Have you ever felt like your photos were missing something? In this quick Photoshop tutorial, learn how to make your photos pop with this simple sharpening technique to bring your photos to life in minutes.
In the days of most media being consumed on our cell phones, we want our photos to stand out on people's feeds. In this quick Photoshop tutorial, dive deep into my workflow and see how I sharpen my photos. We'll be exploring sharpening through blurring and sharpening through added grain. Let's jump right into it!
Sharpening Through Blurring
This technique is used to simulate the effect that you shot at a shallower depth of field and at the same time makes the image pop more.
Step 1: Copy Background Layer Twice
Once your image is opened in Photoshop, duplicate your background layer twice. To duplicate your background layer, press Shift+Option+Command+E. To duplicate, press Command+J. When you duplicate your initially locked background layer, you are making all your adjustments in a nondestructive way, giving you optimal control over the final results. Call the bottom layer "blur," and the top layer "sharpening."
Step 2: Apply Blur Filter
To add an extra layer of depth to your portraits and bring the audience's attention to the important areas of the frame, this a quick way to do it. Click on your blur layer, go over to the top of your menu panel, and select Filter - Blur - Gaussian Blur. Once you're in the blur panel, put your percentage at 5-8 percent. Press ok. You want everything to be blurry at this point.
On your blur layer, make a layer mask. Once your layer mask is added, grab a soft brush using and paint with 100 percent opacity and flow. You always want to start by removing the blur around the areas like the eyes, face, and clothes. Once applied at the fullest amount, turn your brush down to 50 percent opacity and paint around the areas like the ears and hair. This will give you a gradual falloff in focus, much like a shallow depth of field lens would give you.
Step 3: Add Sharpening Filter
There are dozens of ways and tools to sharpen your images, but I prefer using the High Pass Filter. It gives the most natural-looking effect in my opinion. The high pass filter is located on the top menu bar under Filter - Other - High Pass. Once you're in the sharpening panel, put your radius to 7-8. Press ok. When you press ok, your entire image will look like a drawing. To get rid of the drawing effect, in your layers panel, change the blending mode to "soft light."
Sharpening With Grain
Step 1: Copy Background Layer Twice
Once your image is open in Photoshop, duplicate your background layer twice. Call the bottom layer "noise" and the top layer "sharpening."
Step 2: Apply Noise Filter
Once your layers are named and duplicated, on the noise layer, we will apply our noise/grain effect. For this effect to be the most effective, we put the grain first and the sharpening second. The sharpening layer is sharpening the added grain. So to add the fake grain, head over to Filter - Noise - Add Noise. Once in the noise panel, turn the amount to 5 percent to make it look the most natural. Anything above will start introducing distracting artifacts into the final image. Check the button to Gaussian. This will give you a concentration of grain that will help bring out skin texture and the environment. Next, check the box that says "Monochromatic." When the monochromatic option is added, it blends the grain into the scene and helps match the original colors. Press ok. Once the effect is added, head over to the opacity of the layer and knock it down to 60 percent or so.
Step 3: Apply Sharpening Filter
To enhance the grain we added in this effect and bring out all the texture, the high pass sharpening filter will serve to sharpen the grain, not the actual image. This intensifies the effect. Once you're in the sharpening panel, put your radius to 7-8. Press ok. When you press ok, your entire image will look like a drawing. To get rid of the drawing effect, in your layers panel, change the blending mode to soft light. Holding down shift+G, highlight the layers and make a group. Lower the opacity of the group to 60-70%.
For the work I do, the texture in my photos is what stands out. I've used these two techniques for the last few years and they've worked miracles in my photos. In just a few simple steps and a few minutes in Photoshop, you can make your images come to life through sharpening. How do you sharpen your photos? Let me know in the comments below!