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Sharp-Dressed Man: professional sharpeni... > Sharpening Close-Up Portraits of Wom...

Sharpening Close-Up Portraits of Women

If you need to sharpen a close-up portrait but want to keep your subject’s skin as smooth as possible, here’s a technique used by fashion photographers and retouchers that enables them to apply sharpening without overly enhancing pores, wrinkles, or any imperfections in the skin. It’s simple, but it works.

Step One.
Open the close-up portrait you want to sharpen using this technique.


Step Two.
If you apply sharpening to the RGB composite, or even the luminosity of the image, you wind up accentuating the texture of the skin (which is a bad thing if your goal is to keep the skin looking smooth).

Step Three.
To avoid accentuating the skin texture, go to the Channels palette and click on the Red channel to make it active. Now when you apply the Unsharp Mask filter, the sharpening only is applied to this channel.

Step Four.
Why only the Red channel? In portraits, the Red channel usually contains the least amount of edge detail and definition, and sharpening just this channel sharpens the areas you want (the eyes, lips, etc.) without having too much effect on the skin (leaving it smooth). In the capture shown here, the Blue channel is selected, and you can see her skin texture clearly. Sharpen this channel, and you intensify that texture.

Step Five.
In the capture shown here, the Green channel is selected, and although the texture isn’t as pronounced as in the Blue channel, it’s still more distinct than in the Red channel.

Step Six.
Here’s the final portrait (below right), using the Unsharp Mask filter on the Red channel only. The original image (below left) is also shown for reference.

The original portrait.

The portrait sharpened on just the Red channel to avoid overly accentuating the skin texture.



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