The Three Most Common Types of Sharpening

Experienced imaging specialists usually use up to three types of sharpening on their images:

1. Capture sharpening. This uses a RAW editor to compensate for color interpolation and anti-aliasing effects. This type of sharpening does not apply if you shoot in JPEG format.*

2. Creative sharpening. Sharpening is used as a creative tool according to your personal taste and preferences. Some people like to sharpen some areas of an image more than others, or not at all (usually using layer masks).

3. Output sharpening. This type of sharpening is applied according to the specific output purpose of an image. Images that are to be presented on a monitor don't need to be sharpened as much as those destined for offset or inkjet printing. Output sharpening is usually applied to a copy of the original image that has already been scaled and converted for printing.

You can also increase local contrast to perform a kind of color sharpening, which accentuates. The color differences between neighboring pixels of different colors. If you want to apply this type of sharpening to your images, we advise you to do so before step 2 above (once most other corrections have taken place). Generally, creative sharpening should be applied less if it is performed after increasing local contrast. We will discuss how to increase local contrast in detail in section 8.12, page 334.

Once you understand the basic principles of sharpening, you can take a look at some of the specialized sharpening tools and plug-ins available for use with Photoshop. You can find some recommendations for sharpening tools that we use as part of our workflow at our Digital Outback Photo website ( Section 8.8 looks at some of these tools and describes sharpening techniques in detail.

* In that case, the camera will have already performed an internal RAW-to-JPEG conversion using its own firmware algorithm, and it will also have applied some capture sharpening.

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