Use Unsharp Mask To Fix Blurry
Photos In Photoshop Elements

I want to tell you right up front that Unsharp Mask (or any other technique that I'm aware of) will NOT fix extremely out-of-focus pictures. But blurry photos are one of the most common problems photographers have.

This is for photos that are slightly blurry and can benefit from a little "punch" which this sharpening technique can do.

Here's a before-and-after shot of a typical result you can expect from Unsharp Masking:

Pretty subtle, but it definitely adds some oomph to the photo.

This is a reliable technique you can use to sharpen photos. There are other ways, but you can use this and know you are using a proven method. And I will show you which settings will work good for most photos.

So lets get started...

STEP 1 - Open a photo that you want to sharpen.
I've found that most photos can benefit from some sharpening. It might not even be apparent until you see a before-and-after side-by-side comparison.

This is a picture of our cat Hank:


STEP 2 - Duplicate the Background Layer.
Duplicate the Background Layer by pressing
Command-J on a Mac or Control-J on a PC. That will create an exact copy of the Background Layer in the Layers Panel named Layer 1. In this case you might say it's a copy-cat. (sorry)


STEP 3 - Apply Unsharp Mask.
Go up to the Enhance Menu and choose Unsharp Mask....

A new Dialog Box will appear.

There are 3 Adjustment Sliders you can set. They are Amount, Radius, and Threshold.

Here's what I use as good overall settings:

  • Amount: 100%
  • Radius: 1 pixel
  • Threshold: 3 levels

These work pretty well for most types of photos. If you think it still looks too soft, just increase the Amount Slider.

If you think it looks overly sharp to the point where you're getting a halo effect around some edges or it just looks unnatural, try decreasing the Amount Slider until it looks acceptable.

Make sure you have the Preview Box checked so you can see the affect of your changes to your photo.

Once you like what you see press OK to close the Dialog Box and accept the settings.

Note that if you are doing other editing in Elements such as color or tone adjustments, sharpening should be the last adjustment you make. Some of those other adjustments might also make your photo look sharper and if you had already applied sharpness it might be too much.

And that's all there is to it! Use this technique to give your photos that little extra polish.


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