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Author Topic: Alternatives to Unsharp Mask and when to use them  (Read 8871 times)
PSA DC-9-30
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« on: August 13, 2007, 10:14:38 PM »
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I always use Unsharp Mask on my photos / scans, but I've noticed that the more I work with images, the lower I tend to set the "radius", and even the "amount" settings. I'm working on hundreds of photos right now to be posted on the web (most of these are 1000 x 750 px). I usually have the "amount" set at 100%, and the "Threshold" set at 0. For most of these images, anything above 0.5 px for the "radius" seems too overcooked to me. Most of them in fact are looking a bit overdone at anything above 0.3. I understand that "radius" should generally be increased with larger image sizes, but even here, I still like relatively small settings. When I was new to digital image processing (years and years ago), I used to like much higher settings.

Anyway, I'm wondering about the alternatives, and I've seen a few mentioned here. I guess some of you use plugins. For someone like me who is still using CS2, and has zero budget for any type of additional software, is Unsharp Mask still the best all-around sharpening tool? Which other ones should I try?

Thanks,
Kevin
« Last Edit: August 13, 2007, 10:16:17 PM by PSA DC-9-30 » Logged

kikashi
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« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2007, 03:11:18 AM »
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I always use Unsharp Mask on my photos / scans, but I've noticed that the more I work with images, the lower I tend to set the "radius", and even the "amount" settings. I'm working on hundreds of photos right now to be posted on the web (most of these are 1000 x 750 px). I usually have the "amount" set at 100%, and the "Threshold" set at 0. For most of these images, anything above 0.5 px for the "radius" seems too overcooked to me. Most of them in fact are looking a bit overdone at anything above 0.3. I understand that "radius" should generally be increased with larger image sizes, but even here, I still like relatively small settings. When I was new to digital image processing (years and years ago), I used to like much higher settings.

Anyway, I'm wondering about the alternatives, and I've seen a few mentioned here. I guess some of you use plugins. For someone like me who is still using CS2, and has zero budget for any type of additional software, is Unsharp Mask still the best all-around sharpening tool? Which other ones should I try?

Thanks,
Kevin
[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

At the risk of initiating another war, I'd suggest you have a look at The Light's Right ([a href=\"http://www.thelightsrightstudio.com/Digital-Darkroom.htm]here[/url]).

Some people here (notably Schewe) get very exercised about it. Do a search on the discussion board and you'll be able to read all about it.

I use PK Sharpener and I like it a lot, but it costs money and some aspects of the most recent version (which I don't have yet) have raised some hackles as well (again, a search here will show you what I mean).

TLR's stuff is free, which I expect for someone with "zero budget" would be an attractive feature.

Jeremy
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bjanes
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« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2007, 07:57:09 AM »
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At the risk of initiating another war, I'd suggest you have a look at The Light's Right (here).

Some people here (notably Schewe) get very exercised about it. Do a search on the discussion board and you'll be able to read all about it.

I use PK Sharpener and I like it a lot, but it costs money and some aspects of the most recent version (which I don't have yet) have raised some hackles as well (again, a search here will show you what I mean).

TLR's stuff is free, which I expect for someone with "zero budget" would be an attractive feature.

Jeremy
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TLR is merely an adaption of Bruce Fraser's sharpening workflow. All of Bruce's methods were not original, and he did not secure a patent on them, but he was the first (to the best of my knowledge) to develop a comprehensive and coherent sharpening work flow.  There was bad blood between Bruce and "Mitch", the author of the TRL tools, and the latter may have written his routines to deprive Bruce of the profits of his labors. In respect of Bruce's memory, I would not disseminate information on TRL.

However, the OPs question was on sharpening methods other than the unsharp mask.  PK Sharpener makes heavy use of this routine, although it does use the High Pass filter in Overlay blend mode for output sharpening.

The other major sharpening method involves the use of deconvolution kernels. Some would say that these are restoration methods, rather than sharpening, but the effect is to improve the detail of the image. Smart sharpen in Photoshop uses deconvolution methods. Another deconvolution method is the Adaptive Richardson-Lucy algorithm, which is discussed by [a href=\"http://www.clarkvision.com/imagedetail/image-restoration1/index.html]Roger Clark[/url] on his web site.

