Smart Sharpen Setting

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Today’s Question: Which option should I be using for the Remove popup in Smart Sharpen in Photoshop? I’ve been leaving it set to Gaussian Blur only because I don’t know what any of the options do. I seem to be getting good results with Gaussian Blur setting, but could I get better results with a different choice?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I recommend the “Lens Blur” option as the best setting for the Remove popup in the Smart Sharpen dialog in Photoshop. While the difference is relatively minor in most cases, for photographic images the results with the Lens Blur setting are generally more pleasing than with the Gaussian Blur setting.

More Detail: The Smart Sharpen filter is my preferred filter for sharpening images in Photoshop. And when it comes to using the Smart Sharpen filter, as a rule I recommend using the “Lens Blur” option from the Remove popup.

The Remove popup controls what type of blur you are attempting to remove from the image. The Motion Blur setting is obviously aimed at compensating for camera movement during the capture. However, I find that this option doesn’t provide a significant benefit, and so I don’t find it particularly useful. You can get slightly better (but still not especially impressive) results using the Shake Reduction filter instead.

The Gaussian Blur option will cause the Smart Sharpen filter to essentially provide the same overall behavior as the Unsharp Mask filter. This provides perfectly good results in most cases, but the Lens Blur option is more sophisticated and will generally provide better results.

To be sure, the visible differences between the Gaussian Blur and Lens Blur options will often be quite subtle. In general you will find that the effect with the Gaussian Blur option will be a little harsher than the Lens Blur option. With Lens Blur you are able to maintain smoother transitions with less risk of visual artifacts, while still achieving a significant improvement in the edge contrast that provides the sharpening effect.

So, as a general rule I recommend the Lens Blur setting for the Remove popup in the Smart Sharpen dialog when sharpening photographic images. But I certainly encourage you to experiment with different settings to see what your impression is, and to determine what works best for your images.