Photoshop tutorials. Topic 3. Improving photos. Part 1. Three Easy Ways to Sharpen Your Photo (Topic)

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Photoshop tutorials. Topic 3. Improving photos. Part 1. Three Easy Ways to Sharpen Your Photo


Adobe Photoshop is one of the most popular packages for processing bitmap graphics. Despite the high price, up to 80% of professional designers, photographers, and computer graphics artists use the program. Due to its enormous functionality and ease of use, Adobe Photoshop has a dominant position in the graphics editor market.

Increase the sharpness and contrast in photos using Photoshop.

About Adobe Photoshop

Topic 3.1 Photo enhancement. Part 1 Three easy ways to sharpen your photo.

Most Adobe Photoshop users start learning the program for a purely utilitarian goal - to make their photos look great. There is nothing wrong. Quite the opposite: Photoshop is meant to enhance and enhance photos.

The most logical way to start this topic is to describe methods for solving the most common problems. These, without a doubt, include the issues of improving the parameters of the sharpness of the photo. Or, as they call it, improving the contrast, clarity of the photo.

As with selection, Adobe Photoshop has a huge sharpening toolkit. Some of the mechanisms are explicit and simple. To apply others, you need to learn the basics.

Let's start, of course, with the most primitive, but far from the worst tools.

Some theory

What is the sharpness of a photo? What is contrast? what is clarity?

If you ask a layman to describe the difference between the three parameters mentioned above, he will find it difficult.

Sharpness, sharpness and contrast - the difference between the subject in the photo and the background. That is, how "blurry", "blurred" and so on is the image. We can say that all three concepts are synonyms.

In smart words, contrast is the difference in color characteristics of different areas of the image. Contrast is the magnitude of that difference.

Visual demonstration of sharpness and contrast

The figure shows the simplest illustration of what these concepts mean in practice. A sharp border of two areas is a sign of contrast (sharpness / clarity). Smooth transition - no such. In any case, all three concepts mean one thing: how clearly one or another fragment of the frame is visible.

Working with contrast also has a negative side. If not sharp images look faded, then excessively contrasting ones - “hard”, artificial, dirty.

Thus, the task of increasing sharpness (clarity, contrast) is reduced to increasing the difference between colors. In simple terms - that the dark should become darker. Light is lighter.

Practical part

Adobe Photoshop is wonderful in that it has tools that can be used by people with different working skills. The easiest way to increase the contrast is to make the light areas brighter and the dark areas darker. Yes, some information will be lost. But the overall look of the photo will certainly improve.

Naturally, with the growth of skill, you will abandon some functions in favor of more complex and giving better results. But you have to start somewhere.

In this tutorial we will use the contents of the " Image " menu. To be more precise " Image " - " Correction ". As a base image, we will take a photograph of the knights' festival that took place in the Belarusian city of Novogrudok in 2001. The photo was taken with a camera that was fantastic for those times: 2.1 megapixels and 10x zoom! Considering the distance to the object, the quality is appropriate.

We will work with the tools " Brightness / Contrast ", " Curves ", " Levels ".

Sharpening Tools

Before starting the practical work, it is worth dwelling on the basic rule of Photoshop.

Absolutely all Adobe Photoshop tools work with the selected part of the image. This can be a layer and / or a selection on the active layer.

This approach is natural. In order to manipulate any object, we must pick it up or focus our attention on it.

For clarity, all changes within the lesson will be made on a part of the photo. To do this, simply select a fragment.

Brightness / Contrast

Brightness / Contrast is the easiest tool to use. To correct it, go to the menu " Image " - " Correction " - " Brightness / Contrast " (If you have an English version of Adobe Photoshop, then "Image" - "Adjustment" - "Brightness / Contrast").

Demonstration of the Brightness / Contrast Tool

The resulting menu tool palette is spartan. Two adjustment scales are available to the user. The top one is responsible for the brightness parameters, the bottom one is for contrast. The work algorithm is as follows:

  • Call the tool
  • For clarity, check the box next to " Preview "
  • By moving the sliders under the adjustment bars (or by specifying numerical values), set the required brightness and contrast parameters
  • Click OK

Hint : If, as a result of setting the maximum values of brightness or contrast, the quality of the photo is "not reached", click OK and call the tool again. The slider positions will be at 0. Thus, the same tool can be called an infinite number of times.

Sharpening with Levels

The Levels tool is more precise and subtle than the Brightness / Contrast tool. At least with it, you can achieve much more interesting results.

In order to call it, you need to select the menu " Image " - " Correction " - " Levels " (in English "Image "-" Adjustment "-" Levels ").

