Fstoppers Reviews the NBP Ultrasharp Plugin

Fstoppers Reviews the NBP Ultrasharp Plugin

Today I'll be going over the NBP Ultrasharp plugin and how to use it for your workflow. Normally I am not too excited about new apps or plugins unless they really do provide something I couldn't previously do, or makes something I can already do faster and easier.

Full disclosure: this plugin is developed by long-standing Fstoppers writer, Nino Batista.

What Ultrasharp Is

A panel for Photoshop that allows you to selectively sharpen your image in many ways.

The algorithm that powers this is very good at reducing or entirely eliminating halos with strong sharpening and uses a proprietary method of sharpening with contrast that if used properly can tremendously enhance your images in seconds. Naturally like most tools there is a such thing as too much and it should be used within reason. 

Preview of the Ultrasharp Panel

NBP Ultrasharp panel

At the surface it doesn't really seem to do anything you couldn't technically do with sharpening layers and masking however it seems to be a tremendous speed increase for this, allowing me to do it in seconds instead of minutes. It's difficult to quantify the special look it produces and I may be splitting hairs but I prefer the sharpening method of this versus any of the default Photoshop ways.

First Impressions

Quick first experiment on a lower resolution web image of mine I had handy, revealed a tremendous amount of control with speed. Obviously for a lower res image, we should select lower values with the sliders and you can see the results to know where the threshold is.

Certainly when not experimenting and actually doing production work, I'd spend a little more care with the sliders but I am pleased with the very fast test results shown here.

Typical Use Cases

What I really like about this plugin is that it can be used for essentially every photo, regardless of a customer's images or cell phone vacation images.

Here's a few pics literally processed in seconds with Ultrasharp from my cell phone on a recent terror er... flight. I do not like flying, but tried to make the best of it. A comparison from my home state of Nevada to my destination in Texas for this trip.

Summary

In every single time I have used the panel, it has generated results I am happy with and much faster than without. As a matter of fact, I've always been quite lazy about my sharpening as I use Sigma Art lenses mostly and they are already quite sharp. But this panel has given me a quick enough avenue to pay more attention and that's valuable to me.

Quick tip: add a little more sharpening than you think you would like and then clip the sharpening layer to a luminosity mask for even further refined results. While not necessary, it can produce even more striking images, and still happens in seconds.

I will literally use this panel for pretty much every image I produce. It's that kind of tool.

What I Liked

  • I really like the speed of this, as a one man operation every single thing I can do to be more efficient is critical. As mentioned, I'll do more sharpening now since it's so fast than I used to where I would be comfortable and lazy and just skip it for time reasons.
  • The sharpening layer is named with the slider settings. If you chose to save a layered file, you could reference how much sharpening you did on that particular image.

What I Didn't Like

  • Presets would be huge for this as you are going through a set of images all shot in the same place and same distance, rather than needing to set the sliders each time. 
  • The sliders didn't reset after each use, so beginning a new image for me I needed to push the reset button before sharpening the next image

Where to Buy

You can grab this panel here for $30. I feel something at this price point that is used on literally every image is a no brainer. 

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11 Comments

Amazing tutorial.
Thank You.

This looks like a dynamic contrast filter similar to what Blake Rudis described: https://f64academy.com/dynamic-contrast-photoshop/

Nino Batista's picture

Blake uses Photoshop internal tools which are very limited in their quality, to be honest.

Ultrasharp has completely different approach to sharpening.

1. The described technique is Single Scale while Ultrasharp is Multi Scale.
2. The described technique is based on Ps sharpening which creates halos while Ultrasharp doesn't create halos to speak of.
3. The described technique is based on linear classic filter while Ultrasharp is based on our NBP's proprietary Edge Preserving Sharpening.

While all techniques aim to exaggerate details their approach tends to vary which is significant when you look closely. It's splitting hairs, perhaps, but often can make a huge difference in terms of the look you want in your work.

No support for Lightroom?

Also have a look at Focus Magic:

http://focusmagic.com

I've found it to be quite remarkable, and its ability to reduce motion blur can save the day, when even your camera's VR isn't enough. On the Mac, if you don't have Photoshop, you can always install it as a plugin in, e.g., Graphic Converter.

Nino Batista's picture

Well, while Focus Magic is a great product it has completely different purpose.

Focus Magic is about restoring lost details (Defocus, Motion, etc...).

Ultrasharp is about sharpening final image, to whatever degree your eye wants, with a free hand because of the almost-zero haloing and multiple scales you can play with.

user-206807's picture

Similar to the Nik's *Tonal Contrast*, I think.
As I don't see a link to download a demo, I won't spend $30 to get a filter that gives the same result....

Nino Batista's picture

Nik's Tonal Contrast works in a similar manner to the Blake Rudis approach mentioned above.

Those techniques are limited to a single scale and are quite prone to halos. The whole idea behind Ultrasharp is being multi-scale and halo free!

Giorgio Rivalta's picture

Wow, every posted pictures actually got worse!
Hard to believe that anyone with a decent eye for pictures would like this cheap oversharpening effect for free, let alone spend money on it.
The girl portrait is already badly oversharpened to start with by the way. Softess is much more desirable than sharpness in most cases.
Please notice how the opening picture looks much more pleasing than the others and how actually a bit of softness makes a picture looks more realistic and feel more organic. Sharpening is not extra details is just extra noise.

Alec Kinnear's picture

Absolutely. Surprised you are the first photographer to say this Giorgio. All of these photos are horribly oversharpened. I'm surprised one needs a plugin to mutilate photos in this way. Those who own DxO PhotoLab have these controls are in the Contrast palette: Microcontrast and Fine Contrast do this in a more subtle way.

Bill Larkin's picture

Opinions Vary.

That said, these were pushed a little sharper than normal to show what the effect of the panel does since it's smaller .jpg online. The beauty of the panel is that you can make it as subtle or as strong as you wish. Not everyone likes the same amount, and they don't have to.