As photographers, we can tend to get very worried about how “sharp” a photographic image is. A properly focused (well calibrated lens / camera combination) can still create an image that is not sharp.
Please see this article from Michael Reichmann’s Luminous Landscape about this compelling subject.
In the time BL (Before Lightroom) we all used Photoshop to manipulate and finish our photographic images. As well as the built-in sharpening tools (Un-sharp Mask, etc) that Adobe provided – which have continued to improve a number of Photoshop plug-ins were created. I used to use a tool called PhotoKit SHARPENER™ from Pixel Genius, this was (is?) far more advanced than the competition, it was so good that the following was commented:
This tool splits the sharpening into 3 stages:
1) Capture Sharpening. All photos taken with digital cameras are inherently un-sharp. This is due to the technology used to create digital images. The amount needed is relative to the images sensor size and mega pixels and can also differ from model to model.
2) Creative sharpening. This allows specific parts of the photo to be sharpened, the plug-in allowed the sharpness to be applied with a brush to eyes for example.
3) Output Sharpening. The amount of sharpening needed for the final image is very much dependant on where the final image is to be destined. It is common knowledge that printed images need more sharpening than images destined for the web. The plug-in allowed you to specify the output device, size and paper type (Glossy or Matte).
In short this was a brilliant and comprehensive tool. Some of the technology is now in Lightroom too.
The only problem (for those who still need to do some sharpening in Photoshop – this includes round-tripping from Lightroom) was that the plug did not work with Photoshop CS5 64bit for the Mac.
Pixel Genius have now announced PhotoKit SHARPENER™ 2.0 which has all of the limitations removed, and for those who have a licencesed copy of a previoous version can get a 70% discount for an upgrade price of $29.99!
More details of this tool can be found here