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Cloud Sharpening

April 3, 2010

I don’t take a lot of images with clouds, but when I do, I usually try to give the clouds a little extra sharpness to emphasize their edges and textures. Doing so seems to help the clouds to better match the sharpness in other parts of the scene and makes them a bit more visually appealing.

The image below shows a scene without cloud sharpening. Roll the mouse over the image to see the subtle improvement cloud sharpening can provide. It’s very subtle, especially in the jpg. Look closely at the edges of the clouds. There is greater texture which slightly increases the drama in the sky.

I’ve posted a cloud-sharpening tutorial on my website to describe how I do this. There are many ways to accomplish a particular task in Photoshop, and I’ve received feedback from others that they have their own cloud-sharpening methods. Please feel free to add a comment about what works for you if this is something you’ve tried.

The image below is another where I felt cloud-sharpening was useful. The mouse rollover again shows the cloud-sharpening effect. You may have to look close to see it, but the cloud-sharpened image better captures the raggedy nature of the windblown clouds that were happening this day.

As with everything in Photoshop, there are many variations to the cloud-sharpening process that can be applied to maximize the results. These are described in the tutorial as well. Also, some users have written to say they’ve used this technique to successfully sharpen water, leaves, and small branches. I hope you’ll give it a try.

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