These deconvolution methods are attractive because they actually restore detail as Roger explains. However, they are difficult to use because they require knowledge of the nature of the process leading to the image degradation, which is described by a convolution kernel. Smart Sharpen allows Lens Blur and Gaussian convolution kernels as well as one to remove motion artifact.

NASA used the Adaptive Richardson-Lucy algorithm quite successfully to restore images taken by the Hubble telescope, which suffered from spherical aberration prior to its successful repair. Since the process causing the blurring was known a proper convolution kernel could be uses. However, in most situations, the sources of blurring are not well described and a proper kernel is difficult to determine.

Bill
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Philmar
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« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2007, 02:46:00 PM »
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digital noob here....so I have purchased Mr. Fraser's book on sharpening. I have had it for a few months and haven't managed tp crack it open. Summers here in Canada are too short to waste reading books - I need to be out snapping photos!!
I am considering purchasing the PK plug-in. How does it vary from the TLR plug-in? Do both employ Mr. Fraser's techniques? other techniques? Do they approach them differently? Do they use different algorithms or settings?
I am not a professional, just an enthusiast. Will getting the plug-ins serve to take the need of learning the theory away? I want to take photos, not learn how pixels and object edges sharpen best.
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« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2007, 05:42:16 PM »
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I am considering purchasing the PK plug-in. How does it vary from the TLR plug-in?[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=133261\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

By all means, download and try both. TLR is free (about what it's worth) and PK Sharpener has a 7 day demo.

The problem with TLR is Mitch doesn't provide the "magic numbers" just the recipies based on Bruce's writting. So, unless you know what numbers to plug in, it's pretty limited...

PhotoKit Sharpener already has the numbers built in–it's part of what you pay for. Since it returns layers you can still adjust to taste.

And no, that actual numbers PKS uses aren't in the book, only the general way of arriving at them yourself. My guess is if you don't have the time to read the book, you won't have the time to work out the numbers for TLR either and you'll be better off buying PhotoKit Sharpener...
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Philmar
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« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2007, 06:25:28 PM »
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OK I've spent some time reading previous posts about TLR and PK sharpeners....I can see why I might have opened an old debate. OOOPS!
I see that all the plugins have benefits and strengths and that no one plugin is the be-all for everyone. Perhaps it is best to describe my needs. I am a photo enthusiast who wants to be out taking photos, not understanding pixel pushing theories. I do not take portrait or wedding photos and sell them so I wouldn't call my work 'critical'. My photos aren't used in ad campaign posters. I just want nice sharp photos. Also I do NOT print my photos, I put them on the web for people to view them so paying for a program that is fine tuned for printing output seems rather exorbitant.
I'd just like a one stop sharpening plugin that sharpens online final jpegs that are not printed materials like paid-for portraits or graphic art.
I find using unsharp mask on every shot to be a tedious time-consuming chore... I don't mind doing on some but not all of my shots. Any plugins that help speed the process up or am I just an idealized romantic lazy dreamer?
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« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2007, 07:19:35 PM »
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What Uwe's EasyS Plus 'tool' http://www.outbackphoto.com/CONTENT_2007_0...lus2/index.html  how does that fit into the available plugin tools and compare to PKS ?

TIA
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marcmccalmont
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« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2007, 01:58:17 AM »
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Try unsharp mask (local contrast enhancement):
45
1.8
0

Then smart sharpen (sharpening with a deconvolution algorithm):
45
1.8
lens blur
more accurate

Numbers are just for a good place to start

Cost $0.00

I have had even better results with FixerLabs FocusFixer but it costs a little money

FocusFixer
.9
0

then

unsharp mask (local contrast enhancement):
45
1.8
0

Then FocusFixer again
.9
0


Marc
« Last Edit: August 16, 2007, 02:07:25 AM by marcmccalmont » Logged

Marc McCalmont
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« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2007, 03:11:23 AM »
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I always use Unsharp Mask on my photos / scans, ...

Anyway, I'm wondering about the alternatives, and I've seen a few mentioned here. I guess some of you use plugins. For someone like me who is still using CS2, and has zero budget for any type of additional software, is Unsharp Mask still the best all-around sharpening tool? Which other ones should I try?

