Written by T. Michael Testi
Sharpener Pro 3.0 is the latest addition to Nik Software's collection of digital photographic filters and effects for Adobe Photoshop. This is an updated version of their award-winning software that is aimed at sharpening photographic images.
Nik Sharpener Pro 3.0 has not only been updated with a new interface, it also contains Nik's premier U Point technology that gives you pin-point control over what you want sharpen. No longer are you limited to working with global changes and masking to accomplish your goals. Rather, now you can precisely control specific areas of your image with a couple clicks of your mouse.
What do you need to run Sharpener Pro? System requirements are Windows 2000 Pro or better, Mac OS 10.4 or better, 512 MB of RAM (1 GB Recommended), and Photoshop CS2 or CS3 on Windows or Mac, Photoshop Elements 2.0 or better on Windows, 4.0 and 6.0 on Mac, or any image editing software program that accepts Adobe Photoshop Plug-ins.
Basically, the Sharpener Pro workflow works like this. First you launch Photoshop, open an image, and open Sharpener Pro from the filter menu. This will open the Sharpener Pro interface. At this point you can apply RAW Presharpening which will compensate for any loss due to image capture. You then return to Photoshop to make all of your edits as you normally would to prepare your image.
Once complete you then reload Sharpener Pro to prepare your image to use the output sharpener to make up the loss of detail and clarity that occurs when images are created for different output devices. On the right side are the sharpening controls. You can choose what kind of output your image will take on: display, inkjet, continuous tone, halftone, or hybrid device. If you choose, say, the inkjet, you then get additional options such as viewing distance, paper type, and printer resolution. These will set the output sharpening for the appropriate type of device.
From there you have options for creative sharpening where you can apply global sharpening. Next you can use the U Point Control Points to selectively control where the sharpening is applied to the images. This allows you to control the effect without having to use selections and/or masking. By placing Control Points on an image, you control the effects and are able to fine tune certain areas of your images independent of the rest of the photo. Finally you review the image in the Loupe, apply the filter and then you can to generate your output.
Other things that are new to Nik Sharpener Pro 3.0 is a reworked interface that is resizable and now sports a color neutral theme with a medium-gray background. This allows you to focus more on the image than on the interface. You have different modes to preview including sharpened image, sharpening soft proof (output sharpener only), Effect overlay (this shows where the effect is applied), and effect mask, which displays the mask created by the color ranges and control points.
The RAW Presharpener filter is an optional step in your image editing workflow. It is designed to be the first stage of sharpening your images and should be done before anything else. You apply it after any noise reduction has been applied. It was designed to sharpen your image for any loss of detail through digital capture without creating any sharpening artifacts or enhancement of noise.
Creative Sharpening controls are used to control both the strength of the output-specific sharpening and apply any global creative sharpening to the image. Control points can be added later to selective adjust the amounts of each of these controls on any given object.
I think that Sharpener Pro is another great addition to the photographer's tool box. I love the ease of use and the flexibility that this plug-in gives me. What would take a lot of work traditionally in Photoshop is accomplished in a fraction of the time. Want to see more? Check out the series of lesson videos that Nik has put together. Better yet, get the 15-day free trial and play with it yourself.
At $199.95, Sharpener Pro will pay for itself many times over. If you want to sharpen your images and feel intimidated by all the work and effort it takes to accomplish the same tasks using Photoshop, then I highly recommend Sharpener Pro 3.0 from Nik Software.