DPP Home Technique (R)evolution Capture Sharpening

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Capture Sharpening

Working with RAW files

This Article Features Photo Zoom

The Detail controls in Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom are identical; only their appearance varies.

There are four Sharpening sliders:
1. Amount controls the contrast of the effect produced.
2. Radius controls the width of halos (light) and lines (dark) produced around contours.
3. Detail skews the effect toward a particular frequency of detail: high, medium or low.
4. Masking creates on-the-fly edge masks, removing the effect from smoother lower-contrast areas. (You can see the mask when you hold down the Option/Alt key and click on or slide the slider.)

Images with high-frequency detail benefit from using smaller Radius settings, and higher Amount and Detail settings (and lower noise-reduction settings). Images with low-frequency detail benefit from using higher Radius settings, and lower Amount and Detail settings (and higher noise-reduction settings). Images with a wider variety of frequencies, especially those that contain significant contours, benefit from higher Masking settings.

If you don't know where to start, begin with an Amount of 100, a Radius of 1.0 and a Detail of 50. Look critically at the way the effect affects your image. There will be many times when you'll want to readjust noise-reduction settings after determining sharpening settings. The two are intimately related.

Adobe Camera Raw's Detail panel
Finding an optimum balance involves making trade-offs. Again, be conservative and avoid producing artifacts. This is perhaps the hardest part of capture sharpening, as the tools are powerful and the effects can be compelling, so the temptation to go too far is great. Resist. Remember, there's a second stage of sharpening for localized effects: creative sharpening.

Double-processing RAW files with Photoshop allows you to apply different noise-reduction and sharpening settings to different areas of an image. In one version, you aggressively can sharpen high-frequency detail with little noise reduction, such as textured stone, and in a second version, you minimally can sharpen low-frequency detail with high noise reduction, such as a clear blue sky. When you do this, you can optimize sharpening settings for one frequency of detail and ignore the artifacts produced in another. With detail settings optimized for different frequencies on separate layers in Photoshop, you can mask the suboptimal areas in the overlying layer, and reveal the optimal detail in the layer below.

Here's an easy way to do this. First, import the first version into Photoshop as a Smart Object. Second, go to Layer > Smart Objects > New Layer Via Copy. Third, double-click the new Smart Object to change the detail settings in the overlying layer. Note: If you simply duplicate a Smart Object instead, the settings will be reset in both layers. The way you make the Smart Object determines whether the duplicates share the same settings or have different settings.

John Paul Caponigro, author of Adobe Photoshop Master Class and the DVD series R/Evolution, is an internationally renowned fine artist, an authority on digital printing and a respected lecturer and workshop leader. Get over 100 Lessons with his free enews Insights at www.johnpaulcaponigro.com.


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