Selective Sharpening Workflow

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One of the things that people ask us about a lot is sharpening. So, here’s a quick tutorial on how we do it. There are lots of different ways to sharpen an image – and lots of tool available. Right now, we’re using a great tool called Nik Output Sharpener for sharpening images for print and preparing images for web display. Jay used Nik Sharpener to sharpen the image above.

Nik’s sharpening software lets us control the edge sharpness and local contrast independently, and it’s “structure” control lets us get picky about fine details. We fine-tune our sharpening with their “U-Point” technology – which makes the whole process easy, and gives us even more control. Most importantly – in our opinion anyway – the final results are displayed in Photoshop as a separate layer. That means we can create and adjust masks to further restrict the sharpening to specific areas of the image. (Did I mention that we’re control freaks?)

Here’s what our workflow looks like.

We start by selecting a preset option that is close to what we want for our finished image. We want the image to look sharp – but it’s important to avoid haloing along high-contrast edges. The preset option we choose differs depending upon the image we’re working with… but once we’ve chosen one that’s close to what we want, we start refining. We use control points to define local contrast and structure selectively. Maybe we want more contrast in one area and less in another – control points let us make very specific adjustments as we work.

When we’re happy with the results in every part of the image, we click “done” and the image opens automatically in Photoshop. There’s the layer we’ve just created… ready and waiting.  In an image like this one, we might want to remove sharpening in some areas – like the water and the sky – to eliminate noise. We prefer a softer look for skies and water, so we don’t want to sharpen those areas. A quick adjustment to the mask does the trick, and we’re done.

About Author Jay Patel

I could startoff like this – “Seeds of Jay Patel’s appreciation for beautiful places were planted early in his childhood….” but it would get boring really fast. I will just sum it up and say that I am a Landscape and Wilderness Photographer who loves to capture dramatic light. My photographs have been published in various magazines, calendars and advertising materials throughout the world.
Patience is a virtue...unless you are chasing your dreams