Guests - If You want access to member only forums on HSO. You will gain access only when you Sign-in or Sign-Up on HotSpotOutdoors.

It's easy - LOOK UPPER right menu.

Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
mmeyer

How do I get sharp images?

9 posts in this topic

I am hoping someone can give me some help with sharpening images. I know that most digital images need some sharpening and I do that but I'm just winging it most of the time. Can someone give me/us some guidelines for sharpening.

Thanks

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh well, I guess I asked for it! gringringrin

Here goes.

First, sharp images begin at capture because there's only so much that software can do to sharpen a soft image before the image starts to fall apart. A lot of what follows are tips on getting sharp captures so there's less heavy lifting during post-processing. Some of these are pretty basic but some are not, and they reflect my actual experiences out in the field.

Stabilization/technique. Even a fast shutter speed is no exchange for rock-solid technique. A monopod or tripod is a valuable tool in most situations. The stronger the telephoto (focual length) the more hand/camera shake plays a role, and the more some type of stabilization is needed. An image stabilized lens can be a Godsend, but there are plenty of times even IS won't help you capture the sharpest image without some help (like a monopod.)

Zoom vs prime lenses. Most of us know that zooms are inherently a bit softer than prime (fixed focal length) lenses. The best zooms aren't much softer but usually are just a bit less sharp. To ensure a sharper image with a zoom (any lens, really, though with zooms it can be more critical), it's good to stop down from max aperture, for example from f5.6 to f8. In doing so you lose another stop of shutter speed, which is why stabilization and technique can be so important.

Focus point. Depth of focus is razor thin with subjects close to the camera, so pay particular attention to your focus point. At f5.6 or f8, DOF six feet away using a 300 or 400mm lens might be less than an inch, so if you lock focus on the wingbar of a perched bird at that distance and the bird is facing/slanted slightly away or toward you, the head/eye probably will be soft because it's missed the prime DOF range. Best to lock focus on the eye, then recompose quickly to make the capture.

Exposure. Not a primary consideration, but an important secondary one. A bird shot against a pale sky with no exposure compensation used will almost always be underexposed. While that does not inherently compromise sharpness, it does in effect because in brightening up the underexposed subject, digital noise makes its inevitable appearance, and that compromises how much sharpening you can do in post processing. The more sharpening, the more noise is accentuated. When Ken and I shot the eagles on Snowbank, we immediately, as we were putting the cameras up to our eyes, spun the dial to overexpose from one full stop to 1 1/3 stop, because we know that the meter would want to turn that pale sky a darker, mid-range gray, and that would have badly underexposed the bird's dark feathers. An even better example is a white bird against a pale sky or a white weasel on snow. If you let the meter tackle it, it'll render the scene a mid-range gray and will be underexposed, so when the image is brightened up in pp, noise appears. An exposure compensation of about +2 is usually needed in those situations to render whites white (instead of gray) without blowing them out.

If you've been careful to do all the things mentioned above, you'll have the sharpest possible image before sitting down at the computer.

Post processing. Most post-processing software out there today has very sophisticated sharpening tools. In Photoshop, unsharp mask is the most commonly used, though I employ smart sharpen often. If the subject is a bird or animal or person and I want to sharpen it, I usually lasso it and sharpen the subject alone so the background doesn't get sharper. My typical settings on either unsharp mask or smart sharpen are a radius of .7, with the percentage varying from 100 to 300 percent in most cases. It just depends, and each image is a bit different so you'll want to experiment with different radius and percentage settings. When I lasso a subject for sharpening, I generally lasso just inside the outer edge of the subject so the sharpening doesn't produce an edge halo.

For landscapes or images with lots of small detail, watch carefully when you sharpen the whole image to avoid lots of halos, which can make the image look grainy and overcontrasty.

If you have a Save for Web feature in your software, go ahead and sharpen the image so it appears just slightly oversharpened on your monitor. Saving for Web softens them just a bit in my experience. Also, LCD monitors seem to show images more sharply than the older CRTs.

This is something that demands plenty of trial and error, and when posting images online, simply ask folks to comment on whether they look oversharpened.

