Project Description

This video introduces you to several different types of image sharpening, and it explains when to use each kind. There are several unique reasons to add sharpening to your photos. Learn how to get great-looking sharpening results by adding the effects during various periods in your workflow.

Photos: April Milani, Anne Helene Gjelstad


Technical Correction

The first type of sharpening is Technical Correction – when images don’t come out of the camera sharp enough. Use the Detail panel to compensate for this. It is best performed at the beginning of your editing workflow, and the sharpening effects are typically applied to the entire photo. Zooming into an unscaled 100% or 1:1 view helps.

Pay attention to detail areas with hard-edges when doing sharpening. Pan to an appropriate place in your image using the navigator. This image is a little soft in the eyes.

Start with the Amount slider. Temporarily maximizing this value makes the results of the other sliders are more noticeable. Holding the Alt or Option key while making adjustments to these sliders toggles a real-time visualization of the adjustment.

The Radius controls the width of the sharpening area around each edge. It’s a good idea to only select the hard edges of your photo. Notice the lines around the eyes and eyelashes.

The Detail slider controls how much of the fine textures, like pores, wrinkles, or fine body hair on the skin are boosted; as well as grain at higher levels. The Masking slider is the last one. It controls how much contrast there needs to be between colors for them to be sharpened. A higher amount means only higher contrast areas will be sharpened.

Be careful when sharpening low-contrast areas like smooth skin. It can make them look rough and speckly.

With input sharpening complete, compare the edits with the original image with the key.

Creative Sharpening

Creative sharpening is performed for aesthetic reasons. It is implemented with the Focus panel.

Landscape photos usually look better when they are “punchier” with more clarity, sharpness, and saturation. Portraits however usually look best with more subtle effects.

It’s helpful to use Exposure’s brush control to apply sharpening to specific parts of your image. Here, sharpening the main horizon lines in this landscape will accentuate the separation between the middle and background.

Amount adjusts the intensity of the effect – how much contrast is added to the edges in the photo.

Radius controls the size – how wide the sharpened edges become.

Threshold is similar to the masking control in the Detail panel. It controls the minimum brightness change or amount of contrast an edge needs in order to be sharpened. Higher values exclude more areas.

There are several presets available from the dropdown. Their effects range from subtle to aggressive.

A larger radius is one of the ways to achieve the “punchy” effect mentioned earlier.

Apply the effect to just the horizon by brushing. Selecting the mask thumbnail opens the brushing panel.

Notice the mask thumbnail is white. That means the effect is applied to the entire photo. Pressing Invert Mask will turn off the effect everywhere.

Adjust the brush size and apply brushing to apply the sharpening.

To preview the effect, toggle the layer on and off. To tone the effect down use the opacity slider.

Sharpening for Ink Diffusion

Ink diffusion occurs as various papers absorb ink during the print process. This can make prints lose some of their sharpness. The Output sharpening options in Exposure’s Print dialog compensate for ink spread, so prints from Exposure always look razor sharp.

Output sharpening is integrated into Exposure’s print process. If images also need enlargement before printing, check out our resizing application Blow Up, which performs both resizing and sharpening in a single step. We recommend starting with a low sharpening amount because it provides a noticeable but not dramatic sharpening and is effective for most photos. A small sharpening amount will effect only fine details like hair. A wide radius will sharpen larger details and can be used if your print will be viewed at a distance.

The media type list sets an appropriate radius for your paper type.