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How to Sharpen an Image in Photoshop

Nobody likes it when they spend so many hours on photoshoots, but the images still come slightly blurred. Fortunately, Photoshop comes to the rescue in these situations. This guide covers various methods which will teach you how to sharpen an image in Photoshop. 

When the information is lost, it can never be recovered. However, the following method uses the surrounding pixels to determine a pixel’s value and change it accordingly to make it sharper. Read along to find more about this. 

Before you begin, remember to keep the process non-destructive. It simply means that you should perform the sharpening on a separate layer to protect the original. 

Image Sharpening using Smart Sharpen

Smart sharpen an image in photoshop
In the first method, you will learn how to sharpen an image in Photoshop using Smart Sharpen Filter. Simply, select it from the Filters menu.

Step 1

The first step after selecting the filter is to set the values.

As we said above, increasing the Amount of sharpening will particularly increase the contrast between edges giving the image more clarity. The value of Radius will decide how many pixels are affected around the area on which sharpening is applied. Similarly, Reduce Noise will keep the edges clear while reducing the noise.

The Remove option basically gives you three controls. First, Gaussian Blur which is used by the filter in the next method. Second, Lens Blur provides more sharpening by identifying edges. Lastly, Motion Blur, which as the name suggests, tries to remove any blur caused by movement. Moreover, you can use Angle to detect the direction of motion blur for precise clarity.

Step 2

Now, an image is only as clear as its both light and dark parts. Fortunately, they can also be sharpened using Shadow and Highlights which are available under the Advanced menu. These give you three controls. The first one is Fade Amount which lets you set the sharpening value. Next is Tonal Width which is used for the purpose of controlling tonal range in the areas in which sharpening is applied. You can use the slider in order to control its value. The third control is Radius which works like the radius in step 1. If you move the slider to the left, it will form a smaller radius and vice versa.

Image Sharpening using Unsharp Mask

Sharpen image of a boy on road
This second method teaches you how to sharpen an image in Photoshop using Unsharp Mask. Unlike Smart Sharpen, it does not identify edges. However, you set a threshold value for pixels and it finds those pixels that differ from that value. Like the earlier method, select the Unsharp Mask from the filters Menu under Sharpen submenu.

Step 1

After selecting the filter, you need to set the value for Radius. As the name suggests, it functions just like radius does in the earlier method. If you increase its value than it will affect more pixels, and the image will be clearer. 

Step 2

Now, you must set the sharpening Amount. As we discussed above, instead of edges, this method works with a threshold value. After the different pixels are found, this filter increases their contrast so that lighter pixels become lighter and darker become darker. 

Step 3

In this step, you must set the Threshold value. Here, you can even set a value or use the slider to figure out how much sharpening will occur. Pixels have 256 values ranging from 0-255. Hence, a value of 10 will mean that all neighboring pixels whose tonal values differ by 10 will be affected. It is also important to remember that the 0 value is the default, and it sharpens all the pixels. 

Image Sharpening Using High Pass Filter

Using high pass filter to sharpen an image

Lastly, you will learn how to sharpen an image in Photoshop using the High Pass filter. First, select this filter from the Other submenu in the Filter menu. This will turn your image into grey and highlights edges. 

Step 1

The first step is to set the Radius. Its value will simultaneously affect all the pixels moving outward from the edge where it is applied. For instance, a value of 3 means that three pixels on the sides of the edge are affected. The best part is that you can use the slider in order to find out the perfect value where only the main subject is sharpened not the background objects.

Step 2

Now that you have dealt with the highlights, change the filter’s Blend Mode. The icon for this option will be next to the filter name. You will also get four modes in this option. Overlay produces more contrast in a more sharpened image whereas Soft Light produces a gentler contrast, resulting in less sharpening. Next are the Hard Light and Linear Light blend modes if you need rather stronger sharpening. You can also adjust the Opacity of the High Pass Filter for further tweaking.

Conclusion - How to Sharpen an Image in Photoshop

Sharpening can give a significantly crisper look to slightly blurred images. This guide teaches you how to sharpen an image in Photoshop by using three different methods just so you get more choices. Each method has its advantage so check each one out to learn their strengths. You can also use other software such as Lightroom to perform tweaks.

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Have a nice photoshoot! 

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