That's a start . . . I know every photographer may have slightly different sharpening regimens, so feel free anyone to chime in on how you do things differently.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for asking Mike and thanks for the response Steve.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great tutorial, Steve. I'm going to email this to my neighbor who is having some problems with getting sharp images. I know she can do it, because I've seen a few that she has shot. However, I guess her keep rate is quite low.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Steve. I appreciate you taking the time to help me/us out with this stuff!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I will just give you some basic numbers since Steve gave you such great explanation on the other factors.

I also use smart sharpen a fair amount and use Noise Ninja as well. Smart sharpen I use a 85, 1.3, Gaussian blur.

I use Scott Kelby's numbers for most of my general sharpening with unsharp mask.

General sharpening - 85, 1, 4. This is a setting that can be used more than once. This is the one I use most often.

Hard sharpen - 65, 4, 3. This is for soft images and only used once. I can often rescue a slightly soft image using this setting.

Haze contrast reduction - 20, 50, 0. Great for slightly hazy photos or where you want some "pop" to an image.

These are the sharpening settings I use 99% of the time. Experiment with some of these settings and see if any work for you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

MM thanks, I think they are ok too but some of the stuff I see on here and elsewhere online is just amazingly sharp. I imagine a lot of it is the glass which I'm lacking in a little but anything I can do to improve what I have is welcome.

Dan, thanks for that help. I'll be filing those numbers away to use in the future. That's great info!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Whoops, forgot to supply the third number for my typical sharpening. My threshold is usually at 0.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0



  • Posts

    • I think you, or the person at Ace, meant "Sheet metal". That's what they're used for....sheet metal and HVAC work. They have a self-tapping thread. Look on your furnace where the sheet-metal ducting is fastened...bingo!   Also called "sheet metal screws".  
    • Reminds me of a memorable morning at our place when  THREE male's landed on a front picture window ledge and just sat there for a few minutes looking in.  What a glorious sight!  They were likely just moving through because we do not see them during a normal summer. In fact this summer we have noticed a decline in many species; no bluebirds at all, only a couple doves, fewer swallows, not as many wrens (but still plenty of them) and for the first time a pair of cowbirds. Normal mornings are like a symphony around here just about daybreak.
    • forgot I made this post, I fished a lake here in SD last weekend that has a sunken road way and bridge completely submerged. Its gotten to the point the concrete has fallen apart under water but you can still see most of the structure in tact but also some rebar etc.   I wanted to get a screen capture but as usual that exact spot was popular and already occupied with other boats playing bumper boats to anchor and fish near and I didn't want to intrude on their fishing space just for a picture. 
    • Good post and discussion. I'm convinced not more than 10%, and that might be stretching it and I include myself in the 90%, know how to use their equipment. Every fishing site is loaded with similar posts.
    • I looked everywhere for the screws in the first post and nobody knew what I was talking about till I went to Ace, where I should have gone first. They are actually considered a sheetrock screw! I can't see any use for them with sheetrock but I was told it was because of the coating on them. I have a beat up old trailer house at hunting camp and they are perfect for putting warped metal siding back together and super sharp like a self piercing screw. Sometimes they are called gutter screws too. The hex ones do work great for boots and four wheeler tires.  
    • I liked Lavine too, but coming off ACL surgery you get the feeling that he will lose some of that explosiveness that made him fun to watch.
    • And remember, turkey is not pork and doesn't benefit from high internal temperatures.   It dries out if overcooked.  160 is plenty, maybe even a little less. 
    • Also, turkey doesn't need to be "low and slow" to get to be tender. Crank the heat to 250+ if you like. I've had the smaller breasts done in just 2 1/2 to 3 hrs. FWIW, I just rub it down with olive oil and apply your favorite rub.  If injecting at all, Creole Butter is a nice, quick, easy option. Apple mixed with cherry or hickory are my favorite woods to use.    
    • Well, that was interesting! The same trade that would have been good last year is seemingly brilliant this year. Butler immediately shores up our defense and creates additional scoring for this young, suddenly legitimate team. Great move to start the new year, and a good draft prospect at #16 to boot. While I do like Lavine, we seemed to do a bit better with him sidelined which is not an indictment on his talent, but rather proof that he didn't quite fit our scheme. All in all, this was about as lopsided a trade as I can think of and we should be pretty darn happy with the return we got!
  • Our Sponsors