Photoshop Techniques - Super Resolution

The size of the uncropped image above is 4272 x 2848 pixels, or 12 Mp. For me, this image works much better in its cropped version seen below. The problem is, it requires that half the pixels be removed, leaving only 6 Mp. Photoshop has always offered strategies for enhancing pixels for large prints; nevertheless, reducing an image to 6 Mp does not leave much for quality printing.

Photoshop continues to improve its artificial intelligence to make image-editing more efficient, selective and effective. Case in point, the latest version of Photoshop offers an enhancement method called ‘Super Resolution’. Basically, it doubles the size of an image or quadruples the number of pixels. The cropped image above, has a resolution of 4556 x 5696 (27 Mp), over twice the amount of the uncropped original image (12 Mp). By applying Super Resolution to the original, resolution increased to 8544 x 5696 (48 Mp), which meant I could comfortably crop out half the pixels. Wow! Is it too good to be true? Let’s take a closer look.

To apply Super Resolution, follow these easy steps.

Open an image in Adobe Camera Raw. This should be the default when opening an image from Adobe Bridge into Photoshop. Think of Camera Raw as the first stage in your editing workflow. Next, right click on the image. A menu screen will appear, as you see here.

Click on ‘Enhance…”. Now you will see the Enhance Preview window, as you see here.

At this point, you can move the screen around to examine the details throughout the image. Make sure ‘Super Resolution’ box is checked and click the ‘Enhance’ button. Photoshop will take a few seconds or longer, depending on your computer to enhance. Once completed, you will see a duplicate image in Camera Raw as you see here.

The enhanced image is created as a DNG file, but you can convert that to another file version such as TIF (my preference) or JPEG in Photoshop.

Before you bring the enhanced file into Photoshop, I highly recommend you examine the image for two things – sharpness and chromatic aberration. Look at the two images below. This is a 10Mp image, zoomed in. After applying Super Resolution, you can see some softness compared to the original. There is also some chromatic aberration (purple halo around the bird’s head).

To correct these issues while in Camera Raw, I applied sharpening and removed the chromatic aberration. You can see the sharpening applied in the image below. I also applied a small amount of noise reduction.

Next, I removed the chromatic aberration by first checking the box as you see in the image below. Then I used the purple and green slider tools to remove the colors.

This example leads me to suggest that Super Resolution may not work well with all your images. If the original image is not adequately sharp or has a lot of noise (graininess) to begin with, increasing the number of pixels may not work as well. In the case of the latter, you may need to apply noise reduction to the point the image appears soft. Applying a grain effect (image below) may help bring back some detail.

Disclaimer - Super Resolution is NOT a substitute for a more expensive, higher resolution camera. A camera is valued for more than its sensor’s resolution, and as camera sensors improve, so do other technologies such as auto focus. Instead, think of Super Resolution as a means of expanding your creative showcasing of images, old and new. This is especially so when severe cropping is needed to enhance an image.

For me, Super Resolution is breathing new life into my old wildlife images. And the bonus is that over the years Photoshop has improved its editing tools profoundly, especially when it comes to selective editing. Because of this, I look at older images and see greater potential! Here are a couple more examples.

You may also be interested in a previous blog relating to this one titled "Editing Techniques: Cropping to Improve Images".

Thanks for looking on and consider taking a workshop with me here in south Florida. And while visiting, you may sign up for a Photoshop tutorial as well. Please check out my website and feel free to contact me at