IF you’re looking for a simple approach in addition to USM, a 2-pass procedure as follows may be worth a try (the numbers are of course just meant for example):

Background-copy Sharpening:
/> Dupe the background layer, set Opacity to 80% and change to Luminosity blend mode. Among the Blend Options, address the Blend-If controls for This Layer: split the black triangle to 0/35 and the white one to 220/255 (via Alt/click & moving the half slider). Apply an USM filter e.g. of Amount/Radius/Theshold = 200, 1.5, 4.

…add further adjust layers depending on needs …

All-layer Sharpening:
/> Add a new layer via Layer > New > Layer.  Now, hold down the Alt key – and while also holding down the left mouse button, select Layer > Merge Visible. This should fill the new layer with the merged content of all previous layers. Set the Layer Style / Blend Options to 80% Opacity and Hard Light blend mode. Apply the High Pass Filter of e.g.1.5 pixel width.

Both layers can be controlled via Opacity. The latter layer can further be edited by (a.) applying a very slight Gaussian Blur for noise protection/reduction, (b.) applying USM to strengthen the effect, or (c.) by painting with neutral gray in order to protect specific regions from further sharpening.
 
 
There are of course many ways to do it better and you might find some further techniques in the following articles. I think it’s good practice (unfortunately more often missed) to provide proper references i.e. to state that many techniques origin with Bruce Fraser who left by far too early:

http://ronbigelow.com/articles/sharpen4/sharpen4.htm
http://ronbigelow.com/articles/articles.htm

http://www.adobe.com/designcenter/photosho...sharpening.html
http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/designcenter/...Photoshop&go=Go

http://www.adobeforums.com/cgi-bin/webx/.3bc2a5f9

http://www.creativepro.com/printerfriendly/story/20357.html
http://www.creativepro.com/story/feature/20357.html
http://www.creativepro.com/author/home/40.html

http://www.pixelgenius.com/tips/schewe-sharpening.pdf
http://www.pixelgenius.com/tipsandtechniques.html
 
 
Best regards, Peter

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DougJ
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« Reply #9 on: August 16, 2007, 02:01:57 PM »
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Bill,

You wrote:

>>NASA used the Adaptive Richardson-Lucy algorithm quite successfully to restore images taken by the Hubble telescope, which suffered from spherical aberration prior to its successful repair.,,

George DeWolfe in his book, Digital Photography: fine print workshop, also refers to the NASA work, but never mentions Richardson-Lucy.  I've got his book and his Optipix software.  In the software package is his "refocus" which is, as I understand ther matter, his version of the deconvolution process.

I also have (and use) PhotoKit Sharpener: that is, I use DeWolfe's refocus, detail sharpener and autocontrast as soon as I've got my dotPSD file from RAW; then remove noise as may be necessary; then use PKS' capture sharpener.

I just wonder if I am overdoing it (doesn't seem so to my eyes, and I suppose that's what counts), so this may be more of a theore3tical wonderment.

Look forward to your views.

Ciao,

Doug
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marcmccalmont
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« Reply #10 on: August 16, 2007, 03:27:55 PM »
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OK I've spent some time reading previous posts about TLR and PK sharpeners....I can see why I might have opened an old debate. OOOPS!
I see that all the plugins have benefits and strengths and that no one plugin is the be-all for everyone. Perhaps it is best to describe my needs. I am a photo enthusiast who wants to be out taking photos, not understanding pixel pushing theories. I do not take portrait or wedding photos and sell them so I wouldn't call my work 'critical'. My photos aren't used in ad campaign posters. I just want nice sharp photos. Also I do NOT print my photos, I put them on the web for people to view them so paying for a program that is fine tuned for printing output seems rather exorbitant.
I'd just like a one stop sharpening plugin that sharpens online final jpegs that are not printed materials like paid-for portraits or graphic art.
I find using unsharp mask on every shot to be a tedious time-consuming chore... I don't mind doing on some but not all of my shots. Any plugins that help speed the process up or am I just an idealized romantic lazy dreamer?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=133509\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

FocusFixer
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Ilya Razmanov
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« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2007, 08:49:19 AM »
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For on-screen images, I'm used to use my own plugin:

http://photoshop.msk.ru/asps/

but since it cost $29, it seem to be too expensive to fit into zero budget.
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PSA DC-9-30
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« Reply #12 on: August 19, 2007, 02:39:04 AM »
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Thanks for the advice. I am especially curious about Smart Sharpen and deconvolution algorithms because I am a biologist and electron microscopist and am told that deconvolution is especially good for use with micrographs. But in general, is it necessary to use Smart Sharpen with (i.e., after) USM, or can it work well just on its own?

