By Doug Sahlin, Photographer & Author
Photoshop’s Smart Sharpen filter does a wonderful job of sharpening images. However, there are times when you need to sharpen details – for instance the blades of grass in the foreground of an image, or the petals of a flower. When you want to make an image pop by sharpening fine details, you use the Layers palette and a menu command that’s been around for a while.
Step by Step:
- Duplicate the background layer by selecting the layer in the Layers panel and then pressing Ctrl+J (Windows) or Command+J (Mac).
- Select the duplicated layer, and then choose Filter | Other | High Pass to open the High Pass dialog box.
- Drag the Radius slider to a value between 8 and 10 pixels, and then click OK. At this stage the duplicated layer is 50 percent gray except for the edges of the objects in the image, in this case the petals of the flower as shown below.
- Change the blend mode of the Sharpening layer to Overlay to complete the effect as shown below.
Because the High Pass Filter is applied on its own layer, you can decrease the amount of sharpening by lowering the layer opacity. You can also apply a layer mask to limit the sharpening to one area of the photograph.
Editor’s Note: Over-sharpening is something you’ll want to avoid if you’re preparing your image for a photo enlargement on canvas or any other printed medium. To make sure you haven’t taken your sharpening too far, zoom in tightly and pan around to look at the sharpened areas of your image. Over-sharpening looks a lot like pixelation. If you see unwanted effects when zoomed in, use the controls in your Layers panel to back off on your adjustments; then re-check the results.