If you have an online photography portfolio site, one thing you probably asked yourself is why your photos do not look very sharp. You also noticed that other photographers’ web galleries look sharper and smoother compared to yours. You tried sharpening your photos in Photoshop by applying unsharp mask or bicubic sharper when down-sampling but your photos continued to lack the crispy-creme sharpness you wanted to achieve.

Why would you want your photos sharper in the first place?

Because sharpness adds quality and “pop” to your online portfolio and sets you apart from competition. In viewers’ eyes, Sharpness = Quality. I have found FOUR good solutions that will give you the best sharpening results. All solutions are very simple and require very little task to achieve. Take a look at this photo below. This is a very difficult photo to sharpen because of the complicated landscape. The photo you see is resized using Photoshop’s “Bicubic Sharper” option.

The Result?

As you can see the landscape does not look sharp enough, especially if you look at the edges of trees or read the business name on the wall.

First Solution

  1. Download and use this action script from: http://news.deviantart.com/article/20250/
  2. Install the script through the Actions pallet in Photoshop (Windows>Actions)
  3. The default resize is set to 600px/600px, if you want your final image to be bigger, then change it to, say, 800px by expanding the action script and clicking on the “Fit Image” step and changing both numbers to 800px.
  4. Open the image, select the Action script, click the Play button and the script will do the rest.
The Result?

Much sharper don’t you think?

Second Solution

  1. Determine the size of the photo you will save for the web. Say you decided 800px wide.
  2. Resize the original photo using the default resize settings to 1600 pixel wide, that’s twice the size of what your resulting  image will be. If you want the resulting image to be 900px then you resize the original photo to 1800px instead.
  3. Duplicate the layer and call it sharp1, and apply Filter>Sharpen.
  4. Duplicate sharp1 and call it sharp2, and apply Filter>Sharpen
  5. Duplicate sharp2 and call it sharp3, and apply Filter>Sharpen. Dont worry if the image becomes severely over-sharpened at this point.
  6. Resize the photo to half (800 pixels wide in our case)
  7. If the image looks slightly over-sharpened, disable your top layer (sharp3) and see if it looks better. If the sharp2 result still looks too sharp disable sharp2 and view sharp one. If you notice that sharp3 is too sharp and sharp2 is not as sharp as you wanted, then change the opacity of sharp3 layer to maybe 50% and see if that gives you ideal results.
The Result?

Third Solution

Use a Custom Filter in Photoshop. This is the most geekiest tool of all the tools, that is why no body talks about it, and no body uses. But this is the fastest possible way to sharpen your photosand the results are as astounding as other methods above.

  1. Resize your Image to whatever size you want. Then duplicate the Original Layer.
  2. By having the Duplicate layer selected click on Filter->Other->Custom (see screen capture above)
  3. Change all the numbers to the same values as shown in the captured screen
  4. Drop the opacity of the layer to any where from 20% to 50% depending on the size of your image.
  5. By using erase tool, remove any sharpened areas that you don’t want (in most cases you will not need to)

Fourth Solution

Let flickr do it all for you. Flickr uses one of the best resize and sharpen techniques. The only downside is you can only choose from the sizes flickr produces for you.

  1. Open a free flickr account (if you haven’t done so)
  2. Upload your photo (flickr will create several sized photos for you)
  3. Save the photo size of your choice and add it to your site once the photo is added to flickr.

Summary

That’s it folks, and happy sharpening. In my personal experience the first solution (Using the action script) consistently produces the best results. You decide which of these techniques you want to employ. Each technique may produce slightly different results depending on what photograph or resizing you’re working with. So give all of them a try. Drop me a comment or email me if have any other good sharpening techniques which you think I should post on here.