 One book I read recommended using Gaussian Blur option in Smart Sharpen unless it is apparent that Lens Blur or Motion Blur is a problem.

Also, do sharpening strategies for 8-bit grayscale differ from those used for color? If so, how?
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« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2007, 06:22:30 AM »
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Thanks for the advice. I am especially curious about Smart Sharpen and deconvolution algorithms because I am a biologist and electron microscopist and am told that deconvolution is especially good for use with micrographs. But in general, is it necessary to use Smart Sharpen with (i.e., after) USM, or can it work well just on its own?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=134081\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I don't know how Smart Sharpen works internally, since I'm not the person who developed it. If it's a deconvolution, then it makes more sence to run it before USM rather than after; however it may work well enough on its own. Everything depend on your image content, so you should try and see.

Quote
Also, do sharpening strategies for 8-bit grayscale differ from those used for color? If so, how?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=134081\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Not really. For sharpening color images, it is often preferred to sharpen only L channel in Lab mode. But this is of no importance for greyscale, since greyscale have nothing but brightness anyway.
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« Reply #14 on: August 22, 2007, 04:55:53 PM »
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Thanks for all the replies thus far. I started reading Bruce's Real World Sharpening book. Looks like a must read for professionals. As far as a hobbyist enthusiast like myself I see it has tremendous value except that I really don't have the time to absorb this stuff - the usual excuses....1 1/2 jobs, 3 month old newborn, dogs to walk....Now I don't print my photos so I don't know if I can slog through much more on the book if I have to subject myself to discussion about output sharpening at various DPI using matte papers....
I also use ACR so I'd like to think the enhanced sharpening of ACR 4.1 would act as capture sharpening phase.
To be honest I understand how sharpness improvement arises from using Bruce's 3 stage sharpening technique but don't know if that extra work sharpening is worth the extra work for my non-critical photo work. I get the impression his book would be a must read for me if I were printing my shots but I prefer to view them online and my output source for my RAWs is a 1000 pixel length web-viewed JPEG.
Long story short - I still wonder if it is worth my while to finish Bruce's book right now. I would if my livelihood depended on it - clearly Bruce's techniques are superior. But for my purposes learning them may be impossible as this is my hobby - something to keep me sane in an otherwise busy life. So I guess I might be able to find a way to combine the content/creative sharpen and the output sharpen phase until just after I downsize my file to 1100 pixel length.(ok my baby's crying and need to speed post this up). FAST FORWARD TO QUESTION...


I guess my question is about using ACR for the capture sharpening phase. Are the ACR defaults a good start or is it important to fiddle with the sliders in ACR to obtain good capture phase sharpening in ACR.......or must I finish Bruce's book to get the answer to that?
In other words, are the ACR sharpening defaults  a good starting point for capture phase sharpening or are they set for those who typically do one pass sharpening. Or neither?

...yes, I'll finish Bruce's book some day but seriously. This is my hobby, not my job. I just moved from film where everything was grand. I understood it, got great results. Now having learned about PCs, RAM, diskI/O, swap files, memory settings, bus speeds, overclocking just to get a PC running for digital processing I am seeing the learning for digital never ends. I just wanna have sharp photos and enjoy what little time I have TAKING photos rather than learning MORE abstract concepts like masks, filters, adjustment layers...
OK gotta run. Baby ISN'T crying, that's even WORSE!!  THANKS!!
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« Reply #15 on: August 28, 2007, 02:01:47 AM »
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Thanks for all the replies thus far. I started reading Bruce's Real World Sharpening book. Looks like a must read for professionals. As far as a hobbyist enthusiast like myself I see it has tremendous value except that I really don't have the time to absorb this stuff - the usual excuses....1 1/2 jobs, 3 month old newborn, dogs to walk....Now I don't print my photos so I don't know if I can slog through much more on the book if I have to subject myself to discussion about output sharpening at various DPI using matte papers....
I also use ACR so I'd like to think the enhanced sharpening of ACR 4.1 would act as capture sharpening phase.
To be honest I understand how sharpness improvement arises from using Bruce's 3 stage sharpening technique but don't know if that extra work sharpening is worth the extra work for my non-critical photo work. I get the impression his book would be a must read for me if I were printing my shots but I prefer to view them online and my output source for my RAWs is a 1000 pixel length web-viewed JPEG.
Long story short - I still wonder if it is worth my while to finish Bruce's book right now. I would if my livelihood depended on it - clearly Bruce's techniques are superior. But for my purposes learning them may be impossible as this is my hobby - something to keep me sane in an otherwise busy life. So I guess I might be able to find a way to combine the content/creative sharpen and the output sharpen phase until just after I downsize my file to 1100 pixel length.(ok my baby's crying and need to speed post this up). FAST FORWARD TO QUESTION...
I guess my question is about using ACR for the capture sharpening phase. Are the ACR defaults a good start or is it important to fiddle with the sliders in ACR to obtain good capture phase sharpening in ACR.......or must I finish Bruce's book to get the answer to that?
In other words, are the ACR sharpening defaults  a good starting point for capture phase sharpening or are they set for those who typically do one pass sharpening. Or neither?

