How to 'Sharpen' without increasing 'Noise'

This is a tutorial on how to sharpen a slightly out-of-focus image WITHOUT increasing noise.

If you have an image that's just slightly out-of-focus, and you try to sharpen it by just using the standard 'sharpen' filter in Photoshop, then the result is often not very good as it will also increase any 'noise' that may be present in the image.

This is especially true of images that are high contrast and have been shot in low light levels with a high ISO setting.


One way round this problem is to use the following 'sharpening' method.......

1) Open your image in Photoshop

2) Make a duplicate of the 'background layer'

Go to 'Layers / Duplicate Layer'

3) Apply a 'High Pass Filter'

Go to 'Filter / Other / High Pass'

Set to approx. 3 pixel radius.

Press OK. The image will go grey - Don't worry this is normal

4) Go to 'Filter / Noise / Reduce Noise'

Set the sliders as follows:

Strength 10

Preserve Detail 7%

Reduce Color Noise 62%

Sharpen 0% (Yes, 0% !)

Check the box: 'Remove jpeg Artifacts'

Then press OK

5) Go to 'Filter / Sharpen / Smart Sharpen'

Set sliders to: Amount 215%

Radius 3.7 px

Reduce Noise 4%

Then press OK

6) Then go to the Drop-Down Blending Menu and select 'Linear Light'

The color image will return, but at this stage it will look very 'over sharpened'.

7) Go to the 'Opacity slider control' and move the slider between about 30% and 60% until your happy with the result.

8) Go to 'Layer / Flatten Image' to 'Flatten' your image.

9) Now save your image.

If you now go to the 'Photoshop History' list, you can click back-and-forth between 'open' at the top of the list and 'Flatten Image' at the bottom of the list.

This will show you how much you have sharpened your image.

You should also notice there is little or no difference in the amount of noise, but your image should look considerably sharper.

Now, if you want to also reduce the noise you can by using the following method:

1) Re-open your image in Photoshop

2) Make a duplicate of the 'background layer'

Go to 'Layers / Duplicate Layer'

3) Do this again to make another duplicate layer.

4) Then, drag the original 'Background Layer' to the bin and discard it.

5) Click back onto the top layer

6) Go to 'Filter / Noise / Reduce Noise'

Set sliders to: Strength - about 8

Preserve Detail - about 60%

Reduce Color Noise - about 80% (you may need to experiment with this setting)

Sharpen Details - set at less than 10%

Check the box: 'Remove jpeg artifacts'

Press OK

Look at the image at 100% magnification. The noise should look a lot better.

However, the image will have lost some of it's sharpness.

7) So, go to the 'layers list' and swap the layers around so the original image, ( the one without any noise reduction), is on top.

8) Click on the top layer

Select the 'Eraser' icon in the side menu. Select a large soft brush at 100% and 'rub through' on the areas with noise to reveal the layer below. Be careful to only do this on flat areas of noise that have no 'edge detail'

Once your happy with the overall result you can 'flatten' and then save your image.

I think you will find these two methods will help you to control the two things that seem to trouble digital photographers most: IMAGE NOISE and LACK OF SHARPNESS

Nile Crocodile - Botswana

Those teeth look sharp!!

Hope you find this useful. Print it off and have a go.

Steve Allen

Photo credits: Steve Allen.

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March 24, 2016


very good information really useful

June 23, 2015


Great useful article, thanks! So far I used high pass in combination with blur tool (for removing excessive noise), but it cannot work with images with a lot of details. I will definitely try these techniques!

April 25, 2015


Thank you for sharing your knowledge, brilliant

April 14, 2015


Thanks, I will definitely give it a try!

April 14, 2015


Very detailed tutorial. Thanks.

April 14, 2015


great advice. thanks

April 13, 2015


I will definitely try it. Thank you for the advise!

April 11, 2015


Thank you for this article! This is very useful and I look forward to trying this out on my next set of photos. :)

April 05, 2015


Useful article!!!

April 03, 2015


great article & very useful article, thanks

April 03, 2015


Thanks for sharing. Very nice article

April 03, 2015


thank you, I'm going to try this on a few shots that I'd otherwise tossed. cheers

March 31, 2015


Thanks for sharing. I will definitely give these techniques a try.

March 31, 2015


Thanks for the advice. Techniques are very useful. Not always easy to satisfy the reviewers of microstock.;-)
Great post

March 31, 2015


thanks..i will give it a try...

March 30, 2015


great post, I will try the sharpening method, thanks for sharing

March 30, 2015


Great tips. I myself use these. Thanks for sharing.

March 30, 2015


Very useful!!

March 30, 2015


Great article!

March 30, 2015


Very useful article, I'll try it. Thanks.

March 30, 2015


Thank you for the tips!

March 28, 2015


Thank you very much Steve. Its really helpful and wish you write many on this.
Cheers. :)

March 28, 2015


Very useful! Thank You!

March 27, 2015


great useful article thanks

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