3 Tools For Sharpening Your Photos

One thing to note about digital photos before we go on… the picture format which you use. If you’ve set you digital camera to capture in JPEG format, it is likely you’ve encounter some loss of quality in the picture due to image compression. In this case, it does make sense to apply sharpening on the photo. If, however, you’ve selected to shoot in RAW mode, then you’ll unlikely face any image degradation – sharpening a RAW image is usually not necessary.

1. The Unsharp Mask
The Unsharp Mask tool is common in many photo editing software programs, including Adobe Photoshop Elements and Corel Paintshop Pro. Typically, when you apply the Unsharp Mask, you can control 3 factors – the Amount, Radius and Threshold:

  • Amount – this refers to the intensity of the sharpening
  • Radius – this refers to the distance sharpening occurs around a pixel)
  • Threshold – defines when sharpening starts to occur when two points are different in brightness

Learn to play with these three factors to obtain the optimal amount of sharpening in a photo. Apply just enough sharpening but don’t over do it. Sharpening a photo too much will usually make the edges in the photo too “harsh” or visible.

2. Smart Sharpen
Another tool at your disposal when sharpening photos is the Smart Sharpen tool. In Adobe Photoshop Elements, this tool is available as the Adjust Sharpness option within the Enhance Menu. Other photo editing programs (e.g. Corel Paintshop Pro) have similar tools but under different names.

Typically, I’d make sure that I perform the sharpening step as the last step in the photo workflow. That means that I’ll clean up the image, adjust its color, tone, brightness, etc. and flatten the image before perform a sharpen. I find that ultimately yields a better looking image in the end. The nice thing about invoking smart sharpening tools is that all the settings have been built into the sharpening algorithm already – the program will select the most appropriate sharpening options for you.

3. Advanced Sharpening Tools
If you’ve used Photoshop Lightroom or the Adobe Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop, you’ll realize that these programs give you much more powerful photo sharpening toolkits. The algorithms for sharpening in Photoshop Lightroom and Photoshop far surpass what you see in simpler packages like Photoshop Elements and Corel Paintshop Pro. In fact, the tools in Photoshop Lightroom are so good that I’d highly recommend that you buy a copy if you’re a serious digital photographer.

Also, here’s a little known secret about working in Photoshop Lightroom. Press down the Alt (PC) or Option (Mac) key as you adjust any of the sliders and the sharpening appears in black-and-white, which is much easier to see. If you’ve used Lightroom to some extent before, you’ll know this tip is a great help.

There are dedicated photo sharpening tools out there. One of the programs I like a lot is the Nik Software Sharpener Pro. The sharpening algorithms in this package match those in Photoshop Lightroom and you can tell the difference in the sharpened image’s quality, as compared to those sharpened by more inferior programs.

In summary, sharpening is a common procedure in photo workflows. However, to ensure that your sharpened image looks good – you should be sure what kind of sharpening settings you should apply – set these either manually or through a smart sharpening tool. If you’re a more advanced user, you should try using tools like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, the Adobe Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop, as well as the Nik Software Sharpener Pro – all of which have very good sharpening algorithms.

So until next time, here’s wishing you luck in editing your photos!

3 Timeline Tips for Travel Pros Using Facebook

Exciting changes travel quickly! Facebook’s Timeline for business pages is HOT news!

As a travel pro, here are 3 tips and tricks, plus an important bonus tactic, to keep you ahead of the game. I know, you’re probably overwhelmed by bookings, accounting and keeping up with supplier changes. Now you wonder how you’ll manage to tackle another Facebook change. I’ve put together a quick update for you with how-to’s and strategy designed for the travel and tourism pro.

#1 – Your new Cover Photo

This exciting change gives you the opportunity to showcase your specialty visually! From a marketing standpoint this is awesome news! You can now highlight:

• Your best-selling destination
• Upcoming group departure
• Your latest family trip destination and focus on your credibility
• Photos of people enjoying your services (you may want to get a release from those pictured)

Tech stuff: This new cover photo needs to be 851 pixels wide and 315 pixels tall. Most people choose a high-definition photo that captures the essence of their brand, the business model and their key specialty.

