NON Destructive Sharpening in Photoshop & Photoshop Elements

NON Destructive Sharpening in Photoshop & Photoshop Elements

The following High-Pass sharpening procedure can be undertaken in either Photoshop or Photoshop Elements but should be done after you have completed all of your processing. It is not always the case that you want to sharpen everything in your picture. The reason the High Pass filter technique works so well at sharpening images is because any areas in the image which are not an edge are left untouched. The only areas that have sharpening applied to them are the edges, which is exactly what you want, To achieve this you create a high-pass sharpening layer and layer mask and use the brush tool sharpen only those parts I want sharpened. The process is as follows images shown are for Photoshop but Elements is similar. :-

  1. Duplicate Layer

    Once you have finished working on your image the final step is to sharpen the places that require sharpening. The first thing we need to do is to make sure we have a layer at the top showing the final image. this could be the background layer as you have flattened your image or you have merged visible. I can see in my Layers palette now that I have my original Background layer at the bottom, which contains my original pixel information, and the duplicate of it, which Photoshop automatically names “Layer 1”, above:Step 1 Duplicate Layer

  2. Change The Blend Mode Of The Duplicate Layer To “Overlay”

    Next, we need to change the blend mode of the duplicate layer from “Normal” to “Overlay”. The reason is that the High Pass filter is going to turn all non-edge areas of the image into neutral gray, and the Overlay blend mode leaves all neutral gray areas alone, which means no sharpening will be applied to any of those areas. So to do that, go up to the Blend Mode options in the top left corner of the Layer Styles dialog box, click on the down-pointing arrow to the right of the word “Normal”, and select Overlay from the list:Step 2 set layer blend mode to overlay

  3. Apply The “High Pass” Filter To The Duplicate Layer

    Now that we have the blend mode set to Overlay, which is going to allow us to see a preview of what we’re doing, we can apply the High Pass filter. To do that, go up to the Filter menu at the top of the screen, choose Other down near the bottom, and then choose High Pass. This brings up the High Pass filter dialog box:Step 3 Apply High Pass FilterStep 3 Apply High Pass Filter Dialog

    Photoshop’s High Pass filter is very simple to use. It has a slider bar at the bottom to increase or decrease the intensity of the filter (the “Radius” value), as well as an input box if you’d prefer to type a value directly into it, and that’s all there is to it except for the large preview area and the “Preview” checkbox in the top right corner.

    To sharpen your image with the High Pass filter, keep an eye on your image in the document window and adjust the Radius value by dragging the slider bar left or right. As you drag towards the right, you’ll be adding more sharpening, and as you drag to the left, you’ll be reducing the amount of sharpening. You’re going to want to start off with a very low radius value, somewhere between 2-5 pixels, and even that may be too much depending on the pixel dimensions of your image. I’m using a small version of the image for this tutorial, and I can already see that what I have chosen may be too high. If you go too high, you’ll begin to see a halo effect around the edges of your image, and you want to avoid that, so back off on the radius value by dragging the slider bar to the left once the halos begin to appear.

    For my image, and again I’m using a small version of the photo for this tutorial, I’m going to set my Radius value to 10 pixels, which gives me a nice amount of sharpening around the edges in the image without sharpening any non-edge areas:

    At this point the sharpening is on the whole of the image where there are edges. we now want to limit where we want the sharpening


  4. Create a black mask

    Go to the bottom edge of your screen where you will find the following ICONS. below selecting the box with a circle within it on a MAC hold down the ALT key on your keyboard and then click the layer mask icon,Step 4 Create Black Layer Mask Step 4 Created Black Layer Mask 

    What has happened now is that the sharpening is no longer visible the black mask has hidden it so we now need to brush in with white the areas we want to show the sharpening.

  5. Paint with white

    Make sure your foreground colour is white. You can do this by checking to your right the foreground and background colour boxes.Step 5 Paint with White
    Now get a soft brush with the Opacity set to 100% and flow set to 100%. This may seem high but we can adjust the layer opacity later we are only adjusting the brush opacity and flow at this point.Step 5 Paint brush selection

    Make sure you are targeting the black mask, you can see if this is the case as a high-lighted box will be shown around the mask. Now paint on your images where you want the sharpening to appear.Step 5 Paint effect You can see from the image above I only wanted the centre of the Orchid sharpened so the mask is showing white paint in that location.

  6. Change the layer opacity and name layer

    The next step is to reduce the layer opacity to a level where the sharpening is to your liking. For this image I reduced the opacity to 72%.Step 6 Change the layer opacity and name layer last but not least name the layer “Sharpening”, so you don’t forget.

    Buy using a mask to determine where you want your sharpening means you have control of where it appears. Should you decide you don’t like what you have done you can delete the mask and start again or just paint the mask back to Black.

    Note: If you are experienced at using photoshop then on step 5 you can alter your method. If you keep the brush Opacity to 100% but reduce the flow to 80% you can paint over the areas where you want more sharpening, then you can reduce the flow again to say 60% where you don’t want as much sharpening and then your can keep reducing the flow to your liking. Even though you do this you might need to do Step 6.

