About last year this time, my house mate was still living here. He is a professional photographer and he’d give me tips from time to time. He swore by never using the built in “sharpen” effect in photoshop. I’ll go step-by-step on how he does it.
Step 1: import your picture
Step 2: Duplicate the layer and apply a High Pass filter with a radius of 1.3 on the top layer. Doesn’t look like much, does it? This just creates outlines where all the edges are in the picture. On higher resolution pictures, this effect would be more noticeable.
Step 3: Apply “overlay” blending style to the topmost layer. If the picture looks too “crunchy” you can lower the opacity or even mask out part of the picture.
Here’s the default sharpening effect next to this technique. Hint: it’s really subtle, but that’s the kind of things that photo editors live for- the subtleties.
If you inspect the image closely, you’ll notice that the fibers in the shirt are almost distracting in the left picture, but they are the normal softness in the right picture while the eyes have the same glisten.
Hopefully this tip helps! If you have any issues or opinions, let me know! Make sure to show off your photos in the comments if you found this useful.