How to Sharpen a Photo using the High Pass Filter in Photoshop

Peggy Farren 2014-01-05

There are many ways to sharpen a photograph. Using the high pass filter in Photoshop or Elements is one of my favorite sharpening techniques. Many digital photographs will require some level of sharpening. Luckily, this is a fairly simple procedure.

Open your image and in the layer panel, right click and create a new layer from the background with Duplicate layer.

This box will come up, click OK to create your new layer.

SCREEN1.5 duplicate layer

Go to the filter tab on the top menu. Scroll to Other and down to High Pass. SCREEN2 filter

Select the radius. A radius between 0.5 and 3.0 is preferred. For most images, a setting of 1.2 is just about right to sharpen the image to perfect clarity. The amount of the sharpening is up to you, but too much will make the image pixellated or develop artifacts. SCREEN2.5 filter radius

At the top menu again, go to Image -Adjustments - Hue/Saturation.

SCREEN3 hue saturation

Set the Saturation to zero (it should already be on zero). This will stop any color fringing. Sharpening of the image is almost done. SCREEN3.5 hue saturation

Lastly, you will set the Blending Mode. This adjustment is found in the Layers panel at the top. SCREEN4 blending options

You have a choice between Overlay, Soft Light or Hard Light. Overlay is the average level of sharpening. Soft Light is the mildest sharpening effect. Hard Light is a more dramatic sharpen filter effects. If you find yourself needing still more sharpening effects, try a Vivid Light blending mode. While dramatic, the Vivid Light blending filter can be easily over powering.

SCREEN4.5 blending options

Finally, there is the fine tuning of the High Pass filter effect. This is done with an adjustment of the opacity value. This control is found on the Layer panel right at the top. It goes from 0% to 100% effect. If you lower the level of the opacity to soften the sharpening effect. If you raise the level of the opacity than you will raise the amount of sharpening. Layers palate:

SCREEN6 opacity

With this simple technique your photos will look more detailed and crisper. This skill helps to move your photography into the realm of the professional and out of the hobbyist. Try it for yourself to see how easy it is to do.

BEFORE: IMG_0258 for High Pass BEFORE

AFTER: IMG_0258 for High Pass AFTER

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