Fixing Soft Focus in Photoshop

Cameras are much more likely to generate a soft focus under low light. The Smart Sharpen filter has the most options of any sharpening filter built into Photoshop. It allows you to choose the sharpening algorithm as well as control the amount of sharpening in shadow and highlight areas. This filter can produce dramatically better quality, but do not expect results like you see in a TV police drama.

1. Open the Sharpen1.tif file, available with other sample images in this downloadable ZIP archive, and zoom the document window to 100%. This will give you the most accurate view of the sharpening.


2. Choose Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen and select the Advanced radio button.

3. Click and drag the image in the preview window so you can better see the wood texture.

4. Adjust the controls in the Sharpen tab:



. Sets the amount of sharpening. A higher value increases contrast between edge pixels, which gives the appearance of more sharpness.


. Determines the number of pixels surrounding the edge pixels that will be affected by the sharpening. A greater radius value means that edge effects will be more obvious, as will the sharpening.


. Allows you to set the sharpening algorithm to be used:

Gaussian Blur.

Is used by the Unsharp Mask filter. It works well on images that appear slightly out of focus.

Lens Blur.

Detects edges and detail in an image. It provides finer sharpening of detail and can reduce halos caused by sharpening.

Motion Blur.

Attempts to reduce the effects of blur caused by camera or subject movement. You will need to set the Angle control if you choose Motion Blur.


. Set this to match the direction of motion. It’s only available when using the Remove control’s Motion Blur option.

More Accurate

. Allows Photoshop to spend more time processing the file. It generates more accurate results for the removal of blurring.

5. You can refine the sharpening of dark and light areas—try using the Shadow and Highlight tabs. These controls should be used if you start to see halos in light or dark areas:

Fade Amount.

Adjusts the amount of sharpening in the highlights or shadows regions.

Tonal Width

. Controls the range of tones in the shadows or highlights that are modified. Smaller values restrict the adjustments to smaller regions.


. Controls the size of the area around each pixel that determines if a pixel is considered a shadow or a highlight. Moving the slider to the left specifies a smaller region; moving the slider to the right defines a larger region.

6. When you’re satisfied, click OK to apply the filter.

Be sure to also check out the book and video training bundle —
Understanding Adobe Photoshop CS6: The Essential Techniques for Imaging Professionals