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How To Make Your Photos Look Clear And SHARP in Photoshop

How To Make Photos Look Clear and Sharp in Photoshop | #tutorial #photography

One of the top questions I receive from readers and other bloggers is how I get my photos to look so “clear”. (Or at least, that’s the word that’s always used.)  Most of them assume that it’s due to the camera or a specific lens. And I would say that it’s probably due in part to my macro lens. But I’m pretty sure that what they are noticing is a tiny tweak I do to sharpen my photos that doesn’t actually use the “sharpen” button at all.

It’s all about noise reduction (with a tiny bit of sharpening thrown in).

I have taught probably a few dozen bloggers how to do this little trick that I literally stumbled upon one day by accident, and they all now swear by it. The one catch is that it works best on smaller images (not high-res). But if you’re editing images for the web that are sized-down, it’ll work like a charm.

Here’s the tutorial:

How To Make Photos Look Clear and Sharp in Photoshop | #tutorial #photography

1. Begin by opening up your image, and making whatever lighting, saturation, etc. changes you would like to it. Also go ahead and resize the photo to whatever size you would like. (Most of my photos are 576 pixels wide.)

How To Make Photos Look Clear and Sharp in Photoshop | #tutorial #photography

2. Make sure that you have selected the background image on the bottom right-hand corner in the “Layers” menu, since that is the layer we will be adjusting.

How To Make Photos Look Clear and Sharp in Photoshop | #tutorial #photography

3. Then go to the upper menu bar, select Filter > Noise > Reduce Noise.

How To Make Photos Look Clear and Sharp in Photoshop | #tutorial #photography

4. And this little box will pop up. I often drag it over to the side a bit so that I can see how the original image changes while I play with adjustments. (That is, assuming I have the “preview” button checked.)

How To Make Photos Look Clear and Sharp in Photoshop | #tutorial #photography

5. And now you have options.

My main priorities are to have “Strength” way up high (usually on 9), “Preserve Details” pretty low (usually around 10-20), “Reduce Color Noise” way-hay-hay down low (usually around 1-5, or else your colors will fade). I pretty much leave those three options set and rarely change them.

The one slider I do adjust from image to image is the “Sharpen Details”. Depending on the size of your image, this one can be pretty sensitive, so go with whatever looks good to you. Basically, it is a similar feature to the “Sharpen Mask” feature on Photoshop.

How To Make Photos Look Clear and Sharp in Photoshop | #tutorial #photography

6. And then once you click “Ok”, you’re done!

How To Make Photos Look Clear and Sharp in Photoshop | #tutorial #photography

I know that the difference in photos may seem microscopic. But I really notice it. I notice how it kind of smoothes out a few rough edges and just general makes everything appear more clean and crisp. Although with the sharpening feature built in, you can see get that slight extra sharpening that you might want on a photo.

The one thing I don’t recommend is setting this up as an automatic action in Photoshop. I can almost guarantee that you will want to adjust the sharpening ever-so-slightly from photo to photo. But it takes me about 10 seconds total, so I’d say it’s worth the time.

If you give it a try, I’d love to hear what you think on this one. Good luck!

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23 comments on “How To Make Your Photos Look Clear And SHARP in Photoshop”

  1. Wooww nice info.. Thanks for the trick!

  2. Oh my gosh, I love this! Your photography tutorials are awesome. And much needed by me. Keep them coming! 

  3. Hi there!  I just ran across your article via Pinterest and I am so happy I did!  I’m brand new to Photoshop and Lightroom, and teaching myself how to enhance images, etc. and this among other articles you’ve written have REALLY helped!  Thank you so much and I look forward to keeping up to date with your site!

  4. Interesting, although it seems like a bit of a production. The after photo looks nice though. :)

  5. Thanks for your great tutorial.
    It helps me alot!…..

  6. Thank you for this tip!!

  7. I shall give this ago, fed up of my photos not looking as clear as they should, but are focused etc.  Thank you for the info.

  8. Enhorabuena por la entrada. Me ha sido de gran utilidad.

    Estaría bien que todos los blogueros aportaran una entrada tan inteligentemente expresado como el suyo.
    De nuevo, Enhorabuena. Saludos :)

  9. There’s an easier way in Lightroom you know… Sharpness.

  10. Fantastic post! Thanks so much for sharing. I’m going to play with this function for sure!

  11. your make-photos-look-clear-sharp-photoshop post is really informative. this is a good resource and very effective article. I have got a more necessary idea from your article. thank you for this post

  12. May I ask what kind of camera you use?

    • Hi Bonnie! Yes, we think everything you’ll want to know is under the “equipment” section of this page:

  13. I love Your Tutorials! Your photography tutorials are awesome. thank for help us all

  14. I like it and I will need more like this to inspire me.