Digital Darkroom Tip: Clarify and Sharpen

1 minute read

Several years ago one of my fellow photographers, Cecil Walker, showed me an easy, but priceless photo editing tip. I wish one of us could take credit for this, but unfortunately we can’t—nonetheless I’m glad Cecil came across the article. I’m sorry I do not remember where, so apologies to the original “founder”. All photographers, on occasion (ha), take a flat photo…I know, shocking. With a quick 2–step tweak the flat photo can be reborn into the image you really witnessed. I use this tip so much that I created two Photoshop actions. And to be honest I don’t think I’ve processed a photo in the last 2+ years that I did not use this tip.

Step 1: Clarify In a photo editor that supports Unsharp Mask (USM) use these values:

  • Amount: 20%
  • Radius: 60 pixels
  • Threshold: 4

Step 2: Sharpen In a photo editor that supports Unsharp Mask (USM) use these values:

  • Amount: 500%
  • Radius: 0.2 pixels
  • Threshold: 0

Using Clarify/Sharpen After you create an “action” for these two steps use them in the following manner:

  1. Complete all your photo editing (including image resizing)
  2. Apply Clarify one or more times (for this sample I applied it once, but when I’m printing I may execute the action multiple times)
  3. Apply Sharpen one or more time (again, depending on your output you may need to apply more than once)

Photoshop Action For those that use Photoshop you can download the following ZIP file and extract to your Photoshop directory Presets\Photoshop Actions

example: C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS2\Presets\Photoshop Actions

[update 2011.02.27] unfortunately the samples and the Photoshop actions have been vaporized due to multiple website moves.