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Sharpening Up Your Photos

Monday, October 20th, 2008 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography

Sharpening Up Your Photos

I’ve been using Adobe Photoshop for the better part of 15 years. When I was a beginner, Photoshop was like a beautiful girl who can’t get a date, because everyone is too intimidated to talk to her. I really wanted to try it, but I figured it was just too sophisticated and I’d strike out. Sound familiar?

Well, let’s work on boosting your confidence then! You see, Photoshop has an amazing set of out-of-the-package filters that will perform outstanding graphic conversions without you having to break a sweat. Today, I’m going to introduce you to Photoshop’s High Pass Filter. It’s a must for anyone who wants to sharpen the look of any digital photo. Let’s give it a try!

Let’s start with a digital photo that wasn’t shot with a high-end camera. When I say “high-end,” what I mean is a camera with a high megapixel rating. Most consumer digital cameras available today run anywhere from three megapixels to eight megapixels. The higher the number, the cleaner the shot. (You can read this tip for more information on that).

I’ll be using this photo of my dog, Pepper:

That photo was shot with my cell phone camera (not known for their clarity), so it’s a perfect example of how to take a “fuzzy” photo and sharpen it up almost instantly. You’re going to love this!

Start by opening your image in Photoshop.

As you may know, Photoshop allows you to work in layers, so you can make all your corrections on a new layer that’s separate from your original photo. How cool is that?!

Across the top of your screen in Photoshop, you’ll see a listing for “Windows.” That tells Photoshop what you want to see in your workspace and what you don’t. Click on the Windows tab and then scroll down through the list to Layers.

Click on Layers and a new window will open that shows you all the layers of your file.

So, now we’ll create a duplicate layer of Pepper by choosing Layer across the top and selecting Duplicate Layer. What you’ll end up with is an exact copy of your photo (see picture below):

Your duplicate layer will be called Background Copy. That’s the one you’re going to apply the High Pass Filter to.

So, here’s the deal! Along the top of the page, select Filter and then scroll down to Other. Clicking on Other will reveal five more choices. Pick High Pass. At this point, the photo will turn gray, but don’t panic! Remember, we’re working on a new safe layer and your original image is underneath it.

A dialogue box will then appear. You can adjust the effect more or less to your liking when you have time to experiment, but for now, go ahead and click OK.

What the High Pass Filter does, essentially, is pay closer attention to the details of an image and it ignores the rest. It’s almost like throwing a piece of tracing paper over a picture and tracing the outline.

So, where’s your big result? Well, here we go!

In the Layers window, right above the little icons on your photo and its “copy,” you’ll see the word “Normal” with an arrow next to it. Click on the arrow and hold it to reveal a list of layer styles for you to choose from. Scroll down through the list and choose Overlay.

When you let go of your mouse, watch your photo!

The High Pass Filter has pumped up the detail areas, taking Pepper from “fuzzy” to “fantastic!”

Now, if you’d like, you can go to the little “eyeball” located next to your Background Copy image.

Clicking on the eyeball over and over will turn the High Pass Filter on and off so that you can see the before and after!

Pepper never looked so good. Try this with a photo of your best friend today!

~ Dominic Russo

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