How to 'Sharpen' without increasing 'Noise'

posted on 27th of march, 2015

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


Those teeth look sharp!!

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

Comments (25)

Posted by Bhabotoshchakraborty on March 24, 2016
very good information really useful
Posted by Jasmina976 on 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!
Posted by Pamjreynolds on April 25, 2015
Thank you for sharing your knowledge, brilliant
Posted by Kingtrac on April 14, 2015
Thanks, I will definitely give it a try!
Posted by Haotian on April 14, 2015
Very detailed tutorial. Thanks.
Posted by Litifeta on April 14, 2015
great advice. thanks
Posted by Kikiritkata on April 13, 2015
I will definitely try it. Thank you for the advise!
Posted by Diast1980 on 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. :)
Posted by FabioConcetta on April 05, 2015
Useful article!!!
Posted by Onime on April 03, 2015
great article & very useful article, thanks
Posted by Mpalis on April 03, 2015
Thanks for sharing. Very nice article
Posted by Yourlettertome on April 03, 2015
thank you, I'm going to try this on a few shots that I'd otherwise tossed. cheers
Posted by Adeliepenguin on March 31, 2015
Thanks for sharing. I will definitely give these techniques a try.
Posted by Osmar01 on March 31, 2015
Thanks for the advice. Techniques are very useful. Not always easy to satisfy the reviewers of microstock.;-)
Great post
Posted by Helgidinson on March 31, 2015
thanks..i will give it a try...
Posted by Serjedi on March 30, 2015
great post, I will try the sharpening method, thanks for sharing
Posted by Mrhighsky on March 30, 2015
Great tips. I myself use these. Thanks for sharing.
Posted by Elxaval on March 30, 2015
Very useful!!
Posted by Perstock on March 30, 2015
Great article!
Posted by Jimmypontoh on March 30, 2015
Very useful article, I'll try it. Thanks.
Posted by 82cen82 on March 30, 2015
Very useful! Thank You!
Posted by Web1tech on March 30, 2015
Thank you for the tips!
Posted by Henrymm on March 28, 2015
Thank you very much Steve. Its really helpful and wish you write many on this.
Cheers. :)
Posted by Viocara on March 28, 2015
Very useful! Thank You!
Posted by Fallostupido on March 27, 2015
great useful article thanks

Comments (25)

This article has been read 4721 times. 25 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Steve Allen.

About me

I was a professional Industrial / Commercial photographer for over 26 years, before leaving commissioned work to become a full-time Stock Photographer. I first started shooting stock in 1972 as a supplement to my commissioned work, however, since early 2001 my entire income has come from shooting Stock images. I now have just over 100,000 image placements in my current multi-agency portfolio. Most of my income comes from the range of mainstream agencies I submit to. The 21 microstock sites I submit to now produce about 30% of my total income. Dreamstime sales account for abo... [Read more]

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