How to sharpen your photos – an alternative method

This article presents an alternative technique for adjusting sharpness using Photoshop, other than the existing “sharpening” filters. – Courtesy of  Inayat Ali Shah, a passionate photographer from Pakistan. Read more about him here.


When we talk of sharpness it is often thought to be a solution to a poorly focused or blurred image.  But it is not: a poorly focused or blurred image will remain a poorly blurred. Actual sharpness describes the clarity of detail in a photo, and can be a valuable creative tool for emphasizing texture.  Proper photographic and post-processing technique can go a long way towards improving sharpness, although sharpness is ultimately limited by your camera equipment, image magnification and viewing distance. Two fundamental factors contribute to the perceived sharpness of an image: resolution and acutance.

Acutance: Is how quickly image information transitions at an edge. High acutance results in sharp transitions and detail with clearly defined borders.
Resolution: The camera’s ability to distinguish between closely spaced elements of detail.

How to sharpen your images

Step 1

Open your image in Photoshop.


Step 2

Zoom into an area of detail that is important or would benefit from sharpening.


Step 3

In The Layers panel, right click on the Image Icon, a menu will open up and select duplicate layer.

A new layer containing the image will be created.  In this case it is called “Background Copy”.

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Step 4

In the layers panel, keeping the “Background Copy” layer selected, right click on it and a menu will pop-up.  Select “Covert to Smart layer”  and have the image converted to a smart layer.


Step 5

Keeping The “Background Copy” layer selected, click on filters – other – high pass.


Step 6

The HighPass Filter will appear, Keep the “Preview” button selected and adjust the slider for radius.
The Highpass filter will turn the image grey and my personal suggestion is to adjust the slider to where on starts to see darker sharp outlines with a little lighter grey areas along side it.  But not too much as excessive adjustment will lead to a “halo” effect.

Then Click the “OK” button

But don’ worry too much now as this will be fine tuned later.


Step 7

Now go back to the “layers” panel and where it says normal .. Click on it and select ” Overlay” and voila.  It will result in a sharpened image.

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Side by side comparison of the original and sharpened image.


Step 8

Fine tuning

Now go back and examine the image closely all areas .. making sure you are satisfied with the level of sharpening.  If not there are a few ways you can adjust the sharpening.  To increase or decrease.

1.   Go back to the layers panel, keep the “Background Copy” layer selected, double click on the text that says “High Pass” and the “High Pass Filter” dialog will pop up again.   Now as you adjust the slider you will be able to see the sharpening effect change in real time.


Step 9

Other ways to adjust the sharpening effect

(a)  Select “Soft light” Instead of “Overlay”
(b)  Change the “Opacity” or “Fill” of the layer from the Layers Panel.

Step 10

Additionally, you cam use the “Mask” capability of a layer to apply the sharpening to selective areas.

By Laura

I started photography as a hobby in 2005, during college. My passion slowly became a more important part of my life since 2008. Because of using a combination of my photographic knowledge, with those of internet marketing, I like to call myself a "photomarketer".

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