Tip: don’t use a photo that doesn’t belong to you and follow Facebook’s rules on cover photos.

How to add your cover photo:

If you don’t have a cover photo yet, log into your business page and you’ll see a bar at the top that will walk you through setting up your new page. You can choose where to upload a photo from, see example Cover Photo

If you already have uploaded a cover photo and would like to change it, hover over “Change Photo” when you’re logged in as an Admin on your page.

Tip: you can reposition the photo up and down, but not sideways. Be certain to do any cropping prior to uploading your photo. See example below: How to change a cover shot

Here’s an example of a travel consultant who has used the cover photo extremely well to highlight her business: Journey’s by Jo example of Cover Photo Tips for Travel Pros:

You may consider changing your cover photo to highlight destinations during their peak selling period. For example, in fall when you’re selling ski vacations, change your cover photo to ski photos you’ve taken, purchased or acquired the rights to use.

Highlight the destination you’re focusing on in your regular Facebook posting calendar. For example, if you’re talking about Italy on your page and highlighting things to do, fabulous museums and cycling tours, change your cover photo to match the theme.

#2 Messages

Great news! Your clients can now send you private messages in addition to posting on your Wall. This gives you a chance to have a private conversation about bookings, dates or concerns without the Facebook world knowing. You can turn this feature on or off from your Admin dashboard by clicking Manage Permissions. How to change the Message Feature The message feature is enabled by default. To disable it, click and remove the check-mark. As a page Admin you can reply to a message, but not send one to a fan. The reverse of this is also true, you can now privately message another page owner. Think of the power of messaging a supplier.

#3 Highlight posts on your Timeline

Imagine your best photos and videos you’ve included in posts being spread out across the width of your wall. What a great way to showcase photos from your last fam trip and visually entice clients to book with you.

When you ‘Highlight’ a post by clicking on the star (see example below) it enlarges the post to the size of the bottom post in this example. (see arrow) Talk about attention-grabbing!

How to Highlight a post

Travel pros love the benefit of being able to showcase upcoming group departures, packages that are hot-sellers as well as unique destinations that will excite and inspire clients.


Pin to the top of your Page Do you ever wish your best posts could stay at the top of your page? Leverage that article you’ve written about an upcoming group departure so it doesn’t get hidden in the flow of other posts. Now you can ‘Pin’ a story to the top of your page for a week. Making it stick to the top of your page gives you the chance to fully market a unique product, highlight a new destination or a special you’re providing to your clients.

Here’s how it works:

• Find the post you’d like to appear at the top of your page.
• Hover and click the pencil icon at the top of the pos
• Click ‘Pin to Top’
• A small ribbon-like graphic will appear at the top of your post indicating it’s been ‘Pinned’ How to Pin a Post

Savvy travel marketers are using this feature to Pin stories, promotions, offers and events to maximize their visibility. Only 1 pinned story is allowed at one time. You can change the pinned messages at any time. The potential for pinning is powerful! Imagine: pinning a top suppliers’ newest product to the top of your page prominently featuring your next group departure showcasing an article you’ve written about your latest travel discovery providing a link to your website or on-line booking engine

This is just the beginning of a series of articles on these changes at Facebook and how they will affect you. For a quick cheat-sheet, Facebook has put this together to highlight the newest features.

If you run out of time for your own social media presence, remember I’ll do the work for you! Build your site? YES Maintain your site with multiple postings? YES Coach you on your social marketing? YES Connect with me online Join me socially: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Superb Photo Editing At A Sub-Lightroom Price


Optics Pro 9 is available as a fully functional 31-day trial, with both Mac and PC versions. (After the trial period, a DxO watermark appears on photos processed with the software.) There are two editions: Standard, for most consumer point-and-shoots and D-SLRs, and Elite, for pro-level full-frame cameras.