...yes, I'll finish Bruce's book some day but seriously. This is my hobby, not my job. I just moved from film where everything was grand. I understood it, got great results. Now having learned about PCs, RAM, diskI/O, swap files, memory settings, bus speeds, overclocking just to get a PC running for digital processing I am seeing the learning for digital never ends. I just wanna have sharp photos and enjoy what little time I have TAKING photos rather than learning MORE abstract concepts like masks, filters, adjustment layers...
OK gotta run. Baby ISN'T crying, that's even WORSE!!  THANKS!!
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=134910\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Since all you're doing is making web images, the quick answer to your question is to use USM at 500%, 0 levels, 0 threshold, and .2, .25, or mabye .3 radius if you the image is particularly soft. This works well for web use from 600-1000 pixels as the largest dimension.

The ACR setting isn't too important since it's default, 25 if I'm not mistaken, will be too slight to notice or miss on a 1000 pixel, 72ppi web image.

Switching to Bicubic Sharpener when reducing the image size can also be useful, but watch for jagged edges on straight lines.

Don't forget to either shoot at sRGB or convert before making your web files.

BTW, I have a series of actions that convert and save to sharpened jpegs for use with web galleries I send to clients. For example, I have one action for horizontals that makes an 800 pixes wide, sharpened, sRGB jepg file, and another action for 600 high verticals. I normally use .2 because it's enough to make a difference without going overboard. I just set the action's output to a "web images" folder on my desktop so they're easy to find, and won't overwrite any originals if I started with jpegs. Run them as a batch from Bridge and I'm done.
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« Reply #16 on: August 28, 2007, 07:08:14 AM »
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So weird I was just reading this thread with that show NUMBERS on the TV in the background and they mentioned the Hubble and deconvolution, spooky!
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« Reply #17 on: August 31, 2007, 10:00:04 PM »
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Since all you're doing is making web images, the quick answer to your question is to use USM at 500%, 0 levels, 0 threshold, and .2, .25, or mabye .3 radius if you the image is particularly soft. This works well for web use from 600-1000 pixels as the largest dimension.

The ACR setting isn't too important since it's default, 25 if I'm not mistaken, will be too slight to notice or miss on a 1000 pixel, 72ppi web image.

Switching to Bicubic Sharpener when reducing the image size can also be useful, but watch for jagged edges on straight lines.

Don't forget to either shoot at sRGB or convert before making your web files.

BTW, I have a series of actions that convert and save to sharpened jpegs for use with web galleries I send to clients. For example, I have one action for horizontals that makes an 800 pixes wide, sharpened, sRGB jepg file, and another action for 600 high verticals. I normally use .2 because it's enough to make a difference without going overboard. I just set the action's output to a "web images" folder on my desktop so they're easy to find, and won't overwrite any originals if I started with jpegs. Run them as a batch from Bridge and I'm done.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=135910\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
Thanks Kevin, this is pretty much the info I need to start from. I've tried reading Fraser's book - but fall asleep when the masking layers are introduced. The book speaks to those who print photos and use PS for capture sharpening, rather than my situation. I'll learn how to use layers so I can use content and creative sharpening, then give fraser's book a re-read.
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« Reply #18 on: September 03, 2007, 02:01:38 AM »
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Are the sharpening settings (within reasdon) the same on all sharpening programs?
I'm thinking here of if someone recommends 500.1.11 on Photoshop, would the same setting on DPP produce roughly the same effect?
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