The content of the Levels palette is richer. The first menu " Set " allows you to use the presets. The second position " Channel " allows you to set parameters not only for the whole image, but also for individual channels. What is a channel is described in the lesson "selection using channels".

The central part is the image histogram. This is a display of the amount of information on a scale from light (white) to dark (black).

Below the histogram is the brightness scale with three sliders (sliders). They are marked in black, white and gray.

Demonstration of the

Black and white define the point of black and white, respectively. This means that if the black slider is moved to the right, then all the colors on the histogram that are to the left will turn black. That is, we are setting a new "black point". Pixels to the right (up to a gray point) are darkened.

The white slider sets the white point in the same way.

Given that contrast is an enhancement of dark and white, adjusting these two points can achieve a lot.

More subtle correction - gray slider. He is responsible for the level of 50% shading. That is, by moving it left or right, you can lighten or darken the entire photo.

There is another scale at the bottom: " Output Values ". It is designed to correct black and white points. If you change the levels, then everything between the positions of the sliders and the borders will be considered white and black, respectively.

Note : For all its simplicity, the Output Values menu has an interesting property. The sliders can be "swapped", which results in a complete or partial inversion of the image. A very interesting effect.

The algorithm for working with levels is as follows:

  • Call the tool
  • Set " Preview "
  • Use the sliders to adjust the white point, black point and 50% shading
  • If necessary, modify the block " Output values "
  • Click OK

The Levels tool can be used countless times. A new call leads to the opening of the histogram of the already changed image: even if you have narrowed the displayed area to the minimum, when you call it again, the remaining pixels will be distributed over the entire histogram.

Tip : Don't try to fix the brightness problem "in one go." Use the tool several times. This will give you more accurate results.

And finally, the last points. Below the buttons, we notice three " Eyedroppers ". They allow you to set white, black and gray points in a photo.

If you know that some element is exactly white - select the white eyedropper and click in the selected place. The image will be corrected by the white point. Likewise with gray and black dots.

A little trick: white point removes ambient light. For example, you took a photo in a summer cafe under a green canopy. In the photo, your face has a "pleasant grave color". Making it normal is as easy as shelling pears: look for an element in the photo that is exactly white (for example, a menu sheet, a cup) and set this point as a reference. External lighting will be removed!

Adjustments with Curves.

Curves is the most powerful tool in this overview. More to say, advanced Adobe Photoshop users often neglect Levels in favor of Curves. (We are not talking about the Brightness / Contrast tool at all.)

The palette of this tool is invoked by selecting in the sequence menu " Image " - " Correction " - " Curves " (in English "Image" - "Adjustment" - "Curves").

Setting Contrast Using Levels in Photoshop

The central part of the panel is a rectangular area on which a histogram (if the lower part is checked), a coordinate grid and a diagonal line are displayed in the background. The latter is a graphical display of brightness.

" Coordinate lines " are marked with a gradient from white to black. The corner where both coordinate lines are "black" is the black point. Where they are white - with a white point. They can also be adjusted on the lower axis: two sliders are visible at the bottom.

But the midpoint (to use the analogy with levels) is a diagonal line.

To sharpen:

  • Call the tool
  • Place a dot on the diagonal line. This is done by clicking on the diagonal.
  • With the mouse pointer over the set point, press the left key. Keeping it pressed, move it to either side. The schedule will change. And the look of your photo will change.
  • A simple sharpening occurs by darkening the dark areas (displaced points at the bottom) and lightening the bright ones (top point)
  • After you have achieved the desired result, click OK

But curves would not be so popular if it were not for the possibility of additional manipulations. After all, you can put more than two points. And put not only at the bottom or top of the diagonal. Pay attention, putting the third and fourth points, you can achieve the fact that with a general darkening of the shadows, the red-black transition on the shield remains visible. This, alas, cannot be achieved by manipulating "Levels" or "Brightness / Contrast".


  1. Curves, like Levels, also work with individual channels. To do this, just select the name of the channel. And a second graph of the corresponding color will appear. In this way, general corrections and corrections of individual colors can be made.
  2. Curves also have eyedroppers for setting white, black and gray. Their work is exactly the same as in the Levels tool.
  3. The diagonal line can be changed both by placing points and drawing "by hand". To do this, click the pencil icon and, while holding down the left mouse button, draw a segment on the graph.

Note : When working with a pencil, your diagonal does not need to be continuous. You can add multiple strokes in any direction.

The Topic of Article: Photoshop tutorials. Topic 3. Improving photos. Part 1. Three Easy Ways to Sharpen Your Photo.
Author: Jake Pinkman