There are only two modes in Optics Pro: Organize and Customize. Organize mode doesn’t have a full workflow function-there’s no importing from media, though you could simply open images from a card shown in the Organize folder tree. You do get star ratings, but no “picks” or color codes for organizing your photos, and forget about geo-tag maps and face detection. If those things are important to you, you’re better off using DxO Optics Pro as a plug-in for Lightroom or Aperture. The program does let you organize by Projects, in which you bring together photos you want to work with as a group from various sources.

Customize mode is where you do all of your editing and tuning. You have access to tools such as cropping, forcing parallel lines, and a neutral color picker, as well as methods for reducing moiré, vignetting, and chromatic aberration, though there are no simple image rotation buttons (you can rotate via a right-click menu or keyboard shortcut). There’s also no history panel, for undoing back to a particular edit, or reverting back to the image’s original state. The program does make good use of keyboard shortcuts, however, and I like how the mouse wheel zooms you in and out.

Adobe’s Lightroom 5 offers more flexibility with multiple modes for things such as sharing, printing, and books. But one major DxO feature is that each time you open a folder containing images, the program detects the camera and lens used for those photos and prompts you to download a module for that combination so Optics Pro can optimize the image. As a result, autocorrection is far better than you see in most photo software, and is often all you need to significantly improve a picture, though there are plenty of available presets for tweaking still further and adjusting contrast, color, lighting, exposure compensation, and more.

The interface is somewhat customizable: You can adjust the interface border color from the default dark gray to anywhere from full white to full black. The full-screen view is less satisfying than Lightroom’s, as DxO always keeps the control bar on screen, though you can detach the image browser for full viewing on a second screen.


Version 9 of DxO adds a hallmark feature called Probabilistic Raw Image Enhancement, or Prime, a noise-reduction tool that the company claims will add an extra stop of exposure to digital photos shot in Raw. This means you can shoot in low light or at faster speeds and still retain sharpness and detail.

Prime lets the program take as long as it needs to analyze and correct digital noise. Most noise correction just compares nearby pixels to determine which are noise, but DxO examines a much larger area to make this determination, which should remove more noise while leaving more detail. When you choose Prime noise reduction, you won’t be able to see its effect on the full image view, just on a small 150-by-150-pixel area. Even viewing that preview takes a few seconds, and the only way to apply Prime to the whole image is to export it, which can take several minutes.

Though Prime removed more noise (particularly in eye whites shot in low light at high ISO) and preserved more detail than Lightroom, I noticed too much smoothing on the Auto setting. Fortunately, you can tune the amount of correction with the Luminance slider, and even dig into Chrominance, Low Frequency, and Dead Pixel corrections.

One important point to make about DxO Optics Pro is that it offers nothing in the way of local corrections-no dodge and burn, no selective blur, no retouching, not even red-eye correction. For those things, a more complete tool such as Lightroom is warranted. But for sports, nature, or night-event photographers who need to shoot at a high ISO, Prime could be a godsend in getting less noisy images to their clients.


Once you’ve perfected your image, Optics Pro lets you output it to another photo editor or to sites such as Facebook and Flickr, save it to your hard drive, or print it out. The Facebook exporter lets you choose a target album, but not privacy level or tagging. The Flickr export has nice control, letting you choose an album, add keyword tags, or set privacy, and it pulls in your previously used tags and albums to pick from. One online sharing capability that’s lacking is via email: Lightroom lets you quickly send out any image onscreen via a right-click. Optics Pro includes utilitarian printing capabilities, in which you can choose a grid size for multiple images, apply sharpening, and add a caption in the font style of your choice. But for more layout options (including savable custom layouts) and soft proofing (which lets you see colors in the photo not supported by the printer), look to Lightroom.


DxO Optics Pro 9 is hardly the last word in workflow, but it can give you an edge for better images not available in other full-capability photo applications.

Even without its new and unique Prime noise reduction feature, DxO’s lens and camera calibrated corrections automatically achieve results that can be hard to accomplish in other software. Professional photographers will want Optics Pro at least as a tool in their photo software toolbox for the edge it can provide.

Although it won’t turn a bad photo into a good one, Optics Pro can make a good photo great. That’s enough to earn it our Editors’ Choice award.