Sharpening Your Images

Digital cameras are wonderful, but often it's hard to tell how well you've focused until you download the photos to your computer. And due to the way digital sensors process information, most digital pictures can usually be improved with a little dose of sharpening a tricky maneuver whereby Elements appears to improve your image's focus. Understand, when Elements sharpens your photo, it doesn't magically correct the focus. Instead, it deepens the contrast where colors meet, giving the image a crisper appearance.

Most of the time, the best way to sharpen an image is by using the sharpening filters . (Filters are high-powered, but easy to use Elements tools which changes a specific aspect of a photo's appearance.) If you go to Filter —> Sharpen, your choices are Sharpen, Sharpen Edges, Sharpen More, and Unsharp Mask. As well as having the most counterintuitive name in all of Elements, the Unsharp Mask (Figure 12-2 ) is actually by far the most capable and versatile of the sharpening tools. (See the box in Section 12.2.1 for more information.)

The other sharpen filters aren't complete slouchesthey're just not as good as the mighty Unsharp Mask. Here's what they do:

• Sharpen , just as the name says, sharpens your image, but you have no control over anything. It's a take-it-or-leave-it command with no adjustments. You can apply it repeatedly to build up the effect.

• Sharpen Edges finds areas where significant color changes occur and sharpens the adjacent pixels. This filter tries to work only on edges (that is, where two contrasting colors meet), without affecting the overall smoothness of the photo. Once again, there are no controls to let you tweak its effects.

Figure 12-2. Left: This photo was sharpened with the Sharpen filter. It's not bad, but it's not much different from the way the photo came from the camera, either. Right: This photo was treated with a dose of Unsharp Mask. Notice how much clearer the individual hairs in the dog's coat are and how much better defined its eyes and mouth are.

• Sharpen More applies a more intense filter than the Sharpen filter. It's basically pretty similar to the Sharpen filter with the settings raised a bit. Depending on your photo, it may not make much difference, or it may sharpen it to the point where you start to see artifacts (tiny colored specks).

Tip: For best results, do all your other corrections and changes before applying any of Elements' sharpening tools. Sharpening can cause unpredictable results in subsequent adjustments, so always sharpen as the very last step. A good rule to remember is "last and once." Applying sharpening repeatedly degrades your image's quality.

Digital Camera and Digital Photography

Digital Camera and Digital Photography

Compared to film cameras, digital cameras are easy to use, fun and extremely versatile. Every day there’s more features being designed. Whether you have the cheapest model or a high end model, digital cameras can do an endless number of things. Let’s look at how to get the most out of your digital camera.

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