Photography Tutorial 4: How to sharpen your photos (+ Video)

15 September 2016

Photo sharpening is the perfect way to emphasize texture and drawing viewer focus. The sensor of a digital camera always blur the image to some degree and this requires a sharpening correction. Although the sharpening technique isn’t equal for each photo, it works really well for almost every photo.

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Let’s start with a before and after preview

High pass before

Sharpen your photo: Pro’s and cons

When using the sharpness too aggressively, unsightly sharpening artifacts may appear. On the other side, when done correctly, sharpening can definitely improve image quality even more than upgrading to an expensive Canon “L” lens. And it is holiday time, so you can use the extra money : ).

Oke, good! How does it work

In Photoshop there are a lot of ways to sharpen your photo. The latest Photoshop versions even got standard sharpening filters as “smart sharpen” and “unsharp mask”. Although these filters do their work, there are better ways to sharpen your photos without having noise problems for example. I recommend the “High pass” method.

Can you see the details? Look at the twigs and the details on the building, impressive right? There are more details than you expect.

Step 1: Oke, let’s get started!

It is important to know that the sharpening technique is always the last step of the editing process.

Open your photo in Photoshop and duplicate the layer so you have two of the same layers on top of each other.


Step 2: Filter High Pass

The High Pass filter is very easy to use. With the slider bar you can increase or decrease the intensity of the High Pass (the “Radius” value), and that’s all there is to it!

In the top menu go to “Filter” -> “Other” and then “High Pass…”


When using the High Pass filter it is important to keep an eye on your image in the document window and adjust the Radius value by dragging the slider bar left or right. When you drag towards the right the edges of details will become more clear. You will get the best result when you see clear contour lines like the example below.


Important: If you slide too mutch to the right, you’ll begin to see a halo effect around the edges of your image, and you really want to avoid that. Be carefull with the radius value by dragging the slider bar to the left once the halos begin to appear.

Step 3: The latest step, this is easy man!

Now you have set the High Pass filter correctly in the previous step it’s now time to blend it all together.

Open the layer window (F7) and select the top layer with the High Pass filter and change the blending mode to “Hard Light” and you’re done!

Tip! If the edges are a bit too sharp you can simply set the opacity of the High Pass layer a bit lower.


The endresult


If you have a question about this tutorial, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Or post a message on the bottom of the page.

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