Crop and Sharpen Photos

Scan Correct Color Smooth Texture Reduce Noise Remove Dust Repair Crop

At long last, the final step... which is made up of five substeps:
shake reduction -> crop -> resize -> sharpen -> save

Each of these substeps corresponds to an image function with the same name.

Sharp & Shiny

Scanning prints and correcting color and reducing noise and removing dust and repairing photos is hard work. Now that all of your hard work is over, it is time for something incredibly simple and simply astounding. It is time for Shake Reduction.

Shake Reduction is a deconvolution feature introduced in Photoshop Elements 14 and Photoshop CC 14 (2013). This feature was made to reduce blur caused by camera-shake and to restore focus to out-of-focus photos. It may also help with the out-of-focus look that all scans seem to have. Even scans of photos taken with good 35mm cameras and printed on high quality paper tend to look slightly out-of-focus.

Unfortunately, not many old photos can benefit from Shake Reduction. Unlikely to benefit are photos that are blurry, grainy, noisy, or textured. More likely to benefit are smooth (non-textured) photos with clean, well-defined details. In any case, images must be free of noise, dust, and scratches.

It's easy to use Shake Reduction. Simply select "Auto Shake Reduction" under the Enhance menu. It will either work very well or it won't. If you don't like the results, you can simply Undo. There is also a manual "Shake Reduction..." feature you can experiment with.

Results can either be beautiful, overly sharp, or noisy. Noisy results can occur because any existing noise, blemishes, white spots, and black spots, no matter how faint, will become much more noticeable. You may have to clean skies again and remove new blemishes. If you spend time cleaning an image after using Shake Reduction, you may wish to archive your image again, before cropping or resizing.

The example below is from a color-corrected 600dpi scan of a smooth, clean 35mm print in outstanding shape. The original image looks decent enough. But after Shake Reduction, the image became amazing! It now dazzles with its sharp needles and shiny ornaments and sparkling tinsel.
before after
Stunning made simple.

The Fantastic Four

Fantastic news! Only four quick substeps (or image functions) left: crop, resize, sharpen, and save.

While these image functions can be found in most image editors such as Photoshop, there are specialized programs called image converters that are tailor-made for most of these functions. Image converters make these functions quick and easy. Here are a few:

FastStone Photo Resizer for Windows:
Supports drag and drop.
homepage: faststone.org

EasyCrop for macOS:
Supports drag and drop.
homepage: yellowmug.com

PhotoMill for macOS:
This app is extremely useful for making the same crops and resizes on group of photos. It can also create watermarks, borders, and convert to a variety of file formats. Your adjustments can be saved as a preset, so that you can use the same adjustments with a future group of photos. I used PhotoMill extensively for the images on this site and found it indispensable. It is highly intuitive (I never needed a manual) and flawless in its operation. After trying similar programs on the app store, I consider PhotoMill to be by far the best in its class.
homepage: overmacs.com  -  user reviews: macupdate.com  -  app store: itunes.apple.com


Crop

If you plan to have an image printed at a certain size, you may have to crop your image to a matching aspect ratio. For example, if you plan to have 3x4 inch or 6x8 inch photos published in a book, you may have to crop your images to an aspect ratio of 3x4. Likewise, if you plan to use a photo printing service to print 4x6 photos, you may have to crop your images to an aspect ratio of 4x6 (or more simply 2x3). Some services such as Shutterfly let you crop your images after you upload them. Consult your publisher's or printer's documentation to be sure.

If you plan to just post some images on a website, you probably don't need to worry about aspect ratios. However, you can still crop as desired. For example, if there are people standing too far away from the camera when the photo was taken, you can crop to "zoom in" on the people.


Resize

If you plan to print images in a publication, you may have to check your publisher's maximum dpi for printing. You should resize your images to fit this maximum. For example, given a 300dpi maximum, an 1800x3000 pixel image (from a 3x5 photo scanned at 600dpi) should be resized to 900x1500. Additionally, photo printing services may have a minimum dpi or megapixel recommendation. Please check with your publisher or printer for maximums and minimums.

If you plan to post images on FaceBook or a personal website, you may want to drastically reduce the size. For example a 3000x4000 image is overkill for FaceBook or similar sites. You can resize it to something more appropriate such as 450x600 or so. Smaller images make web pages load faster.


