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How to Unblur a Picture, Edit It, and Make It Perfect


Many people don’t know how to unblur a picture they have taken that has fallen short of their intended quality.

One of the most annoying things about capturing photos of your memories is when you look at them later and realize that they look like you managed to take a picture of The Flash. That is to say that your pictures turn out blurry and the magic of the moment you caught is lost in your inability to see it clearly.

Blurry Photos Are a Pain

Unless you’re a professional photographer, you’re going to ruin photos. Whether your hand is shaky or you just moved the camera while taking your shot, you’re going to screw up some attempts to capture your memories. Sometimes you can simply take another photo. Sometimes you can’t. Other times, your photo is too small and you have to increase its size, which is almost always accompanied by quality loss.

When you realize too late that the picture you took doesn’t have your desired quality, there are fortunately tools that will allow you to attempt to salvage your picture.

Unfortunately, you’re probably going to have to spend money. While there are free programs available, most of them have a single Sharpen tool that, to be frank, won’t do you much good. Fortunately, there are programs like Adobe Photoshop that have fantastic tools that can fix your problem. If they can’t fix it completely, they can at least make your photo look much better than before.

Sometimes you will be able to achieve perfection. Sometimes you won’t. But if your goal is to fix your mistakes, they’ll be your best shot.

How to Unblur a Photo with Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is almost a household name. You don’t “Corel Draw” photos, after all. You “Photoshop” them (even if you’re not using Photoshop). This program is pricey, costing over $100 for a one-year subscription. The subscription also includes a host of other tools, but this amazing program will cost you. But what’s a few dollars when it comes to saving your memories?

Photoshop gives you three important tools to unblur a picture that isn’t perfect (or close to it). First, you can use the Unsharp Mask Filter. Secondly, you can use duplicate image layers and the High Pass Filter. If those don’t work, Photoshop features Camera Shake Reduction to help you deal with how to unblur a picture.

Depending on how bad the situation is with your photo, your result will either be a vastly improved photo or absolute perfection.

We have intentionally chosen a photo that was exceptionally blurry. It was taken by a person who was moving the camera back and forth while wildly snapping pictures. In other words, there’s no way this photo will come out perfect. But let’s see what we can do to improve it, shall we?

This is what we’re working with:

Terrible quality photo of a girl standing against a wall
Image by John Prager, all rights reserved

It’s awful, right? Thankfully, Photoshop is here to save the day! We’ll be showing you how to unblur a picture like this one easily.

How to Unblur a Picture with High Pass Filter

The first thing you will want to do is open your image in Photoshop. Next, create some additional layers by right-clicking your initial layer and selecting “Duplicate Layer.” Do this a few times.

Creating duplicate layers in Photoshop
Image: Screenshot by John Prager, via Photoshop

Your “Layers” tab should look like this:

Photoshop multiple layers
Image: Screenshot by John Prager, via Photoshop

Once you’ve done that, select your top layer and click “Filter” on the toolbar. Next, move down to “Other” and click “High Pass.”

Photoshop High Pass Filter
Image: Screenshot by John Prager, via Photoshop

This will bring up a box that will allow you to set a Radius. Set this to 10 pixels.

Setting a pixel radius
Image: Screenshot by John Prager, via Photoshop

Next, select the next layer down and set it to 7 Pixels. Set the next layer to 4 Pixels. Leave the final layer (the original image) alone for now.

Now that you’ve set it up, select the top layer again. Click the box that says “Normal” at the top of your Layers tab. Select “Soft Light” from the menu.

Soft Light in Photoshop
Image: Screenshot by John Prager, via Photoshop

Do the same for the second layer. For the third, do the same thing but select “Hard Light” from the menu. Once again, don’t touch the final layer (the original image).

Hardlight in Photoshop
Image: Screenshot by John Prager, via Photoshop

After you have done all this, you should see a massive improvement over the original. Let’s take a look at what we ended up with:

Image fixed with High Pass Filter
Image by John Prager, all rights reserved

As you can see, this photo that was once hopeless isn’t quite perfect — but it’s definitely much sharper and less blurry. With less terrible images, you will be able to create an image with far superior quality.

