Exercise: Sharpening for Print

For this exercise, you are asked to take an image that you have processed as the reference standard, with some edge detail and some smooth areas. A portrait is ideal – with the eyes carrying wanted detail, and the skin smooth areas that you do not want to be over sharpened. For the reference image, make sure that you have applied no software sharpening.

Once you have your chosen portrait photograph, you are to make three more versions, each with a different degree of sharpening. There will be a certain amount of trial and error in this but make sure that the weakest of the three is quite close in on-screen appearance to the un-sharpened original and the strongest is noticeably aggressive.

Print all four images at full size. Next, with neutral white lighting next to the computer screen, compare these prints with each other and with the 100% magnification images on-screen. You may be surprised at the difference in appearance between the same images as it looks on the screen and as a print. Use a magnifying glass to inspect the prints in detail.

Write down the difference you see, and also your assessment of which degree of sharpening seems to your taste to be the most appropriate for the image in print form.

For this exercise, I decided to use a portrait I took for a previous assignment.

Original Image:

IMG_4246 - Copy

The only alterations made to this original image is blemish removal.

I took several copies of this image and opened the first one in Lightroom 4.4. I decided to use Lightroom, because I prefer the sharpening tool in Lightroom, to the one in my Photoshop Elements 9.

Once in Lightroom, I then scrolled down to the sharpen adjustment box. The maximum amount of sharpness you could apply was 150.

Weakest Sharpening:

Weakest Sharpening After

IMG_4246 - Copy - Copy-Weakest Afer Sharpening

Medium Sharpening:

Medium Sharpening After

IMG_4246 - Copy - Copy - Copy-Medium After Sharpening

Strongest Sharpening:

Strongest Sharpening After

IMG_4246 - Copy - Copy - Copy - Copy-Strongest After Sharpening

IMG_4246 - CopyIMG_4246 - Copy - Copy-Weakest Afer SharpeningIMG_4246 - Copy - Copy - Copy-Medium After SharpeningIMG_4246 - Copy - Copy - Copy - Copy-Strongest After Sharpening

After looking at the exported, saved photographs from Lightroom, I noticed that it wasn’t showing the sharpening as much as it did on the Lightroom screen. I therefore screen shot the Lightroom screen to show what I saw.

Weakest

Weakest Sharpening After 2

Weakest Sharpening After 3 zoomed in

Medium

Medium Sharpening After 2

Medium Sharpening After 3 zoomed in

Strongest

Strongest Sharpening After 2

Strongest Sharpening After 3 zoomed in

Weakest Sharpening After 3 zoomed inMedium Sharpening After 3 zoomed inStrongest Sharpening After 3 zoomed in

After looking at these comparisons, I prefer the medium sharpening. The strongest amount of sharpening causes too much noise within the image. The medium amount of sharpening also causes noise, however, this could be reduced and perhaps not as noticeable. I would also have to smooth the skin more, as there is a slight grainy texture to the skin, especially towards the forehead area.

Sharpening an image for online shows that the more sharpening you apply to an image, the more noise and problems that will occur within that image. Less sharpening or medium sharpening is best, so long as you reduce noise at the same time, and think about detail and how realistic your image looks or doesn’t look.

Print all four images at full size. Next, with neutral white lighting next to the computer screen, compare these prints with each other and with the 100% magnification images on-screen. You may be surprised at the difference in appearance between the same images as it looks on the screen and as a print. Use a magnifying glass to inspect the prints in detail.

For this exercise, you are to sharpen for print. This is something which I haven’t really thought about, nor have I really done before. I will be using a Canon Pixma MG3150.

After printing my images, I have noticed that the sharpness is not as noticeable as on screen. In fact, I think it remains almost the same as if the image had not been sharpened. I think this depends on what photo paper you use, ink etc, as perhaps if it was a more professional printer, used for galleries or professional printing, then you may be able to notice sharpening.

Conclusion:

I enjoyed this exercise, as sharpening an image for print is something which I have not done before. I have sharpened images before, but never to the maximum extent, as when you over sharpen an image on screen, they appear extremely pixelated and noisy and I wouldn’t want my final image to have this appearance. However, this has taught me that even after I printed these images, even with the maximum sharpness image, the sharpness was hardly noticeable, something which I was not expecting. I was expecting the printed photographs to have the same appearance as the over sharpened image on screen.

The results could be dependant on what photo paper or ink I used and it may have had different results if I used a professional printer. However, this has been a very interesting exercise.

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