Here are five common digital photography problems and how to sidestep them or fix them in an image editor.
Sharpen fuzzy photos automatically
In a perfect world, all the photos we snap would emerge from the camera perfectly formed, impressively sharp, and ready for display at the Louvre.
Of course, in reality most digital cameras take photos that are a tad soft - which is why it's often a good idea to sharpen your images a little before printing or sharing them.
One way to sharpen your photos is to let your camera do it for you.
Check out your camera's user guide, and you'll probably find a way to sharpen every photo automatically, as it's taken (as you see in this page from the user guide for the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS).
A built-in sharpening feature is a simple and painless way to give images a little bite, but it isn't perfect.
You have no real control over how much sharpening is applied - and worse, the sharpening affects the entire photo.
Use your photo editor's unsharp mask
I recommend that you sharpen your photos by hand, using the Unsharp Mask tool in your favourite photo editor.
To try it out, first open an image file in your editing application; I'll use Adobe Photoshop Elements here for example, but you can get the same results with almost any program.
Choose Layer, Duplicate Layer and click OK.
In the Layers palette on the right side of the screen, click the top layer to make sure it's selected, and then choose Enhance, Unsharp Mask.
Select whatever sharpening settings you like best. In general, you'll want to set Amount to between 100 and 200, Radius between one and two and Threshold between 0 and 10.
Higher Amount and Radius values increase the sharpening effect; but the lower the threshold, the stronger the effect.
After you apply some sharpening to the top layer, you can vary the opacity until the photo looks right.
You can also use the Eraser tool to erase the top layer selectively, letting the unsharpened lower layer peek through; it's a handy technique to sharpen the subject but leave the background softly.
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