Monday, March 23, 2009

Tip o' the Day! Making Photos Look Good Online

There are some places online where photos are pretty much doomed, most of those places being social networking sites. Myspace will resize photos, and facebook is even worse - photos that looked fine on your computer will appear desaturated, pixelated, and just generally crappy once they're uploaded to a facebook gallery.

The most annoying thing though is when sites that are SUPPOSED to be for showing photos, seem to mess them up as well. To keep your photos looking great, make sure you are resizing them properly, using a moderate amount of sharpening if needed, and converting them to the correct color profile.

In Photoshop when you resize an image (Image > Image Size or ctrl+alt+I on a pc) you will be presented with a dialogue box. At the bottom of the box you'll see a small drop down menu with several options; most of the time this is set to "Bicubic Smoother (Best for Enlargements)" but since we aren't enlarging we want to choose a different setting. Click the menu and choose "Bicubic Sharper (Best for Reductions)".

When making an image smaller, it tends to get softer and lose it's crispness, so this helps preserve some of that.

Even using Bicubic Sharper you may still need to sharpen your image more. Duplicate the image, and on the top layer use Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen or Unsharp Mask. I prefer Smart Sharpen most of the time because to me, Unsharp mask just brings out black edges too much and I don't like the look; you might like Unsharp mask the best, it's really personal preference or what your client wants.
After you apply your filter, you can adjust the opacity of your top layer to achieve the amount of sharpness you want. You can also use masks on the top layer to control which areas get sharpened (when I retouch portraits, I mask out the sharpness on skin, so that just the eyes and hair gets sharpened).

Now you're ready to convert to the correct color profile for the web. Go to Edit > Convert to Profile and choose sRGB as your destination space. This will keep your colors retained on your image, so that they won't get all wacky once you upload them.

Now you're ready to save as a high quality .jpg and upload to the web!

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