How to Unblur an Image with Unsharp Mask Filter

If that method isn’t working for you, there are other options like Unsharp Mask Filter. This is a much less complicated process than high pass filter.

Here’s how to unblur a picture with Unsharp Mask Filter

The first thing you want to do is select your original image. Move your mouse to the toolbar at the top and select “Filter” then “Convert for Smart Filters.”

Convert for Smart Filters in Photoshop
Image: Screenshot by John Prager, via Photoshop

This will bring up a dialogue box informing you that the layer will be converted into a smart object. Click “OK.”

Smart object dialogue box
Image: Screenshot by John Prager, via Photoshop

Next, click “Filter” on the toolbar at the top. Then move your mouse over “Sharpen” and click “Unsharp Mask.”

Unsharp Mask Filter in Photoshop
Image: Screenshot by John Prager, via Photoshop

This will bring up a window with three sliders: “Amount,” “Radius,” and “Threshold.” Set the Radius to one and use the “Amount” slider to adjust the photo to your liking. You can also use “Threshold” to refine the image further.

Unsharp Mask in Photoshop
Image: Screenshot by John Prager, via Photoshop

There are no exact numbers you should use for this. It all comes down to what looks best for your individual photo. As you can see, we managed to clean our mess of a picture up pretty nicely using this method.

Image fixed with Unsharp Mask
Photo by John Prager, all rights reserved

It’s still not perfect, but what’s the point in using a perfect photo? The reason you’re doing this is that you or someone else screwed up while taking the picture in the first place.

Fixing a photo with Camera Shake Reduction

If you don’t like your results with those methods, you can always try Photoshop’s Camera Shake Reduction feature. This one was built more for the photo we are using, as it was taken while the camera was being shaken like the person who snapped the photo was trying to wake his device from a coma.

Here’s how to unblur a picture with Shake Reduction

Once again, select “Filter” from the menu at the top. Next, move your mouse over “Sharpen” and select “Shake Reduction.”

Shake Reduction in Photoshop
Image: Screenshot by John Prager, via Photoshop

This is going to take you much longer than the other methods, as Photoshop will render and re-render the image as you go along. When you click “Shake Reduction,” a window will pop up with your not-so-great image. Click “Advanced” on the right and check the “Show Blur Estimation Regions” box.

Camera Shake Reduction
Image: Screenshot by John Prager, via Photoshop

Resize the detected blur region in the image preview. Next, click “Add suggested blur trace” to the right of the “Show Blur Estimation Regions” checkbox. Add as many as you need to clean up your image. The icon looks like a plus sign next to a dotted rectangle. You can see it in the image above.

When you are satisfied with your image, click “OK” at the top, and it will apply the changes. This is what we ended up with:

Photo fixed with Shake Reduction
Image: Screenshot by John Prager, via Photoshop

As you can see, it’s not perfect — but once again, we used a photo that was intentionally terrible for these examples.

Other Options for Deblurring Photos

If you don’t quite “get” how to unblur a picture with Photoshop or just don’t want to use it, there are other programs that exist just for deblurring photos.

One of them is Blurity, which will cost you $79. This program does an excellent job and seems to be worth the money if you don’t have or want Photoshop. The advantage here is that the $79 is a one-time fee rather than Photoshop’s subscription cost.

Another excellent alternative for deblurring photos is SmartDeblur, which offers basic deblurring for $49. The Pro version includes numerous advanced features the basic version does not.

If you don’t have the money to spend, you can always use Fotor, which is a free online tool that won’t match the impressive results other pay-to-use programs will provide, but it’s a good alternative if you’re pinched for cash.

If you have a photo that is less awful than the one we used, you will achieve better results. Photoshop is a fantastic tool that helps you make your photos look pristine, but it’s not magic. No program is. Photoshop and other programs will do the best they can with what you give them. But if your photo is far gone like this one was, the best you can do is make it look better than it previously did.

 

Featured Image: CC0, by Bruce Mars, via Pexels


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