Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs

 

Workflow Technique #066

EasyS (Plus) Sharpening Toolkit (PC & Mac)

A sharpening solution by Digital Outback Photo




note by Uwe Steinmueller

 
 
Note: There are now two alternative toolkits: EasyS and EasyS Plus (Plus improves on EasyS)
 
Latest update: 11/5/2005
 

As you now know sharpening is needed for digital images and there are many good ones to choose from. In 2004 we introduced our first own sharpening tool EasyS that many people love for high resolution nature photographs.

The EasyS Sharpening Toolkit is based on the same technology used in EasyS but uses a very flexible toolkit approach.

EasyS Sharpening Toolkit now improves on EasyS in the following areas:

• File size only limited by Photoshop
• More easily scriptable
• Fast operation
• Flexible tuning

Sharpening by the numbers

The EasyS Sharpening Toolkit does not support an interactive user interface with sharpening preview. This sounds limiting, right? But actually we work for a very long time with sharpening actions and create sharpened layers that we then tweak via opacity changes. Also if you use additional techniques like edge masking and/or halo tweaking then what you see in the (sometimes even small) sharpening window is not what you will get.


EasyS Sharpening Toolkit

EasyS Sharpening Toolkit consists of two parts:

• EasyS Sharpening Engine (a Photoshop automation plugin)
• EasyS Sharpening actions (intended to be tweaked for your own optimal results)

The EasyS Sharpening Engine

With the EasyS Engine you can actually only choose two parameters:

• Radius (0.05-3.0)
• Amount (5-300)

But the EasyS Engine is not just using plain USM:


Here is a sample:



USM 220,1.5,0



EasyS Engine 220/1.5

Don’t expect huge differences but looking at fine detail will show that our engine works smoother and still captures the finest details available. We also mange to produce very low halo levels. Best you use a demo version and try on your own images (how to get a demo version see below).


EasyS Sharpening Actions

Note: Do not rename the action set!



EasyS Sharpening Actions

The actions come in 4 sections:

• User actions with levels L(ow), N(ormal) and H(igh)
• Helper actions

These levels are thought to be tweaked by the user and we will show how later. You also can copy the actions and create your own combinations. That is why we have called it a toolkit.


Each level consists of 6 actions:

  • (1) Sharpen (L,N.H) which defines the base sharpening for the level and sharpens on the currently selected layer
  • (2) Sharpen (halo normal, new layer) (L,N.H) creates a new layer with the content of all visible layers and then uses the sharpening defined in (1)
  • (3) Sharpen (halo normal, new layer with Mask) (L,N.H) creates a new layer with the content of all visible layers and then uses the sharpening defined in (2) and adds an edge mask
  • (4) Sharpen (halo dark, new layer) is like (2) but only shows dark halos
  • (5) Sharpen (halo control, new layer) is like (2) but and then tweaks the dark/light halos which are the result of the sharpening process (see below in more detail).
  • (6) Sharpen (halo control, new layer with Mask) (L,N.H) creates a new layer with the content of all visible layers and then uses the sharpening defined in (5) and adds an edge mask

Tweaking the actions

Setting the sharpening strength

You just need to double click on the filter entry in the base sharpening actions (1)

and this will open the EasyS Engine dialog:

There you change the value to the ones you prefer and the EasyS Engine will be executed. After that the new settings will be recorded in the action and used by all other actions of the same level.

Note: If you make specialized versions for different camera settings then it is best to roll you own actions from a copy of the standard actions.


Changing the light/dark halo levels

What does sharpening actually do? It adds the impression of more sharpness by increasing the contrast at edges. This means some of the pixel will get lighter and some darker.

Note on sharpening and halos: We actually follow the philosophy that artifacts that don't show up at 100% cannot be visible in print. We know you can sharper stronger than that for most inkjet printers. But does it look natural? Try to avoid over sharpening and concentrate on the content message. Halos you see on screen may show up on print and best you try to minimize them at nearly any cost.

We allow you to control how strong you want to have the lighter pixels and the darker. We always find the lighter pixels more an issue than the darker ones.

There are two actions that help you to control this behavior:

• halo_light
• halo_dark



Halo settings

Both actions have 5 predefined settings: 0, 25, 50, 75, 100%. Only one setting should be active as otherwise the last on in the action will be chosen. We use 100% for halo_dark and 25,50,75 for halo_light.

For some images you may want to use only the hard halos and set the halo_light to 0%. A more efficient way it to turn the generation of the light halo off entirely:



Turning off light halo generation


Default opacity

We most of the time use slightly too strong sharpening then control the real sharpening by tuning the opacity of the layer. Our “opacity default” action allows you to set a default value for your own standard opacity settings.

You can even popup a dialog and tweak opacity when the actions are executed:



Activate the little dialog icon

Tuning actions

There are 2 tuning action provided:

• Make_Edge_Mask (adds an edge mask that suppresses some sharpening of noise). You can add the mask later after the sharpening.
• Add_Micro_Detail_Snap adds some USM to get even more micro detail snap. Run this action as an optional step at the end of your sharpening.

Sample Sessions

Sample 1



Full image (Canon 1D Mk. II)



Not sharpened from the raw converter



Result from action (2) H

The bright part of the sharpening is a bit on the aggressive side for our personal taste.



Results from action (3) H with halo_white at 25%

The Noise gets a bit amplified (would hardly show in print though).



Results from action (4) H with halo_white at 25%


Sample 2



Full image (Grasshopper Point in Sedona, Canon 1Ds Mk. II))



Not sharpened from the raw converter



Action (2) H



Action (3) H

The differences are subtle but show that the last version is less aggressive.


Sample 3



Crop from an original file (San Juan Bautista, H1 + Phase One P25)



Not sharpened



Action (3) N with 25% halo_white



Action (3) N with 75% halo_white

You probably can see that EasyS Sharpening Toolkit can resolve wonderful details in the fine foliage.


Summary

With EasyS Sharpening Toolkit we provide a sharpening solution that is very flexible and for the demanding photographer.

Best you try yourself on your own images. We provide a full working demo version that is only limited by the image size of 2000x2000 pixels. Try before you buy.


Demo version

We have a demo version of the full set available. The demo version is full functioning but limited to 2000x2000 pixels. To experience the toolkit just crop or downsize your test images.

How to Order

You can order the full version at $29.95 from here.

Note: Current EasyS users get the new solution for the upgrade price of $14.95.


 

News

4/16/2005 Actions now in version 1.02

We improved the integration of the edge mask with the sharpening filter by adding 6 new actions. The actions that use the edge mask have a low tendency to sharpen noise. Our actions have now version numbers (right now 1.02). This means your old action set and the new actions can be used both at the same time, you do not lose your old settings.

All current users can get the new action set by downloading the latest demo version and just replace the current action set. The new actions are described in the manual. Read the full article.


 

1/26/2005 Now also for Mac

The latest version is now also working for the Mac. Our delivery includes both versions.


 

1/15/2005 New action set

We fine tuned our actions. All current users can get the new action set by downloading the latest demo version and just replace the current action set. The new actions are described above and in the manual.


 

1/8/2005 Minor Tweak

My friends Jim and Jack inspired me to add a tuning action that can get some more slight snap to fine details (micro local contrast). We added it to our EasyS Sharpening Toolkit actions. All current users can get the new action set by downloading the latest demo version and just replace the current action set.

11/5/2005 EasyS Plus

We just released a new product EasyS Plus Sharpening Toolkit that even improves on EasyS.

Please check it out. EasyS Plus includes the functionality of EasyS.


 
 
 
 

   

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