The Esoterics of Image Sharpening

I’ve been working on clearing out my huge backlog of photos. I’ve been trying to streamline my process as much as I can in order to get the pictures out the door. As it stands right now, I use no fewer than four programs to get a picture from my camera to the internet:

  • Adobe Lightroom: 99% of all editing
  • Adobe Photoshop: Image sharpening
  • Microsoft Pro Photo Tools: Geotagging
  • Flickr Uploadr: Image uploading

There’s some overlap in what Lightroom and Photoshop can do in terms of sharpening. However, I was curious to see what the actual differences are.

On the right is the regular image, as exported from Lightroom, with no sharpening.

In the middle is the image exported from Lightroom with the maximum amount of sharpening for the screen1.

On the left is the regular image, as exported from Lightroom, with the 100% of the “Smart Sharpen” filter applied with default settings.

Here’s the image at 100% normal:
Can you tell the difference?

Here’s the same image, enlarged to almost 250%:

Looking at the eyes, you can definitely tell the difference. It also make a big difference in the hair too. However, I wonder if the Photoshop Smart Sharpen is adding too much grain? Sure, the eyes don’t look as good, but the cheeks seem more natural.

Like I said, esoteric.

Another issue also cropped2 up with the differences in saving a JPEG at “12” (super best quality, there is no higher quality) versus “8” (just high quality). As it turns out, not as much difference as I had expected. The file size is also reduced by about 7 times as well.

Another thought, what happens when you save a JPEG over and over again? Hadto solves the question, or raises more questions, with his video Generation Loss, in which he “Open the last saved jpeg image. Save it as a new jpeg image with slightly more compression. Repeat 600 times”:

Generation Loss from hadto on Vimeo.

And yes, these are honestly the things that keep me awake at night.

  1. versus print 

  2. no pun intended, I swear 

Technology on the Go

Dateline Florence, Italy.

Most people were surprised that I wasn’t taking my computer with me, but the reality of the situation is that I don’t really need my tablet to check email, update my blog, check my RSS feeds, or chat online.

What I took with me:

Firefox Portable extracts straight to the thumbdrive.

You can install Skype straight to the thumbdrive too (or just copy Skype.exe from your existing installation), however you will also need to create a BAT file to make sure it loads your profile. On my thumbdrive, I have a folder called Phone with Skype.exe inside. I also have a BAT file called skype.BAT. In skype.BAT, copy and paste this code:

skype.exe /datapath:"Data" /removable

Then create a new directory in Phone called Data. Skype will now use that location to store your profile. This is very important when you start using computers in places like Italy where the computer language is set to Italian.

PuTTY is an open source SSH client I use to connect to various computer systems, such as my site.

Flickr Uploadr is what I use to upload my wonderful pictures. The downside of Flickr Uploadr is that I have to authorize on every computer I use it on. This is not that big of a deal as I just deauthorize when I’m done. But it does beat using the web interface every time.

There are also a number of websites I use:

Easy. Simple. Free.