter is a hindrance. And while masking is an option, he still doesn’t find it to be as subtle as other methods or offer as much control. So, his methods of choice are Smart Sharpen and the Camera Raw Filter.
I tend to only use Adobe Camera Raw’s sharpening when initially importing my images into Photoshop itself. But it can be advantageous when sharpening for final output to the web or print, and is Ramirez’s top choice.
Remember, though, sharpening is really just an illusion. Photoshop can’t add detail back that wasn’t there to begin with. It’s simply increasing contrast at the edges of colour and brightness differences. It’s definitely possible to oversharpen images, so use with care.
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