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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

10 Tips For Top Sharpness

Getting your sharpest photographs today is as much about processing as it is about shooting technique. We’ll show you some pro tips for making your best pictures.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

9. Be Careful Of Noise Reduction In Software
One of the challenges of digital photography is noise. Noise can show up from using a high ISO or long exposure, or processing an underexposed picture. Some great software is available to help you get rid of much of that noise and still have a quality picture. However, consider that noise is a small detail in your picture and that it can be difficult for software to tell the difference between noise and the more important small detail in your picture. It’s easy to damage the sharpness of your picture by overprocessing it to remove noise. This has been a challenge with high-megapixel cameras and small sensors—when the manufacturer adds enough noise reduction to make the picture look good, the sharpness goes down.

I like Dfine from Nik Software for noise reduction. Its algorithms work well in distinguishing noise from other detail, but more importantly, you can tell the program to selectively affect noise based on colors in the picture. It’s common to have more noise in certain parts of the picture than others, such as in sky, so this helps a lot.

10. Print For Sharpness
Prints can really show off sharpness or unsharpness in a photograph. You might have thought a picture was okay, but then you make a big print and discover it just doesn’t look sharp. So what can you do?

First, it’s important to understand that the size of the picture has a big impact on its sharpness.
A 4x6-inch print may look great with excellent sharpness, but blow it up to 11x14, and it may not look so good. When you enlarge a photograph, you also enlarge its defects. Also, depth of field in a photograph looks deeper with a small picture compared to a large photograph. Certain photographs simply don’t look good printed big.

Second, look critically at your photograph as you prepare it for printing to see if it’s sharp enough to support the print you wish to make. This can be a good reason for shooting several photographs of a scene if you’re worried at all about sharpness because then you can pick the sharpest one for the print.

Third, some photographers swear by secondary sharpening for a specific print surface. Glossy prints, for example, display sharpness differently than matte prints. For this reason, Lightroom includes print sharpening as part of the Print Module. You choose a type of secondary sharpening specifically designed for the type of print—glossy or matte. It really can help make a better print.

Rob Sheppard is Editor At Large for Outdoor Photographer. You can see more of his photography and learn about his workshops by visiting www.robsheppardphoto.com.


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