I've gotten a lot of questions lately about my images being so sharp even when uploaded to Facebook. I promised to post a blog on the subject and as long as it's taken to get this post up, you'd think I had some super secret, complex technique that would take ten pages to write about. Well, that's not really the case. I've just been tied up lately and just a bit lazy with my blogging. So, here we go, the big reveal to how I get my headshots so clean and sharp:
An unsharp mask followed by resize to 2048 width. Voila! Done!
Okay so, that's really it. I even have an action for it now so, at the end of my retouch, the very last thing I do is click FACEBOOK RESIZE AND SHARPEN and it's done. ( pretty sure you can Google search and find a bunch of options available.) Here's a screen shot of the action:
Now, I think it would be irresponsible and kind of silly to suggest that this one step will make all of my images sharp and clean. It obviously starts with a having a well focused, sharp image to begin with. And this is where the work comes in.
QUICK NOTE REGARDING SHARPNESS:
The following is written with the assumption you're shooting headshots/portraits of some type. There are PLENTY of types of images where the sharpness thing isn't too big of a concern depending on the content of the image and it's intended use. For headshot/portrait, most of what I'm referring to though is the sharpness when it comes to the eyes. Even then, it's a subjective thing. If shooting at low apertures like 1.4, 2.8 or 3.2 as I do...you're not always going to get completely sharp faces and in fact, both eyes may not be sharp. They don't need to be usually. However, it's important to remember that the eye closest to the camera should definitely be sharp and in focus. If the rest of the face and features are soft....that's fine and a matter of taste, choice...artistic vision.
That said....let's move on:
I shoot with a Nikon D800 which is a 36mp BEAST of a machine. My lens of choice is the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8VRII which is a BEAST of a lens! The two together give you one hell of a starting point to some serious images....IF...you know how to handle them. I see a lot of photographers uploading images to FB where the clarity/sharpness is just poor and not tack sharp at all. And it's not because of the upload to FB. What's worse is, some of these guys are shooting with PhaseOne cameras, Hasselblad, Nikon D800/810 and Canon 5DMkIII! It's crazy! That's a whole other convo. I don't want to make this a long post about shooting technique and all sorts of technical stuff. I just want to say that it's imperative to learn to get really good, clean sharp images from the get go. Especially if you're shooting portraits of people up close. It's something that takes a lot of practice especially when using these high megapixel cameras these days as they're not so forgiving when it comes to mistakes. Whatever method of focus you have, make sure you master it! (there are TONS of blogs and articles out there on all of the numerous methods of AF.) I personally shoot hand held in manual mode. (for headshots on location. In studio, shooting a portrait or beauty I'm on a tripod and higher apertures so...clarity is a given.) That sounds crazy to some but that's just my preference and I love the feeling of knowing that I have 100% control over my focus. If I mess up, it's on me and my eyes, not my AF system. I also shoot at shutter speeds anywhere from 200 to 1250+ depending and of course use VR so, the hand held thing isn't so much a factor. When I upload my session to LR and start going though images, I have some images that aren't sharp. Oh well, it happens. Sometimes it pisses me off as that particular shot may be so damn good save for the fact that the focus is soft. For the most part, I nail most of my shots though and it's not so much an issue. I do adjust clarity and contrast some in LR before exporting to PS but still, I make sure to have a clean, clear, sharp image prior to even doing so.
In addition to my focus techniques, my lighting of course makes a difference. Getting my key light positioned correctly in both height and distance from my subjects is obviously a major factor prior to even shooting.
So that's it. I know I didn't get into a bunch of stuff regarding how Facebook resizes and handles images upon upload. I believe there are tons of articles on that out there I just wanted to share exactly what I do and give some insight and guidance on getting sharp images to begin with. The unsharp mask and resize definitely contribute to my final image upload and how sharp it is. I recommend experimenting a bit with unsharp mask and definitely resizing to the 2048 size for upload to FB. I have heard other sizes as being optimal such as 1200x628 but that's a matter of preference I guess. Pretty sure 2048 gives you the fullest size. In the end, nothing beats having a clean, sharp well focused image to begin with! Hope some of this has been helpful. If it has, feel free to Comment, Like and Share. If you have other methods and suggestions, feel free to share in comments.