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88 Secrets of Photoshop — Add Detail in Camera Raw

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When working with the Camera Raw dialog, you should always take the time to switch over to the Detail tab. Here you can take precise control over both sharpening and reducing noise.

All raw images need sharpening. By default a value may be applied to the raw file based on a camera present. Noise, on the other hand, may not appear unless the image was shot with a high ISO setting. This is typically a problem when shooting under low light.

  1. To start, open an image into Camera Raw dialog.
  2. Click the Detail tab.
  3. Double-click the Zoom tool to see the image at 100% magnification. This makes it easiest to judge both sharpening and noise in the image.
  4. Use the controls in the Detail tab to adjust sharpening and bring out fine image details:
    • Amount. Increases definition at the edges of an image. Try a lower value for a cleaner image. The initial value is set when you open the file by the Camera Raw plug-in, based on camera model, ISO, and exposure compensation.
    • Radius. Be sure to use a low number for fine detail. If the photo lacks much detail, you can try increasing it.
    • Detail. Takes control of how much high-frequency information is sharpened in the image. This also affects how the edge details are emphasized.
    • Masking. Using a value of zero means that everything receives the same amount of sharpening in the image. A higher number is often desired as it limits the sharpening to those areas near the strongest edges.
Determine how much masking to use, by holding down the Option (Alt) key while dragging a slider.  Find a proper balance between the detailed and flat areas of the image.
Determine how much masking to use, by holding down the Option (Alt) key while dragging a slider. Find a proper balance between the detailed and flat areas of the image.
  1. Noise reduction controls can be used to remove extra grain from the image:
    • Luminance. Reduces luminance noise.
    • Luminance Detail. Sets an overall threshold for the noise reduction. Higher values preserve overall detail but can produce noise. Lower values tend to produce cleaner results but likely remove some details you want to keep.
    • Luminance Contrast. Works best for very noisy photos.
    • Color. Reduces color noise in the image.
    • Color Detail. Higher values protect detailed edges. A lower value preserves more color but can cause bleeding.
  2. Toggle the check box for Preview to see the before and after states.

The Detail tab can really bring out the finer elements in a shot and improve noise.

This post is a sneak peak from the new Photoshop book I’m writing with Scott. The book is a remake of his original best-seller “88 Secrets to Photoshop for Photographers. It will be available as iBook later this Spring.

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