STEPS: Adjusting the Focus of Digital Photos

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1. Select the entire image and copy it to a new layer. That's Ctrl+A, Ctrl+J. Figure 10-43 shows the image that I intend to sharpen, a picture of a friend's child.

Figure 10-43: I captured this youthful fellow with a low-end digital camera equipped with a removable fish-eye lens. How innocent and happy he looks — obviously not a computer user.

2. Choose Filter ^ Noise ^ Median. After processing several thousand of these images, I've found that a Radius value of 2 is almost always the optimal choice. But if the image is particularly bad, 3 may be warranted.

3. Choose Filter ^ Blur ^ Gaussian Blur. Now that you've gummed up the detail a bit and rubbed out most of the compression, use the Gaussian Blur filter with a Radius of 1.0 to blur the gummy detail slightly. This softens the edges that the Median filter creates. (You don't want any fake edges, after all.)

4. Choose Filter ^ Sharpen ^ Unsharp Mask. All this blurring demands some intense sharpening. So apply Unsharp Mask with a maximum Amount value of 500 percent and a Radius of 1.0 (to match the Gaussian Blur radius). This restores most of the definition to the edges, as shown in Figure 10-44.

5. Lower the layer's Opacity value. By itself, the filtered layer is a bit too smooth. So mix the filtered floater with the underlying original with an Opacity value between 30 and 50 percent. I found that I could go pretty high — 45 percent — with Cooper. Kids have clearly defined details that survive filtering quite nicely.

Figure 10-43: I captured this youthful fellow with a low-end digital camera equipped with a removable fish-eye lens. How innocent and happy he looks — obviously not a computer user.

Figure 10-44: Thanks to Median, Gaussian Blur, and Unsharp Mask, Cooper is a much smoother customer. In fact, he's beyond smooth — he's a gummy kid.

6. Merge the image. Press Ctrl+E to send the layer down.

7. Continue to correct the image as you normally would. The examples in Figure 10-45 show the difference between applying the Unsharp Mask filter to the original image (top) and the filtered mixture (bottom). In both cases, I applied an Amount value of 200 percent and a Radius of 1.0. The top photo displays an unfortunate wealth of artifacts — particularly visible in the magnified eye — while the bottom one appears smooth and crisp.

These steps work well for sharpening other kinds of compressed imagery, including old photographs that you over-compressed without creating backups, and images that you've downloaded from the Internet. If applying the Unsharp Mask filter brings out the goobers, try these steps instead.

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Digital Camera and Digital Photography

Digital Camera and Digital Photography

Compared to film cameras, digital cameras are easy to use, fun and extremely versatile. Every day there’s more features being designed. Whether you have the cheapest model or a high end model, digital cameras can do an endless number of things. Let’s look at how to get the most out of your digital camera.

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