Combine a high pass filter with luminosity masks for controlled, effective sharpening


posted Friday, February 26, 2016 at 1:13 PM EDT

Unsharp mask, smart sharpen, sharpening plug-in software…there are numerous ways to sharpen your image files. Portrait and glamour photographer Nino Batista created a Photoshop action for a high pass sharpening technique and created a tutorial covering how to use it. I've previously covered using an unsharp mask for sharpening, so Nino's technique will provide you an alternative approach.

In his article for Fstoppers, Nino says that the basic workflow of high pass sharpening is to duplicate your primary image, run a high pass filter (pixel radius between 2.5 and 5, depending on the overall dimensions of your image) on your duplicate layer, change the blending mode on the sharpened layer to "Hard Light," and voila, sharp image! However, it isn't so simple.

There are two common complaints about using the high pass filter for sharpening images. The resulting sharpening is often too strong, even with a low pixel radius setting. Micro contrast becomes too high, as well, and your image's highlights get ruined.

How are these two issues solved? Nino solves them through the use of luminosity masks. His Photoshop action automatically creates these masks to make it much simpler and faster to sharpen many image files. What Nino's action does is limit the high pass sharpening to the darkest areas of the image, preserving the quality of highlights and midtones in an image.

Nino's free Photoshop sharpening action is available to download here. (FYI: Link starts an automatic download of an .atn file)

This screen capture illustrates the areas where Nino's sharpening action applies high pass filter sharpening. White areas are affected most and applied sharpening decreases as the tone decreases toward black (where no sharpening is applied).

To see more of Nino's work, visit his website. For more free tutorials and Photoshop actions, be sure to check out his YouTube channel. If you like his approach to sharpening, see his approach to black and white conversions using a freely-available Photoshop action here.

(Seen via Fstoppers