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Sharpening - Smart Sharpen vs. USM - why am I getting more noise with the first?

G Guhan Gunaratnam , Aug 09, 2005; 07:27 a.m.

Hello all,

I've just got my copy of CS2, I was using CS1 before. Prelim info: using a 350D, good glass (this thread refers to pic taken with 17- 40). I do what many others do for sharpening (2/3 stage - depending on "creative sharpening" needs.

Ok, so I am working on a RAW converted photo (I used DPP for the RAW conversion - I know I will change this, but I can't update CS2 right now because I don't have a net connection right now). Anyways, I am going to switch to ACR asap. In any case, the workfile is a 16bit tiff (at the beginning of processing).

So two weeks ago (before I got CS2), I did my enhancements (in this image I did Hue/Sat adjustments, Contrast and Levels. At that time I also did my first round of sharpening (capture), USM - 400,0.4,1. I always follow my sharpening with a fade to luminosity as many suggest. I was pretty happy with the result (not perfectly, but I was going to come back to the picture and finish it...I knew what I wanted to do to correct it to my liking).

Anyways, now I'm with CS2, and I wanted to start working with Smart Sharpen. So on a layer I used SS with 200,0.3, LB (Lens Blur) - I'm only trying to correct for the low-pass filter. When I do this, I'm seeing a lot of noise appearing (I did follow with a fade to luminosity). It's an iso 100 image, full res. No significant increase in noise was visible when I did it with USM, but with SS I'm getting a lot. What am I doing wrong? I do have noise ninja, but the image is so noiseless before SS that NN isn't removing all that much. I played around with the advanced options for highlights and shadows but I'm not noticing a significant change to the noise levels.

The image is 16bit, RGB throughout the above process...should I convert to LAB? That just came to mind, so maybe I'll try that when I get home... For this image, I don't need to change to 8bit early in workflow (everything that I need for this one is available in 16bit)...I'm just throwing this info in...I don't know if bit depth would affect the noise levels.

Any help is appreciated..thanks a lot everyone

Responses

Bill T (New Mexico) , Aug 09, 2005; 11:23 a.m.

Smart Sharpen seems to be a sort of quick & dirty, one-size-fits-all approach to sharpening.

Of course an important basic principle is that sharpening that looks good on your screen will probably look gross on a print.

There are as many tricks and formulas for sharpening as there are people using Photoshop. For prints, my current favorite is to convert to Image>Mode>LabColor, and in the channels tab select just the "Lightness" channel which presents a washed out monochrome image on the screen. Then I apply some sharpening scheme such as USM 300,0.3,0 or some such, depending on the image size and it's character. Then convert back to RGB and print. I do this to a temporary copy of my original just before printing, but I don't actually modify the original. To my eye this doesn't introduce any obvious "sharpening edges" or other distracting artifacts in the print, and noise doesn't pick up more than a tiny bit if at all.

John Kelly , Aug 09, 2005; 02:32 p.m.

Smart Sharpen wants to kill previous gaussian blur..incompatible.. probably kills every previous filter.

Like Bill T said, SS is quick and dirty...its useless on my scans. I do USM both before and after USM sometimes, no hassle. And of course it's film, so there's no noise.

Timothy Nelson , Aug 09, 2005; 03:20 p.m.

Two suggestions: (1) make sure the "More Accurate" box is Unchecked in Smart Sharpen/Lens Blur. If checked, it seems to sharpen every grain in film scans or every noise bit in digital. It may be enhancing small noise clusters that aren't evident in your starting image. (2) The parameters for SS don't have the same effect as USM parameters. Try much larger radius. With high resolution scans, I start with 100-150/2.0-2.5 for Smart Sharpen, while I'd give the same scans 200-250/0.8/0 in USM.

Also, make sure to view the effect in 100% view. I've noticed that lower display magnifications can be very misleading for SS effects; much less accurately rendered than USM previews.

G Guhan Gunaratnam , Aug 12, 2005; 10:32 a.m.

Hey guys, thanks for responding. Please don't misunderstand, I'm not new to sharpening, I've been using USM for quite some time. Your views, however, on Smart Sharpen don't seem to be shared by most of the literature I'm reading on CS2.

Bill T, I was doing the LAB sharpening some time ago, with 7 and up, but Smart Sharpen has been recieving quite some praise by many. After the LAB method, I switched to the same method used in the TLR actions, which I get good results with when using an edge mask. Smart Sharpen is said to be superior to both methods (though the new TLR pro actions use SS within).

I was using SS with more accurate checked...I'm going to uncheck it and try it again.

I've got to read a bit more about the highlight and shadow tabs too.

thanks for the info

mark vail , Nov 03, 2009; 11:10 a.m.

(For black and white images) For optimal digital workflow... can one apply the USM to the lightness channel in color mode and then to the black and white conversion? I have always been trying to do all sharpening as the last stage in my flow, after conversion, so curious if this is possible. Also, what is the "fade" in luminousity that is referred to? Many thanks.

mark vail , Nov 03, 2009; 11:10 a.m.

(For black and white images) For optimal digital workflow... can one apply the USM to the lightness channel in color mode and then to the black and white conversion? I have always been trying to do all sharpening as the last stage in my flow, after conversion, so curious if this is possible. Also, what is the "fade" in luminousity that is referred to? Many thanks.

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