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Category: New Questions

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Photography Question 
Deb James
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/29/2006
 

Which First: Reduce Noise or Sharpen?


I'm using Photoshop CS2 and Imagenomic Noiseware. I use adjustment layers for levels, curves, etc. After the adjustments, I create another layer with "stamp visible", which is basically a flattened version of the previous layers (but without actually flattening). Next, I've been doing noise reduction with Noiseware and then sharpening using the smart sharpen filter. Should you reduce noise before sharpening or vice versa?

10/24/2006 4:38:51 PM

 
Bob Fately

member since: 4/11/2001
  I've heard it both ways, Deb, and frankly I'm responding as much to see what others say as to offer a definite answer myself. I have also heard that it may depend on the image itself. Generally, though, I think it's best to save sharpening to the final step, since the artifacts created by sharpening may become exaggerated with noise reduction. Of course, that too may depend on what kind of sharpening is done - "normal" or luminance based.

10/24/2006 5:10:06 PM

 
Pete H
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/9/2005
  Hello Deb,
Conventional wisdom dictates sharpening last. With that said, not all photos require sharpening and/or noise reduction. Furthermore, many people will sharpen the entire image... this is often not necessary.
As an example: a portrait with wispy clouds in the background. I would most likely sharpen my subject, but NOT the clouds. The clouds may or may not need noise reduction.
Example 2: Formal portrait... Some will only sharpen the eyes as they want the skin to look soft.
Sharpening and noise reduction are quite image dependent.
All the best,
Pete

10/25/2006 4:25:53 AM

 
Deb James
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/29/2006
  Thank you, Bob and Pete!

10/25/2006 7:06:05 AM

 
Kelly J. Heggart

member since: 8/29/2005
  P E T E,

Out of curiosity, can you explain to me in the simplist of words, how to isolate only one area of a picture and then sharpen it? I did not know you could do this and always sharpen the whole thing, which is not always the desired affect as in portraiture as you mention.

Thanks
Kelly
Vancouver Island
CANADA

10/31/2006 5:34:35 AM

 
Margie Hurwich
BetterPhoto Member
margiehurwichphotography.com

member since: 6/16/2005
  One other thing, Deb...many stock agencies do not want any sharpening, in camera or during post processing. I know Shutterstock allows it, but not sure about Dreamstime.

10/31/2006 6:09:39 AM

 
Deb James
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/29/2006
  Thanks for the tip, Margie. I remember reading that on Alamy (I think), but I haven't tried to submit to them just yet. So far Dreamstime and Stockxpert haven't had an issue with it. I've been reducing noise and then sharpening immediately after. So far so good...

10/31/2006 6:42:17 AM

 
Pete H
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/9/2005
  Sure,

Let's say you have a nice head shot portrait and want to only sharpen the eyes.

With Adobe, I'll generally choose the elliptical selection tool or just free hand it.

Select either just the eyes, or the entire eye socket.
"Unsharp" mask works best as you can control the amount of sharpening.
Don't forget to "feather" your selection before sharpening; otherwise you will see clearly where the selection border starts and ends.

Hope that helps.
If you need more info, lemme' know.

Pete

10/31/2006 7:36:47 AM

 
Howie Nordström
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/11/2005
  Deb:

Reduce noise first and then sharpen, otherwise you're sharpening noise which you definitely don't want.

Also, it’s important that you understand the difference between the three types of sharpening: capture sharpening, creative sharpening, and output sharpening.

Capture sharpening: the goal is only to remove some of the blurriness that is inherent in digitizing physical light. This occurs at the beginning of your workflow right after removing any undesired noise.

Creative sharpening: this is for enhancing particular parts of the image to make them stand out. This usually happens towards the end of your workflow, after all color and contrast adjustments are made.

Output sharpening: this is the very last stage of your workflow. It occurs after you have resized your image to the desired output size. This is the type of sharpening that stock photo companies are referring to when they make a request for no image sharpening.

For more information google “capture sharpening”.

11/11/2006 3:27:30 AM

 
Dennis Flanagan
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/31/2005
  Most the literature I read say that the very last step before saving it is the "Unsharp" mask.

11/11/2006 7:06:42 AM

 
Deb James
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/29/2006
  Thanks, Howie and Dennis. I think I need to adjust my workflow just a bit. Right now I start with a raw image and open in PSCS2. I create a levels layer then a curves layer and sometimes (when it's necessary) a hue/saturation layer. After those adjustments, I create a "stamp visible" layer. I use this layer to reduce noise first and then sharpen.

Looks like I need to move the reduce noise and then sharpen to my first and second steps. Then I should adjust levels, curves, etc.

11/11/2006 8:21:25 PM

 
Howie Nordström
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/11/2005
  Deb, yes and no. The noise reduction should be done as the first part of your PS workflow. There are ways to either do it yourself or with the help of plug-ins. Doing noise reduction at any later stage means that the levels, curves, and color adjustments have also enhanced the noise.

However, please become comfortable with the concept of different types of sharpening. Capture sharpening should be done directly after noise reduction, or even as a part of the noise reduction step if you are using a plug-in that does both for you. Remember, this is capture sharpening not creative or output sharpening. It's only for restoring a sense of reality lost in the camera's digitizing process. It's not for making the image sharp prior to output (to web or print). Leave your creative sharpening for the later part of your PS workflow and the output sharpening for the last stage after resizing (with or without interpolation).

11/12/2006 2:38:01 AM

 

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