Advanced Photo Editing Tips: SHARPNESS

Followed by our article on basic tips for photo editing techniques, here we are going to discuss in depth the advanced features of photo editing that is ‘Sharpness’.

Sharpness can be defined as the clarity of detail in a photo which can be a valuable creative tool for highlighting the texture of an image. It is one of the important aspects in photo editing. Even though sharpness is limited by your camera apparatus, magnification of an image and viewing distance, right photography and photo editing technique can go a long way towards improving sharpness. Resolution and Acutance are two fundamental factors that contribute to the perceived sharpness of an image and should be kept in mind while editing an image.



Before trying a hand on photo editing, one should know the basics of Sharpness. Acutance describes how quickly image information transitions at an edge, thus high acutance results in sharp transitions and detail with clearly defined borders in the image. While resolution describes the camera’s ability to distinguish between closely spaced elements of detail.

Resolution in digital cameras is limited by the digital sensor and acutance depends on both the quality of your lens and the type of photo editing done on the image. Among the two, acutance is the only aspect of sharpness which is still under your control after the shot has been taken, hence it’s the acutance that is enhanced when you digitally sharpen the image in the photo editing process.


Any photo requires both high acutance and resolution that needs to be perceived as sharp. Below given example clarifies the concept in more detail:


Properties of SHARPNESS

Apart from resolution and acutance, sharpness also depends on other factors which influence our perception. In any photo, image noise or film grain is usually harmful to an image but sometimes small amounts can actually increase the appearance of sharpness in the image. Following example illustrates this:


Here, both images are not sharpened. That is no photo editing effect is used on them. Still, the image to the left appears softer and less detailed. In such cases, the image noise can be both very fine and have a very high acutance & thus tricking the eye into thinking sharp detail is present in the image.

Apart from image noise, sharpness also depends on viewing distance of the image. Images such as posters or billboards, which are designed to be viewed from further may have much lower resolution than fine art prints in a gallery. Still, both may be perceived as sharp because of your viewing distance of both the images. While sharpening your image, this property should be kept in mind as the optimal type of your sharpening may not necessarily be what looks best on your monitor.

The final factor that significantly affects the sharpness is your camera technique. Even if there is a small amount of shake in camera, it can dramatically reduce the sharpness.

Use of a sturdy camera tripod, mirror lock-up and proper shutter speeds can also significantly impact the sharpness of your image.

Following the above fundamentals of sharpening while taking photographs & photo editing will help to deliver the image with the minutest quality details.