Why Use Sharpening When Digitizing Photos

Posted by ed oboyle on Fri, May 17, 2013 @ 10:00 AM

Why Use Sharpening When Digitizing PhotosThe statistics speak for themselves; digitizing photos is a must for preserving memories. But how do you take your pictures from bland to beautiful? With a variety of photo enhancing software programs and professional scanning services, it’s easier than you may think. Depending on the state of the original photo, there are several steps to enhance the overall look. One step that almost always does the trick is sharpening.

Why Sharpen a Photo?

When digitizing photos, sometimes the original sharpness of the image may be reduced. Sharpening increases contrast between the dark and light tones in a picture. This makes the edges between the two tones more crisp, essentially making your images ‘pop.’ Of course, sharpening is optional and doesn’t mean that the original photo is distorted. It’s just a great way to take an average photo and make it stand out. Be careful to not get too carried away - too much sharpening can actually diminish the quality of the image.

Sharpening Problems When Digitizing Photos 

  • Excessive sharpening can lead to a halo around bright tonal edges.

  • Image clipping can occur with extreme sharpening, causing details to be lost.

  • Color gradation may disappear as tones are lightened and darkened.

To avoid these problems, use the preview tool on your photo enhancing program. You will see the progress of sharpening and should instantly know whether it’s too much or too little. Luckily, sharpening problems can be recognized with the naked eye. Magnify your image. If you see a solid color mass where various tones should be present, reverse the sharpening effect slightly. Your photo will be as good as new!

Limits of Sharpening

When digitizing photos, most will benefit from sharpening. Increasing contrast makes your picture more arresting and true to real life. The only time you might want to avoid sharpening is when you’re trying to convey a sense of softness. If you have an out of focus picture, increasing contrast can’t bring back missing details. While the colors will shift appropriately, blurriness is a problem originating at capture and can’t be fixed.

Today, photo enhancement is common with applications like Instagram and Hipstamatic but you can achieve similar effects when digitizing photos. You can make a DIY project of it - or use a photo scanning service!

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Photo Credit: The Devlin Family

Topics: digitizing photos, Sharpening

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