Sharpen

After cropping and resizing, you can sharpen an image for extra pizzazz. Sharpening is completely optional but may help certain photos. To sharpen an image, use the Unsharp Mask feature in the Enhance menu in Photoshop. You won't need to sharpen a photo if you have used Photoshop Shake Reduction.


Save

Nothing more needs to be done to the image at this point. You can save it as a TIFF or JPEG or PNG depending on your needs or your publisher's requirements. See the table below for information about each type of image.
Image Formats
TIFFs
  • are typically very large files
  • retain all image quality when compressed with LZW or ZIP
  • support up to 48 bit color images
  • are widely supported by graphics programs
  • are rarely supported by web browsers
TIFFs are often used for scanning, editing, printing, or archiving high quality images. EU's Succeed report on formats recommends TIFFs (uncompressed or LZW compression) for the preservation of still images.

To retain all image quality, TIFFs normally use no compression or LZW or ZIP lossless compression. JPEG lossy compression is rarely used for obvious reasons. LZW is commonly used and works well with 24-bit images, but works poorly with 48-bit images. ZIP is slightly better at compressing images, but is newer and less commonly supported. Both LZW and ZIP compression greatly increase the save time for 24-bit images.

Pixel Order is a TIFF option set to Interleaved or Per Channel (aka Planar). Interleaved is the normal arrangement of pixels from first to last, with each pixel having a red value, green value, and blue value in that order (RGBRGBRGB). Per Channel rearranges the pixels by color channel, starting with all of the red values of all the pixels, followed by all the green values, and ending with all the blue values (RRRGGGBBB). Supposedly, Per Channel helps a little with compression, but is not widely supported.

Byte Order is a TIFF option designed to support the Endianness of the target CPU, either Intel (PC) or Motorola (Mac). Not only should this option be obselete (as both PC and Mac computers use Intel CPUs now), but virtually all modern programs support either Byte Order on any type of computer.
JPEGs
  • are typically small files
  • lose some image quality when compressed
  • degrades in image quality for each edit and re-save
  • only support 24-bit color images
  • are widely supported by graphics programs
  • are widely supported by web browsers
JPEG is a popular format for photographic images on the web because of their small size. To achieve such a small file size, JPEG files use lossy compression. The degree of compression is selectable anywhere in a broad range from low to high.

A low degree of compression results in a small file size and virtually no noticeable change to image quality. A high degree of results in a much smaller file size and significant loss in image quality. Quality is lost because some image details are permanently discarded to save space. Even more quality is lost due to generation loss, which occurs every time the image is opened, edited, and re-saved.
PNGs
  • are typically very small to medium sized files
  • retain all image quality when compressed
  • support 24-bit or 48-bit truecolor images
  • support up to 8-bit palette-based images (256 colors)
  • support transparency for all image formats
  • are widely supported by graphics programs
  • are widely supported by modern web browsers
PNGs are commonly used for a variety of web graphics. PNG files support three main image formats, all of which support transparency: truecolor, grayscale, and palette-based. Lossless compression is used for all three formats to reduce file size while retaining image quality. File sizes are reduced further for images with 256 colors or less by using the palette-based image format.

PNG8 is an palette-based image, with each pixel being an index to a palette of 24-bit colors. An 8-bit palette-based image is limited to 256 colors, 4-bit to 16 colors, 2-bit to 4 colors, and 1-bit to 2 colors. This format compresses to an incredibly small size while retaining all image detail. The PNG8 format is ideal for icons, logos, and similar graphics because of its very small size and wide support by web browsers.

PNG24 is a truecolor image, and contains three 8-bit color channels that directly specify a color. This format supports millions of colors and retains all image details when compressed. An 8-bit alpha channel can be added for transparency, and the resulting 32-bit RGB+alpha (or RGBA) image format is referred to as either PNG32 or PNG24 with alpha transparency. Additionally, 16-bit color and alpha channels can be used instead of 8-bit channels to support billions of colors. The PNG24 and other truecolor formats are ideal for photographs that must retain all image details when compressed, or when transparency is desired.
You are done! Time for a break.
Take a hike. Bring your camera!
The digital one, of course.