There is no better way to appreciate a photo than a native resolution print on top quality paper in good lighting, but thanks to the digital revolution 99% of photos are now viewed on electronic displays. From computers, to cellphones to tablets…the primary viewing platform is low resolution images on electronic screens. So getting an image to look it’s very best at such low resolutions is crucial to the impression that your photography will make on viewers. While there are many little tricks and tips to web sharpening, the theory is quite simple and easy to experiment with so you can program your own actions.
To obtain the ideal sharpness at a low resolution, you have to sharpen the image multiple times at larger resolutions. There are so many variables that come into play here regarding which methods to use, how many times to sharpen and at which various resolutions to sharpen that I don’t think any two photographers use the exact same method. The problem with this method is that it robs the image slightly of color and you have to do something to replace it afterwards. While 99% of people are probably just going to download the action and not even look at the steps, I know there’s a few nerds out there that will appreciate the detail and use it to write their own actions suited to their photography and workflow. This is for you guys!
Throughout the action I only use the unsharp mask sharpening function, varying only the sharpening amount while keeping the pixel radius and threshold constant. The first sharpening is done on the original layer, then step two and three is done on a duplicate layer for final adjustment. I learned the automate resize trick from Philip Perold. It allows you to tell the action to make the longest side of the image a specified size, so you don’t need separate actions for portrait and landscape images. I’m only explaining the 900px example, but the action has a 720px, 900px and 1024px action in it.
Sharpening to 900px
- Filter – Sharpen – Unsharp Mask ( amount 150, radius 0.5, threshold 0 )
- File – Automate – Fit Image (width 2300, height 2300 )
- Duplicate Layer ( CTRL + J | APPLE + J )
- Filter – Sharpen – Unsharp Mask (amount 150, radius 0.5, threshold 0 )
- File – Automage – Fit Image ( width 1500px, height 1500px )
- Filter – Sharpen – Unsharp Mask ( amount 80, radius 0.5, threshold 0 )
- File – Automate – Fit Image ( width 900px, height 900px )
- Image – Adjustments – Selective color – select neutrals – adjust blacks to +5
- Duplicate layer
- Image – Adjustments – Hue/Saturation ( saturation 10 )
I think that everyone reading this blog probably knows the work of Marc Adamus. His processing of images has astounded landscape photographers for many years now and no one can put a finger on what exactly makes it so special (apart from mindblowing composition and light). Myself and another photographer noticed that the bright highlights in his photos are often very fuzzy and we did quite a bit of experimenting to try and imitate it. What we came up with is using luminosity selections to get a selection of the highlights and then blowing it using two methods. The selection I use is [basic lights] – [super lights] so that the very right side of the histogram isn’t blown too much when applying this diffusion. Once you’ve got the selection, create a layer of it and set it to color dodge. This makes the selection a lot brighter and more colorful. Then apply a guassian blur to the selection of 2-4 pixels, which will make it very soft. You can now adjust this layer to a low opacity (10-20%) and it will give that soft diffusion to the highlights in the image
Feel free to make suggestions and I’ll build it into the action if I think you’ve got something worthy to add!