Elja Trum

Enhancing portraits; sharpening the eyes

saturday 8 January 2011, 15:21 by | 6881 times read | 0 comments

The eyes are the most important subject in a portrait shot. The way your subject looks is an important part of a photo and can make the difference between a good and a bad shot. Getting the eyes in focus is therefore a big part in getting a good shot. We can amplify the effect of the eyes even more by sharpening the a little extra in post processing.

There are many ways by which you can sharpen the eyes. Most don't even take a minute work when you've done it a couple of times. In this tutorial you'll find an easy method for eye sharpening to give your portrait a little extra.

This tutorial was made with Photoshop CS2 on a Windows XP computer, but other versions work just as well in the same manner. When you're using an Apple computer, replace the CRTL-key by the Apple-key.

  1. Open the portrait in Photoshop.

  2. Create a copy of the image in a new layer. Do so by pressing CRTL - J.

  3. We are going to put some extreme sharpening on this copied layer. Go into the menu; Filter -> Sharpen -> Smart sharpen.

    Enter values that make the sharpening effect extremely visible. The complete photo will look over sharpened, but that doesn't matter. Exact values my vary depending on photo and the number of pixels in your image. For instance; you can use Amount: 115% and Radius: 5.4 pixels.


    Please note: You can use any sharpening method you like. The same results can be accomplished by using Unsharp Mask, for instance.

  4. Place a Layer mask over the sharpened layer.
    While pressing the ALT-key, click on the 'Add layer mask' icon in the lower half of the layers palet (red circled icon in the image) or use the menu: Layer -> Layer Mask -> Hide All. This way sharpened effect is hidden by the layer mask and the layer underneath is shown.

  5. Zoom in on the eyes and switch to a white brush (B). Use a soft edge to bring back the sharpness from the top layer where you want it. Brush over the eyes to apply the sharpening effect here, but you can use it to make jewellery stand out also.


  6. Switch you brush to 50% opacity (5) and brush over the eyelashes and eyebrow to highlites these with some extra sharpening. Using the same sharpening as with the eyes is often overdoing it.

  7. By switching on and off the sharpened layer (press the eye-icon in front of the top layer) you can view the before and after image. When you think you've overdone the effect you can lower the opacity of the top layer. This way the effect will be less obvious.
You can view the end result from these steps below. Move you mouse over the image to see the unsharpened version of this photo. The effect is subtle but it really helps to make her eyes stand out!

Brenda sharpened

Elja Trum

About the author

Elja Trum is founder of Photofacts and author of a Dutch book on black-and-white photography. In his daily life he is an e-business consultant with Directshop.
Elja uses Twitter, is married and father of Mika and Vera.


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Elja Trum

Photofacts; everything photography!

Would you like to be able to take better pictures? Photofacts writes about photography and on how to become a better photographer daily. From quick usefull tips to reviews and more... More about Photofacts
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