Sharpening Photos for the Web

Saving images for the web is a completely different work flow than if you were processing for prints, or any other large scale display. When you reduce the size of an image, the sharpness of the image can be reduced due to the fact there are less pixels to display. There are many different methods for sharpening your photographs for the web. We are going to cover 4 different processes: Sharpen, High Pass Filter,  Adamus Sharpening Technique, and Luko’s Sharpening.

The following edits were done in Adobe Photoshop.

Method #1 – Sharpen

This is one of the easier Sharpening techniques. It is good for beginners and for online photo contests where you need to make adjustments evenly throughout the image.

Go to Filter->Sharpen->Sharpen

There are no settings to mess around with! That’s it!


Method #2 – High Pass Filter

Duplicate your image layer.

With the top layer selected go to Filter->Other->High Pass…

Adjust the Radius so that the lines in the photograph are visible. If you start to see colours,  your radius is probably too high. For our example, we choose “0.7”

Change the opacity of the top layer to “overlay”.

Flatten your image by going to Layer->Flatten Image

High Pass Filter

Method #3 – Adamus Sharpening Technique (Marc Adamus)

This technique is quite simple to use. Reduce your image to twice the size of the desired output. For example, if your final image will be 800 pixels wide, reduce your image to 1600 pixels wide. In Photoshop, go to Image->Image Size. For our example, we will change our image size to 1600 pixels high since it’s a vertical image.

Next, go to Filter->Sharpen->Sharpen. Repeat this step 2 more times. (Filter->Sharpen->Sharpen, Filter->Sharpen->Sharpen)

The final step is to resize your image to half of it’s current size.  Go to Image->Image Size. For this example, we will change our image size to 800 pixels high.

The results for this sharpening technique can be varied. Sometimes you may want to Sharpen less than 3 times.


Adamus Sharpening

Method #4 – Luko’s Sharpening

This is the method I use religiously. I have modified the settings to suit my own taste, but the steps remain the same.

Go to Filter->Sharpen->Unsharp Mask: Amount 18%, Radius 40 pixels, Threshold 0 levels.
Go to Filter->Sharpen->Unsharp Mask: Amount 150%, Radius 0,3 pixels, Threshold 0 levels.
Next, go to Edit->Fade Unsharp Mask: Opacity 100%, Mode “Darken”
Again go to Filter->Sharpen->Unsharp Mask: Amount 150%, Radius 0,3 pixels, Threshold 0 levels.
Finally, go to Edit->Fade Unsharp Mask: Opacity 50%, Mode “Lighten”

Sometimes, if I feel the image has been over sharpened, I will go back in the history, step by step, and determine at which point the image looks best. It is not uncommon for me to only use the first 3 steps.

Luko's Sharpening

The best way to compare sharpening techniques is to try them out yourself. Alternatively, feel free to toggle back and forth between images using different tabs in your internet browser. The full size images (800 pixels by 533 pixels) from this tutorial can be viewed below.

Web Sized Image – Original

Web Sized Image – Sharpen

Web Sized Image – High Pass Filter

Web Sized Image – Adamus Sharpening

Web Sized Image – Luko’s Sharpening

I hope you have found this Sharpening tutorial useful.

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  1. […] some of the edges may have become soft. If you are unsure which method to use, please consult our Sharpening Photos for the Web […]