tips & tricks

Quick and Easy: How I Sharpen Photos

I got this question on Tumblr:

Oops, I forgot to ask this but do you sharpen your photos? If so, can you possibly come up with a tutorial? I wanna learn how to sharpen images without them looking too overly done. Thank you!

It is really super easy and I know a lot of people do it this way. I used to use the unsharp mask (I still do, when sharpening my eyes) but my problem with that filter is that it sharpens the background of the photo, too. I’d rather keep the bokeh, well, bokeh!

I am using this silly photo I snapped with my kit lens last month (while mobile home shopping lulz). It’s not a particularly good photo but I’m too lazy to go through iPhoto. Besides, I think I kinda look kyot.

Step One: Duplicate the layer (cmd+J on Mac, ctrl+J on Windows).

how to sharpen photos

Step Two: Desaturate the second layer (shift+cmd+U or shift+ctrl+U). You can skip this step!

how to sharpen photos

Step Three: Run a high-pass filter on the desaturated layer.

how to sharpen photos

Radius is up to you. I keep it to 0.6 to 1 pixel most of the time (only having the edges outlined).

how to sharpen photos

Step Four: Set layer blend mode to “soft light”.

how to sharpen photos

And that’s it! The difference is very subtle, as shown in this gif:

how to sharpen photos

I hope that helps!

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  • Reply Joyce October 26, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    Yeah, I do this too! High-pass sharpen FTW! (but I also unsharp mask on low opacity screen and multiply layers) I don’t desaturate before hi-pass though. What does the desaturation do?

    • Reply Helga October 26, 2011 at 7:34 pm

      Force of habit hahahaha I tested and there isn’t a difference!

  • Reply Alikoy October 31, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Cool. Thanks for the quick tutorial Helga! I love how the very small difference makes the picture so much nicer!

  • Reply Ryan Lopez March 3, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    Done nicely! Cheers…

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