I usually use two techniques to make a image clearer:

  1. Use a High Pass filter, then adjust the Layer Mode to be Soft Light
  2. Use the Sharpen module in Camera raw

But these methods don't work in these two images:

I hope to make them clearer(the outline is distincter, the noise is lesser). Here is an example of what I'm looking for:

Are there any useful techniques that can help?

  • What is the purpose of making your image "clearer" ? Can you post before/after when it is working well ?
    – Olivier
    Apr 18, 2017 at 16:54
  • @Olivier I will use it in my paper,but I hope it more clearer.I'm sorry,I have no a good example include before/after,but there is a good image here.I think it is enough clear.
    – yode
    Apr 18, 2017 at 17:03
  • @scottbb Thanks for edit, and I cannot believe I have make so many grammar error..:)
    – yode
    Apr 18, 2017 at 17:45
  • No problem, happy to pitch in. Your appreciation is appreciated. =)
    – scottbb
    Apr 18, 2017 at 18:11
  • 1
    It would be helpful to have a more specific title explaining exactly the type of clarity you want in your photo. The "clear" you want might differ significantly from a question about how to make a landscape more clear, or a portrait, or a night cityscape.
    – mattdm
    Apr 19, 2017 at 18:58

3 Answers 3


What you want is a mixture of levels adjustment and curves adjustment, which will give you the following result (left side: original image, right side: improved version):

Image before and after levels + curves adjustment

I used both methods to improve the contrast in your image, which, to human eyes, makes the image sharper as well. Since I don't know what you're looking for in these images (which shades and nuances are important), I applied them very carefully; you can use them much more radically to put more contrast in there (at the expense of losing some nuances in the middle tones).

While the levels + curves adjustments effectively do the same thing as the sledgehammer method of "enhance contrast + brightness", they give you much more control over what you're doing, so you can put bright and dark tones exactly where they belong.

For instructions on how to use both tools in Photoshop, just follow this links:

For anyone else reading this, please note that both tools are also available in Open Source Software such as Gimp, so there's no need to buy expensive proprietary software if you don't want to. My two versions above were made using Gimp.

  • Thanks,but hard to accept that more noise.
    – yode
    Apr 18, 2017 at 18:46
  • +1 for the Curves suggestion, much cleaner way to do it than mine. I'm also on Gimp and added the Wavelet Denoise and selective Gaussian blur filters to reduce the visual clutter. Apr 18, 2017 at 18:57
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    @yode: What you see in the darker "basins" (for lack of a better description) is not more noise: it's actual structures that were contained in the original image, but were brought out through contrast enhancement. If you want to get rid of those, you just need to adjust your levels and curves to not bring them out as strongly as in my version. As I said: I don't know what you're looking for, so I tried to enhance what I, as somebody who is not familiar with the subject depicted here, felt had to be enhanced. Feel free to play around with both tools to get the results you need.
    – ParaDice
    Apr 18, 2017 at 19:00

de-noised and increased contrast image To my eye, the top image you posted lacks contrast. To help with the noise I've used a wavelet de-noise filter and applied a selective Gaussian blur. I've also increased the contrast with this image and now it looks 'clearer' to me.

The 10µm text at the bottom is difficult to read. Consider omitting that from the source image and adding it as the last step in post-processing if you are able.

  • 1
    The clearer mean "the outline is clearer, the noise is less".And I'm sorry I have no its clearer version.but I have another enough clear image here
    – yode
    Apr 18, 2017 at 18:10

In the jpeg from the question, most of the dynamic range is 'wasted' by which I mean that there are very few black pixels and very few white pixels...so few that that black and white pixels are probably more representative of noise than interesting information.

This image represents raising the the black point and lowering the white point so that there are more black and white pixels respectively. There are also more dark gray pixels. Absent criteria for interpretation, it may or may not be better than the original image.

enter image description here

This version has substantially more sharpening. Absent criteria for interpretation, it may or may not be better than other techniques.

sharpened version


  1. Working from jpeg does not allow much latitude for remapping greyscale data relative to having a RAW file. Because the starting point is only eight bits.

  2. I processed the image in Darktable using the Levels tool to adjust black and white points until some meaningful number of pixels were clipped dark and bright.

  3. Darktable's Sharpness tool was applied to produce the second image.

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