Capture Sharpening

June 28, 2011 | 2 Comments |

Optimal image sharpening is best done in three stages— capture (do it during RAW conversion), creative (do it in Photoshop) and output (automate it).

Capture sharpening benefits all images. It compensates for inherent deficiencies in optical and capture systems. All lenses and sensors have specific characteristics and deficiencies. They don’t all have the same characteristics or deficiencies.

To speed your workflow, default settings for a best starting point for capture sharpening can be determined for all images created with the same lens/chip combination and saved for subsequent use. To optimally sharpen an image, you’ll need to modify these settings to factor in additional considerations—variances in noise (ISO, exposure duration, temperature), noise-reduction settings and the frequencies of detail (low/smooth to high/fine texture) in an image.

Capture sharpening is best done during RAW file conversion. (Do it after scanning for analog originals.) I recommend importing your RAW files into Photoshop as Smart Objects. If you do this, you quickly can access specific sharpening and noise-reduction settings simply by double-clicking the image layer. At the same time, you’ll also be able to take advantage of any updates in detail rendering (noise reduction and sharpening) with the click of a button.

Capture sharpening is typically done globally and uniformly to all areas of an image, but on-the-fly masking routines are recommended for reducing and removing sharpening effects, such as halos on contours and noise in low-frequency or smooth image areas.

When performing capture sharpening, err on the conservative side and avoid producing unwanted artifacts …

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