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Old Sep 2, 2010, 5:58 PM   #1
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Default Image sharpening/USM- How much to apply for prints

Hi Guys

I had a few pics that looked just right on screen in terms of detail and sharpness recently printed out but have been surprised how soft they actually look when printed out onto 8 x10. So my question is how much USM should you apply to a pic thats going to be printed depending on whether its fashion, portraits or landscape ?


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Old Sep 3, 2010, 6:31 AM   #2
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Hi Harj,

I think you're question is a tough one to answer in broad terms. I don't do any fashion photography. So, I can't speak to that.

As for landscape, I'm all over the place as far as how much I adjust the USM slider in Photoshop. Up until yesterday, I used Photoshop elements 8. The steps I would take to PP an image was to prior to sharpening, I first tried to eliminate noise, if any, using Neat Image. Having done that, I then used to USM in Elements 8 to evaluate the sharpness and adjust to what I felt looked good. That typically has been a value adjustment of between 25 to 75 using the slider.

I've read Scott Kelby's recommendations on the use of the USM and he routinely will go as high as 112.

I just received the new Photoshop CS5 yesterday and am going to play with it this weekend. That may totally change my post processing steps.

You may want to download a free trial of the Topaz Raw sharpener plug-in. It has the capability of sharpening the files depending on the type of printer is going to be used to print the image. It's a pretty slick software package.


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Last edited by zig-123; Sep 3, 2010 at 6:34 AM.
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Old Sep 3, 2010, 10:31 AM   #3
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well it really depends on the image. but for printing at 300dpi.

good starting ranges are like 150-250%, .3-.7 radius, 1-4 lvls
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Old Sep 3, 2010, 11:12 AM   #4
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This is one of those "how long is a piece of string" questions!

-It depends on the original sharpness of the image (different camera, different output...esp. if you use in-camera sharpening to begin with)
-It depends on the subject of the image (some subjects you want dead sharp, others you prefer softer).
-It depends on the printer you are using (different printers print differently).
-It depends on the software you are using (different software has different settings).
-It depends on the phase of the moon (just wanted to throw that one in to see if you're paying attention).
-It depends on what YOU want in the image (think that goes without saying, then why am I saying it?)

There's no one answer that's right...how long is a piece of string? Depends on how long you need it!

(added later)
-It depends on how large you're going to print, what media you're printing on, and the viewing distance of the print.

Last edited by Mikefellh; Sep 3, 2010 at 12:40 PM.
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Old Sep 3, 2010, 11:15 AM   #5
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I am confused on this issue too. Kelby sharpens the RAW image using USM and as far as I can tell, he's finished. Others say the sharpening should be done in stages with the final amount of sharpening dependent on final size and display media. I tend not to do any sharpening until I have completed everything else including resize. It's always made sense to me that a 5X7 print would require less sharpening than an 11X14 and also less for web display than for prints. I do like Kelby's use of masks during sharpening and it's easy to do in ACR. The masking technique can also be applied in Photoshop in conjunction with both denoise and sharpening
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Old Sep 3, 2010, 11:34 AM   #6
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I sharpen in Camera RAW. When I click on "open file" in ACR and the image converts and opens up in Photoshop, all I do is "save as" and I am done. I have not sharpened in Photoshop with USM, smart sharpen or any other way in a very long time.

In the sharpen window of camera RAW I adjust the amount and detail sliders, leaving the radius set pretty much to 1 all the time and I also use the masking tool to reduce or completely eliminate sharpening where needed so it would be hard to give any type of standard numbers because I don't have any! I then go down to the noise sliders and apply a base amount depending on the ISO shot at and see if I need to go higher or even reduce it.
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Old Sep 3, 2010, 11:49 AM   #7
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For me if I'm going for 300dpi I will use about 100-120%, 0.7 and 0 in PS, I did the same when I was a Paintshop Pro user and have been happy with the results.
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Old Sep 5, 2010, 8:32 AM   #8
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Hi Harj, to offer you a different perspective, I print exclusively with Q Image studio edition, I have been using Q Image for years and nothing short of $2500 R.I.P. software comes close to the final image quality. Q Image was originally designed as a printing program but has advanced to include some editing features over the years. It is like a super charger for your printer in that it takes full control of the print driver & printer and creates the best prints possible almost seamlessly. With my epson printers it prints at 760 DPI ,and the default print sharpening, this is a different part of the program, produces amazing prints. It also has a unsharp mask filter, but I find I have to rarely use it as the print sharpening feature is extremely intelligent being able to reconize what needs sharpened in the print & what does not need sharpened. One of the many problems of photoshop is that it is an editing program & not a printing program, so it lets your operating system have control of the prints which to me is never a good thing cause the operating system has even less ability to tell what a good print is than "photo-chop".
They just released a new version of Q Image that is geared toward professional studios (Q image ultimate) but I find studio is meeting my needs for the time being. They have free trials on their website so you can try them out.

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Old Sep 5, 2010, 3:43 PM   #9
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Hi Guys

Firstly, thanks for all of the replies esp as Mike put it, its a "how long is a piece of string" question but it had begun to bug quiet a bit.

My own work flow is very similar to Greg's - I just apply 40% sharpening, @ 1 rad and adjust the masking in LR to taste (portraits 70-80%, landscapes from 0 to 40%). Now for on screen that seems to be just fine and if I've had to retouch a fashion shoot then, I might have to apply more USM depending on how much retouching was required. I don't have my own printer so I've never really noticed it until recently when I had a few fashion shoot pics printed out at the local Walmart/Asda photolab and the portrait shots were just really unsharp. I had read something last year where it was recommended to leave the sharpening in the CS/PS and the reasoning for doing that seemed very logical at the time!

I'll have a go at using some of the settings suggested by everyone and see if there's an improvement. Q-image would be really interesting and good to know that there is software that can handle this but until I have my own printer that's going to have to be on my wish list.



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