For today’s post, I’m going to work on another quick project. I’ll fall back on two previous posts I wrote a while ago and use the lessons learned in them to take care of a few editing methods I’ll need for this one. Nothing is too difficult here, but a few steps need to be followed carefully.
Basically, the goal I have today is to isolate the bird in the photo below and sharpen it. While there are multiple methods for going about this, I’ll use the most efficient. Knowing that the bird is already in focus, while the background of the photo isn’t, I’ll take advantage of the Focus Area Selection feature inside of Photoshop. Then, once I’ve got the selection taken care of, I’ll move toward the actual sharpening of the bird. For that part, I’ll take advantage of the Smart Sharpen Filter feature. By the end of this post, you’ll hopefully have a clear picture of how you can use isolated ideas to complete a project like the one I’ll show you below.
For this post, I looked for a photo that had a distinction between the subject and the background. I think I hit the nail on the head with this one. I’m not sure you can get any more distinct. Now, just because both areas of this photo are fairly far apart from one another doesn’t mean I don’t need to take care when creating my selection. I did a few test runs of what I’d like to demonstrate below and I think you’ll be impressed by a few tips I’ll let you in on. This photo worked out perfectly for everything I’d like to include.
I’m going to move kind of fast through this post. Don’t let that stop you from learning everything you’d like to learn though. Below, I’ll give you a few links to posts that go into more depth than what I’ll share here. If interested, please go ahead and read through these additional resources.
Selecting with Focus Area
To select the bird in this image, I’ll head up to the Select > Focus Area menu item.
Once I click this menu item, the Focus Area dialog box will appear. Also, right after the dialog opens up, areas that aren’t in focus will begin being removed from the image.
Also, some of the bird may be inadvertently removed. To deal with how much of the out-of-focus area I want to get rid of, I’ll need to push the In-Focus Range slider around. For more on this, please refer to this post. I cover the concept more extensively there.
Next, I’ll use the small brushes to add material back to and remove it from the image. These two brushes are the ones that I outlined in red below. They have the small + and – in the icons.
Once I have pretty much all the out of focus background gone, I’ll change the Output drop-down selection to New Layer with Layer Mask and then click the Select and Mask button, which will bring me to an area where I can refine the edge of my selected area. If you’re interested in learning how to refine an edge of a selection in Photoshop, please check out the post I link to below. It’s really good and explains a lot.
Basically, by choosing the New Layer with Layer Mask option, Photoshop will take the selected area and turn it into a mask, which will give me flexibility in the future. By clicking on the Select and Mask button, I’ll have the ability to remove some of the jaggedness from the selection edges and smooth them out so they’re the way I’d like to see them in the final result.
After I finish refining the edge, I’ll press the OK button to close out the Refine Edge dialog box and to return to the normal workspace.
I’ll end up with this:
Just to let you know, all I did here was select the bird and then mask what was inside the selected area. It’s a very straightforward process that seems complicated because of the additional options I used. If necessary, I could have done all of these steps by hand. Good thing Photoshop comes with these built-in tools.
Also, since the bird is masked, I had to do some slight touching up with the paint brush, using black. By using black, I was able to remove some narrow areas between some feathers that weren’t removed with the Focus Area tool. It’s all good now.
Would you like to learn more about masks and masking inside of Photoshop? If so, I’ve got something for you.
Sharpening with Smart Sharpen
Okay, on to the fun stuff. Now that I have the bird isolated from the background, I can go ahead and sharpen it. To do this, I’ll first make sure the actual bird is selected in the Layers panel.
The reason I need to double check this is because it’s easy to overlook. Whatever is selected in the Layers panel is what will be sharpened, so it’s a good idea to be actually focused on the image itself.
Anyway, next, I’ll head up to the Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen menu item and click.
Doing this will open the Smart Sharpen dialog box.
For this section, I’ll follow the instructions I gave in this post. Those instructions cover the material in the top part of this dialog box. I’ll ignore the Shadows and Highlights sections because I really don’t need to change anything there.
I’ll go ahead and move the sliders for the sharpening aspects.
Finally, because I don’t see any types of obvious or mistaken blur in this image, I’ll leave the Remove area untouched. If there was some sort of gaussian, motion or lens blur in the image, I could attempt to remove some of it with this control. I’ll just head over to the OK button and click on it.
Once I’m back in the regular workspace, I can click the small eye that controls the layer visibility for the bottom layer.
This will turn the blurry background back on and I’ll be able to see the finished product.
Now, what’s really cool about this process is that I was able to separate the part of the photo that was in focus from the part of the photo that was out of focus. If I wanted to go for an even more extreme effect, I could duplicate the masked layer, invert the mask and blur the background. That would really make the bird pop out of the photo even more. For now though, I’ll leave things alone.
Basically, with this post, I wanted to show you a quick project workflow that would demonstrate how to sharpen just a part of a photo. As I stated above, there are a bunch of ways to do this and I chose just one. Perhaps in the future, I’ll go over other methods as well.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. As always, thanks for reading!