Soft Focus

Under low light, cameras are more likely to generate a soft focus. The Unsharp Mask filter can fix blurring that is introduced during scanning, resizing, developing, or even when the image was first photographed. It works by finding pixels that differ from their surrounding neighbors (specified by the threshold) and then increases their contrast by a specified amount. The effect can be limited by specifying the radius of comparison. The filter works best in the Lab color mode when run on the Lightness channel.

Step 1. Choose Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask. Select the Preview option so that you can see your changes. It is better to run the filter on the entire image rather than on a specific area.

Step 2. When you click on the thumbnail in the Filter dialog, it reverts to the prefiltered state. You can also uncheck the Preview box to A/B the effect. It is a good idea to set your Preview window to a 100% or 50% magnification to get the most accurate preview of the filter.

Step 3. Specify a value for how much to increase the contrast of the pixels.

Step 4. Adjust the radius slider slightly.

Step 5. Modify the Threshold slider, which determines how different the sharpened pixels must be from the surrounding area before they are treated as edge pixels. A value of 2 to 20 is often useful for preserving flesh tones and eliminating additional noise. The default value of 0 sharpens all pixels in the image.

If you get oversaturated colors, switch to the Lab image mode. Apply the filter only to the Lightness channel.

Step 6. You may choose to defocus grainy backgrounds manually with the Blur tool, or make selections, feather the edges, and run a blur filter.

You can open the file Ch10_Soft_Focus.psd to see this technique in action.

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