How to re-size and send images to DS Colour Labs for printing

How to re-size and send images to DS Colour Labs for printing

The following steps are a guide to those of you who have Photoshop and would like DS Colour labs to print off your images. This is the way I do it, but others might have another ways. Basically I create a new document in Photoshop and paste my image onto the new document. I then brightened the image and save it as a JPEG, then I download it onto the DSCL site.
So this is how I do it.

  1. Go to the DSCL website and find the printing size you want, write down or remember the size needed. As a rule I use the 12X16” print size or smaller.
  2. Open up your image in Photoshop, making sure it is processed and to your liking.
  3. Open up a new document in Photoshop by going to file – NEW- Name the new document as required. Change the Width to inches and Height to inches,
    Change the values in each to those you want for printing for example 12×16”.
    Change resolution to 300. Colour mode should be RGB and Background contents should be White.
  4. Go to your image and flatten your layers. Now select (CMD A) your image and copy (CMD C).
  5. Go to your new document and paste (CMD V) your image into it. Your image should be larger than the new document in which case Free Transform (CMD T keeping the perspective) your image and resize as required. Once re-sized brighten your image by at least +10 using a brightness and contrast layer. The reason for doing this is because our monitors have light at the back
    of them and printers don’t so your image always looks brighter on your screen than what it really is.
  6. Go back to your original image and UNDO your action to flatten your image. Close this document down you no longer need it.
  7. Go back to your new document and SAVE AS the document ensuring that you save it as a JPEG, the quality must be 12 and at Maximum.
  8. Close down your new document or you can if wish save this too as a PSD or another file extension.
  9. Go to DS colour Labs site and download your images. The site will take you to the final page showing you what your images will look like. If you have
    chosen the right size there should be no issues.

Foot note:
If you image when pasting onto your new document is smaller than the new document do not free transform to make it bigger this will spoilt the image (unless it is less than 10% of the original size). Go back to your original image and either resize it using photoshop or use one of the applications available to you. I use ON 1 resize application for this.

Keyboard Short Cuts

Keyboard Short Cuts

Remember before mice we used to use a keyboard well many programs stil have keyboard short suts that can improved your workflow see


50% Grey

50% Grey

Not 50 shades of grey I hasten to add

During the recent Show & Tell session various techniques were discussed about how to lighten or darken an area of an image aka Dodge and Burn.

One technique that seem’s to be used a lot with varing success particularly on sky’s when the original image really needed a graduated ND filter, is to select the sky, apply a large feather selection and then create a levels adjustment layer in which you move the black point on the histogram to the right to darken. This technique is often then followed by inverting the selection, creating a new levels adjustment layer and then moving the white point on the historgram left to lighten the foreground. The disadvantage of this technique is if you over do it by moving either the black or white point beyond the ends of the histogram you tend to leave a halo effect along the selection boundary i.e.

Before The Storm-Gary Wood

An alternative method which has been discussed before is the 50% grey adjustment layer with an overlay blend mode. Martin Godfrey discribed this method last season as a way of implementing a non distructive Dodge and Burn.

To recap I will discribe this in relation to Adobe Photoshop elements.

Open your image in PSE

Open Image

Create a Solid Colour Adjustment layer

New Solid Colour Adjustment layer

Select the colour

Solid Colour Picker

In the layer pallette you should now have

Solid Colour Adjustment Layer

You can simplify the layer

Simplify Layer

The Layer pallette should now look like

Simplified Solid Colour Adjustment Layer

Set the blend mode to Overlay (Soft light has a similar but not quite so dramatic effect)

Blend Mode

If the colour you selected for the solid colour was black it would cause the final image to be darker i.e.

Overlay Solid Colour Black Darkens

If you had choosen white the final image would be lighter i.e.

Overlay Solid Colour White Lightens

But if you choose 50% grey you would see no difference

Overlay Solid Colour 50 Grey no effect

Martins discussion then showed how you could use a paint brush to paint on this adjustment layer either white to lighten, or black to darken an area of the image also if you use a low opacity you can build up the effect


Another option is to use a gradient fill to apply a foreground to transparent fill

Gradient Editor

where you set the forground to white to lighten or black to darken and by implement two fills you can lighten the foreground and darken the sky in one go

Overlay Solid Colour 50 grey with top black gradient bottom white Gradien


ETTR – Exposing To The Right

ETTR – Exposing To The Right

In digital photography, exposing to the right (ETTR) is the technique of increasing the exposure of an image in order to collect the maximum amount of light and thus get the optimum performance out of the digital image sensor. The name derives from the resulting image histogram which, according to this technique, should be placed close to the right of its display. Advantages include greater tonal range in dark areas, greater signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), fuller use of the colour gamut and greater latitude during post-production.

ETTR images appear to be overexposed when taken and must be correctly processed (normalized) to produce a photograph as envisaged, therefore care must be taken to avoid clipping within any colour channel, other than acceptable areas such as specular highlights. (see WikiPedia for full definition)

I’m not going to write an article on a technique that has been written about hundreds of times before and can be found by just by doing a Google search for “exposing to the right”

But for those who can’t google here’s some

Digital Photography School

Cambridge in Colour

Luminance Landscape

Digital Camera World

SLR Lounge



Online Photographer

Martin Bailey