Photoshop. Simplified.
Lesson #Seven

Sharpening and Noise Reduction 

Even if the focus of the lens was 100% accurate, images still need to be sharpened in Photoshop. While there are many different ways to sharpen within the program, I have found two techniques to produce results head and shoulders above the rest. 

Add a High Pass filter in the Menu Panel under "Layer". 

High Pass Filter Sharpening 

Duplicate your Background layer by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+J.

In the Menu Panel, select Filter → Other → High Pass 

In the High Pass Options Dialogue, set the Radius to 10.0 pixels 

Set the Radius to 10.0 pixels in the High Pass Options Dialogue. 

In the Layers Panel
Select
Layer 1 (which we applied the High Pass filter to).
Change the Blending Mode to Overlay.
Set the Opacity to 50% (this can vary depending on the image).

Click the Add Layer Mask icon.

Use the Brush Tool (with black foreground color selected) to mask away any areas that didn't need sharpened (Ex: blue parts of the sky or featureless parts of a person's face).

Merge Background and Layer 1 by using the keyboard shortcut Ctril+Shift+E

 

Drag slider to the right to reveal before High Pass sharpening. Drag slider left to reveal after High Pass sharpening.

 

Sharpen Tool  

While not always necessary, further and controlled sharpening can be done by using the Sharpen Tool

Duplicate your Background layer by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+J.

Select the Sharpen Tool

In the Tools Options Panel set the Mode to Normal
Set the Strength to 30%.
Keep "Protect Detail" checked.

Right click on the image with the Sharpen Tool to bring up the Sharpening Tool Brush Options Dialogue
Set the Size to be slightly larger than the area you are sharpening. 
Set the Hardness to 0%
Hit Enter to apply the settings. 

Use the Sharpen Tool to brush over the areas you wish to sharpen. 

If some areas become over sharpened, decrease the Opacity of Layer 1 accordingly. 

Lightning sharpened with Sharpen Tool. Drag slider to the right to reveal before. Drag slider left to reveal after.

 

Google NIK Effects

Google Nik Collection is a completely free third party plug-in that is compatible with Photoshop and Lightroom. It has a ton of filters (which I don't use because of the full control of the techniques used in my workflow). It has one filter that is incredibly efficient at removing noise while retaining detail in your image, Dfine 2. 

Download the Google Nik Collection from here

Install the program into Photoshop. 

Click Dfine2 in the Google Nik Collection Panel

Google Nik Effects will open the Dfine2 Dialogue.
Click the Measure Tab. 

The software will automatically choose Sample Points, which will be denoted with squares on your image. These squares can be moved and expanded to sample different sections of your image. I expand them and move them to the noisiest parts of my image.

Use the Loupe at the bottom right of the dialogue to see the effect the filter will have. 
When it is noise reduction is satisfactory, press OK. 

Noise reduction with Dfine 2. Drag slider to the right to reveal before. Drag slider left to reveal after.


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