Everybody (well, just about everybody) knows about using an Unsharp Mask (Filters/Sharpen/Unsharp Mask) to sharpen their images. It is an oxymoron that comes from the film days of sharpening images. Many (well, some) know how to use a High Pass Filter (Filters/Other/High Pass) to do some very controllable sharpening. An even smaller set of people know about using the Luminance Channel in LAB (that's L A B, not referring to some laboratory somewhere) Mode. There, you don't mess with the color Channels (the A Channel and the B Channel) and only Sharpen the L Channel . By only Sharpening the grey scale of the L Channel you eliminate any chance of producing a color shift. And then there's a Brush on Sharpening technique that very few people use. I suppose some of the "early adopters" probably tried using the Sharpening Tool (no keyboard shortcut - it's located under the Blur Tool) and found it lacking. I believe the Sharpening Tool fell into Adobe's JDI (just do it) tweaks that came in Adobe Photoshop CS5. The JDI's were a set of little, niggling, things that bugged enough end users and (apparently) Adobe Product Managers that they made the decision to fix many things before releasing CS5. Dodge and Burn is a good example. They put in a checkbox that says "Protect Tones". Prior to CS5 the Dodge and Burn Tools (O) would just muddy up whatever they were applied to. With the JDI fix, they work as they were always supposed to. Being able to set a default in the Stroke (Edit/Stroke) dialog box was another. Before it was set to Red and had to be changed every time it was used. In CS5, if you choose to do so, you can set the default color to whatever you frequently use. If 90% of your Strokes are Black, set it to Black in one case and it'll remain "sticky" until you change it. A great sanity fix. Lots of people were bugged with that one. Another is the subject of today's post. To find out how it was used in today's image, hit the "Read More".
Using the Sharpening Tool isn't the only thing done to give today's image more definition, but it was the first one I ran for when deciding what to do to the shot. Click on the image to see an enlargement. Check out the fellow's hair. That is some seriously well defined wisps of hair. The Sharpen Tool was used to increase the visual appeal of the hair. The Sharpen Tool is a Brush. What I did was make a new blank Layer (Layer/New/Layer) and make sure the Sample All Layers box was checked. The Strength was set to about 20%. "About" means there is no magic to 20%. 17% or 23% would do just as well. It's just something "about" 20%.
[The only place I know of where "about" means "exact" is back when I was in the Army. The Platoon Sergeant told me to "drop and give me about twenty". Meaning pushups. I knocked out nineteen, popped back up and stepped back into line. He didn't notice my approximation, but a couple buddies did. One ratted me out and told the Platoon Sergeant I had shorted him one pushup. The Sgt. eyed me and barked, asking me how many I had done. I told him nineteen. He was livid and screamed "I said twenty". To which I said "no, you said about twenty. Nineteen is "about" twenty." His next "request" was for "exactly" forty.]
Meanwhile, back to our topic. With the Strength set at about 20% I went over the hair (and collar) several times, building the strength with each successive stroke. Doing the Sharpening on its own Layer allows you to click the Layer off and on to see the effect taking shape. Trust me, the hair is highly sharpened.
The other thing that was done to give the appearance of Sharpness was to add Highlights and Shadows using a 50% Grey Layer in an Overlay Blending Mode. With a regular, soft, Brush (B) and the Opacity set to "about" 15%, it was easy to flip back and forth between the Default (D) Black and White (X to flip between the two) colors. Using a Wacom tablet, each fold of the shirt and the edge of ribbon on the hat were painted (again on a separate Layer) to lighten the highlights and darken the shadows. This gives additional depth to the shirt and ribbon resulting in perceived Sharpness.
The image was finished with a trip through Topaz Labs Topaz Adjust with their Grunge III preset. One of the attributes of that preset is adding grain (noise). Back in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 the noise was removed.
Hope you like the way it turned out. Drop me a line and let me know what you think.