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Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS4: Portrait Sharpening

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Bruce Fraser and Jeff Schewe walk you through an portrait sharpening example as executed by Martin Evening.
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Figure 5-48 shows a shot by Martin Evening, author and beauty photographer based in London. Martin used a Canon 1Ds MIII camera with a 70-200mm F2.8 IS lens at about 85mm and shot under studio strobe lighting. The model was Courtney Hopper from the London Storm agency.

The image was shot while Jeff was visiting London to work on Martin’s and Jeff’s Photoshop book titled Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers: The Ultimate Workshop (yeah, it’s a long title but it has to be long enough for both Martin and Jeff to get their names on it). This example illustrates the creative use of the Camera Calibration panel as well as Split Toning to achieve a cross-processing effect for the image.

Image Evaluation

Well, even the before image is quite nice, but Martin wanted to get a more fashionable look from the image. So he used a technique he describes in The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers. The technique involves intentionally using the wrong processing solution to achieve a more “whacked out” look (see Figure 5-48).

Image Editing: Global

Other than slight adjustments of Recovery and Blacks, the main adjustment Martin made was to add Brightness (see Figure 5-49) and reduce contrast. Additionally, he removed a bit of saturation with a –25 Vibrance adjustment. In the Split Toning panel, he applied a Warm/Cool split. Finally, in the Camera Calibration panel, he adjusted the Red and Green Primary Hue and Saturation as well as Blue Primary. As you can see from the before/after in Figure 5-48, the results are quite subtle, with the skin color gaining a yellow cast and the shadows taking on a slight cool look.


Image Editing: Local

There were three main Adjustment Brush image corrections: a mask to desaturate the red lips, a mask to lighten the eyes, and a minus Clarity to smooth the skin. There are more pins showing but they are duplicates with different parameters, as the three shown in Figure 5-50.


Figure 5-51 shows Camera Raw’s default sharpening at a 100% zoom; for the preview, he held down the Option key while adjusting the Amount slider.

Radius and Detail

Since he was primarily interested in sharpening only the low-frequency aspect of the image, he adjusted the Radius slider a bit wider to 1.4 pixels (Figure 5-52). He also adjusted the Detail slider down to increase the halo suppression on the sharpening. Increasing the radius and reducing the detail is common for portraits because you generally want to sharpen things like eyes and lips more so than the texture of the skin.


Arguably the most important aspect of portrait sharpening is properly specifying the edge masking. In this case, Masking is set relatively high to 70 (Figure 5-53). This restricts the sharpening only to those white areas in the image while tapering off in the black areas. This is strictly a judgment call because at this stage, you really only want to recover the apparent sharpness lost by the capture. By increasing the Radius, lowering the Detail, and adding Masking, we reduced the original amount of the sharpening to only those areas we wanted to sharpen. Again, the aim is to get the image to look good at a 100% zoom (see Figure 5-54).

Now admittedly, this wouldn’t be the final result of this image. Martin would do his typical excellent retouching job. But this processed image would give him a crisp image from which to start. Nice job, Martin!

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