"Macro Art In Nature"

Explorations in the artistic world of macro photography.

“Sharpening By Defining” – Selective Contrast Adjustments In Photoshop

This is a piece that I recently created for a buyer/designer.
(This is not the final product/piece. May be able to show that later.)

They wanted a certain type of floral image, something soft, certain areas that were defined, rich in color, etc.
This image looked good while using the Orton method, giving it the overall feel that they liked.
It still needed some noise reduction, so I ran it through “Noise Ninja” which worked wonders, but it got the fairly well defined petal edges a bit soft. Some “High Pass” sharpening took care of that, bringing them back with a defined edge that I initially had.
But, with the very small grains of pollen, that sharpening did not do much at all.
They were a bit to soft because of the noise reduction. High Pass sharpening did nothing with it, selective sharpening with USM really would not work, … so what did I do?

If you want something to look a bit sharper and you really can’t apply any USM or High Pass sharpening, you can define those edges to make something look sharper by dodging or burning, … or adjusting the contrast within a area of the image.
With this piece, I enlarged the duplicate layer on the screen to 100%.
I selectively “dodged” some of the grains of pollen, constantly changing the diameter of the tool and the hardness, the range and exposure, so that it would fit the size and look of the pollen grain I was working on, brightening them.
This gives the very edge of the pollen grains more definition from its surroundings, making them stand out a bit more, and when viewing from a distance, makes them look so much sharper and to really pop out.
This may not work for everything that you would like to sharpen up a bit more, but dodging and burning certain areas of a subject can work very well with some images.
In fact, … it was the brightening and defining the edges of those pollen grains that eventually convinced the buyer that “this is what they wanted”.
A tablet works wonders when it comes to detailed works such as this. Much better than a mouse!

© 2007 – Michael Brown
* Copying/downloading of images is prohibited.


So this season, if you have some of your macro images that needs a touch more details in certain areas but sharpening of any kind presents some problems, … try defining those edges by dodging and burning.
Works for me!

Paul Lester from North Carolina is coming down tomorrow and we are going to spend a day of shooting, goofing off, etc.
So, … I gotta get some things done here today before the “ol girl” here at home has a hissy tomorrow morning, so let me go.
Will get back with answering some questions tonight from posts earlier this week, and try to add more sites to the Google Reader I just added to make it easier to follow you guys and what you all are doing.

Take care everyone, and thanks for looking!

“Macro Art In Nature” – Website


March 30, 2007 - Posted by | abstract, art, blog, botanical, canon, composition, Digital, DSLR, fauna, Fine Art Nature Photography, flora, flowers, hiking, horticulture, insects, landscapes, life, macro, Macro Photographer, nature, Nature Photographer, outdoors, paintings, Photo Blog, photoblog, photography, photoshop, Wildlife | , , , , ,


  1. This is a great shot…..

    Comment by charliebrown8989 | March 30, 2007

  2. Your images never cease to amaze me, as well as your Photoshop skills!

    You betcha I’m coming down tomorrow! I’ve gotten all of my chores taken care of so that the ‘boss’ will let me go! :-)

    Comment by paul | March 30, 2007

  3. That’s a stunning image -the lighting just looks magical! Well done!!!

    Comment by Dalantech | March 30, 2007

  4. […] here’s a neat little Photoshop technique that I haven’t seen yet: Sharpening By Defining.  I talked about Photo Sharpening Techniques in a previous post, but what can you do when that […]

    Pingback by Comics, Alternative Sharpening, and Online Editors | Epic Edits Weblog | March 30, 2007

  5. I hope you and Mr. Lester post some joint effort images!

    Selective contrast adjustment is a technique I am growing more and more fond of. I suppose it has been around in one shape or form since the early days of darkrooms – which is why that little dodge tool is shaped like it is! It has a wonderful effect on this shot in particular Mike!

    Comment by Mark | March 31, 2007

  6. Beautiful. Simply stunning colors!
    Thanks for the Photoshop tip…

    Comment by S- | March 31, 2007

  7. Mike, Paul is another favorite photographer of mine, and I know you two will have a blast.

    Your generosity always rises to the surface. Thanks for the excellent PS tip. I agree with your thoughts on a graphics tablet, too. I have been using the Wacom Intuos3 for the past year or so and it’s so much more detailed than trying to use a mouse. Still have a lot to learn, though, and that’s why I appreciate the tips you share along the way. Thanks!

    Comment by Photo Buffet | March 31, 2007

  8. Thank you for the tips I will certainly give it a try. Beautiful image too, as always!

    Comment by Roberta | March 31, 2007

  9. Awesome images! So glad to have found your site. Your images are inspiring and makes me want to work harder at the craft so I can be just as good one day. I appreciate your tips, too.

    Comment by MaryLou | March 31, 2007

  10. Beautiful focussed detail. Thank you for commenting on my photo!

    Comment by Jeremy | April 1, 2007

  11. I come here every day and get totally inspired by your amazing photos. Thanks for letting find my style. Read you from Caracas, Venezuela.

    Comment by LV | April 1, 2007

  12. Thanks gang!
    Hope that this little tip may have opened a few eyes, and possibly to help those certain images that may need a touch of help with details in certain areas.

    Again, … many thanks everyone!

    Comment by macroartinnature | April 2, 2007

  13. striking! so wonderfully taken!

    Comment by sabinche | April 4, 2007

  14. Stunning Mike… spring not here yet still just barely above 0 deg C if i dont catch ya.. Happy easter my friend ^.^

    Comment by Leisa | April 4, 2007

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