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Sharpening Tools: Learning to Sharpen in Adobe Photoshop, Camera Raw, and Lightroom


  1. Noise Reduction in Photoshop
  2. Combining Camera Raw, Lightroom, and Photoshop's Tools

Chapter Description

Bruce Fraser and Jeff Schewe show you how to use sharpening tools in Photoshop, Camera Raw, and Lightroom.

Combining Camera Raw, Lightroom, and Photoshop’s Tools

We’re going to keep this section short because this is the very tip of a very big and important subject we’ll be covering in depth in Chapter 5, “Industrial-Strength Sharpening Techniques.” But we thought it would be useful to show, on the same example image we’ve been working, how to combine the best of all the applications’ toolsets.

Figure 4-58 shows three contact-print-sized images. Each image was processed, then output sharpened for book reproduction. The first one was output at the camera default sharpening of Amount 25 and zero noise reduction. The next is the image where we optimized both the Sharpening and Noise Reduction parameters. The last image was then opened in Photoshop for a gentle dose of the Reduce Noise filter and added using a surface mask to preserve the edges.

Figure 4-58

Figure 4-58 Comparing the results

We think you’ll agree that each step we took was an upgrade to the overall image quality. Leaving the image at default gives a grainy, noisy result whose details aren’t as sharp as the noise. Optimizing the sharpening and the noise reduction is a clear improvement in image quality—the image details are sharper than the noise. Yes, it looks like a higher ISO shot, but the noise is not as objectionable as the first example. The last image is the overall best image quality. There are still some telltale signs of the image having come from a higher-ISO capture, but those signs are very subtle.

Figure 4-59 shows the layer stack as well as the surface mask that was generated for the final image.

Figure 4-59

Figure 4-59 The image tuned in Photoshop

It should be clear after reading this chapter that knowing how a particular sharpening or smoothing tool works is only part of the answer. Learning to work with various tools and creating layers and masks provides you with much more control and flexibility than when you simply use the tools to burn changes into the pixels of a flattened image.

But as we all know, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and the downsides of doing everything on layers are that the files become very large, and also very complex. If you plan to leave the layers intact for maximum flexibility, name them in a way that you know will make sense to you several years hence. Otherwise you’ll find yourself spending considerable amounts of time just figuring out what each layer does when you come to revisit the image.

In the next chapter, we’ll show you how to assemble the various tools covered in this chapter into a complete arsenal of advanced techniques dedicated to getting the best image quality available while automating the work wherever possible.