"Macro Art In Nature"

Explorations in the artistic world of macro photography.

Over Sharpening Images For Effects

I belong to a very small group of 16 photographers who are scattered about the world, who usually will get on line maybe once a week for a bit of a chat on photography, and some fun also. It is a invitation only group, highly charged, but the respect most certainly is there for all. A wonderful group!

In recent weeks, we have been talking about sharpening and the discussion came up about how some go to far with their sharpening. But, it also came to our attention that there are those who use intentional oversharpening for effects.
I am sure that this has been used by some photographers for a long time, but not by many.
It seems that a oversharpened image is immediately frowned upon by “many”, and those who are doing the viewing simply write it off as someone who did not know what they were doing, ….. or screwed up!
To many will harshly judge a print without ever knowing what the creator’s intentions were.

For myself, I will oversharpen a image in a heartbeat. I love the effects it can give a image, but it does not work for every image you may have.
For a image with color, it seems to be quite difficult (at least for me) to obtain something that appeals to my eyes. Now take that same image and convert it to something along the black & white or sepia range, and it can become a whole different ball game!
Some images will look great on the screen, … but in print? Terrible!
Some may look good as a 8×10, maybe a 11×14, … but go larger and they start to look funky.
The largest I have printed up with a very high amount of sharpening was a 13×19 that was acceptable, and looked somewhat old and antique looking.
It is something that you simply have to experiment with and get a feel for.

The two images here are examples that I have on hand at the moment.

© 2005 – Michael Brown
* Copying/downloading of images is prohibited.

“Marsh & Grass” – Abstract

The marsh landscape/abstract type image here was took early one morning and right off the ocean.
The golden glow coming from the morning sun was hitting the tops of the grasses that were layden with moisture. It almost looked like a neon light on top of the grass/reeds.
Looking at it in color did not do much for me, but converting it over to a black & white using the channel mixer in Photoshop did the trick. Still, I wanted those longs blades of grass to jump out at me even more and to make the glow at the top of the image to stand out. Oversharpening did the trick and bringing about some wonderful details in the grass, but it also helped to enhance that glow at the top, and even the highlights found with the banks of the marsh itself. It simply helped it to pop!
My tastebuds also likes the grainy feel you can get from oversharpening.

The image of the leaf sitting on top of some beautiful fern type moss is one that I thought looked great using this method.

© 2005 – Michael Brown
* Copying/downloading of images is prohibited.
“Leaf & Moss”

The original was almost to rich in color and especially in the green background, and something about it I simply did not like.
Converting it almost to a sepia look by desaturating and eliminating all of the green brought about something more appealing to me, but it was the oversharpening of the background that made this one pop for me. The textures of the fern/moss really stood out and helped to enhance the overall image. Well, … for me, … I liked it!
Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but I do like this method with some images.

So whenever you see a image that is highly sharpened, before judging it harshly, remember that this may be the creator’s vision, and just what he wanted when he released the shutter.
I often will shoot something now with intentional sharpening in mind. Gives me many more chances to get a bit creative!

Hope this has given some of you some ideas, …. now go out there and create something wonderful!!
Thanks for looking gang!

(This post does not have the original “Blogger” comments, as they would not automatically transfer when the move was made to “WordPress”.)

“Macro Art In Nature” – Website

January 17, 2007 - Posted by | abstract, art, blog, botanical, canon, composition, Digital, DSLR, Fine Art Nature Photography, flora, flowers, horticulture, landscapes, life, macro, Macro Photographer, nature, Nature Photographer, outdoors, Photo Blog, photoblog, photography, photoshop | , , , , ,


  1. Agree with you that sometimes it is the best way to make image pop. On occasion I use high pass filter to enhance sharpening effect.

    Comment by Andriy | January 17, 2007

  2. I agree also, that the high pass sharpening really does the trick on most, but maybe not as much grain is added as with USM, which is sometimes exactly what you might want.
    I have used HP before, and then add a touch of USM for a bit more grainy effect.
    It’s just something that is fun/interesting to do with “some” images.

    And, … thanks for the comment. Really do appreciate it!

    Comment by macroartinnature | January 17, 2007

  3. glad to see I’m not the only one that appreciates this technique.. I use it often and usually increase the brightness/contrast too.. then I call them ‘studies’.. they’ve sold quite well at my shows because they’re different.. and people like different. I use the blur effect quite a bit too, so I’m really enjoying your tecnique posts. I’ve barely scratched the surface of what photoshop can do and it’s fun to play.. and fun to share, thanks for sharing Mike!

    Comment by Cindy | January 19, 2007

  4. Thanks Cindy!
    I need to stop by your place and check it out again!! :)

    Comment by macroartinnature | January 22, 2007

  5. The bottom one looks different, but because the leaf itself isn’t oversharpened, I would not have guessed that was the technique used to create the image. The top image is just beautiful. Must go play…….

    Comment by Roberta | January 25, 2007

  6. Une autre superbe photo, le traitement est parfait…ah que j’aimerais comprendre l’anglais, il me semble que vous expliquez le traitement utilisé, je me trompe?

    Comment by Manon | April 9, 2007

  7. Interesting article and definitely something that I’ll be trying – please feel free to add to http://www.photographyvoter.com

    Comment by Paul | April 18, 2007

  8. As always, Michael, a really interesting idea. I’ve never thought of using over-sharpening as a tool – it’s always something I’ve tended to avoid for the reasons you stated. But it’s clear looking at your images that it’s a very worthwhile approach for some images. It just goes to show that there really are NO rules as long as you know the rules. Very cool. Thanks!

    Comment by Christopher Scholl | June 8, 2007

  9. An interesting thing I learned a while back is that what you see on a monitor and what you see as output from a printer are two distinctly different things. For print I’ll sharpen far more than what you would pursue for online display. That being said to your point I like the idea of oversharpening as a stylistic tool particularly for online display. I can see how this would work exceptionaly well for duotones and black & white photos where texture takes center stage. Great write up.

    Comment by Jim Goldstein | June 20, 2007

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