Suboptimal Sharpen AI Results

I do a lot of live music photography which is often in low light settings. To compensate, I sometimes slow my shutter speed. I use a Nikon 70-200 F2.8. It has excellent optical stabilization, but sometimes the pictures are out of focus. The ones that are badly out of focus, I simply delete. There are some which are candidates for sharpening. I’ve never had much success with sharpening. A sharpened image may look slightly sharper, but will also have that unnatural sharpened look. It never looks close to tack sharp–often remaining somewhat blurry. My goal is to have the face in focus. I can’t expect to get tack sharp photos from a sharpened image, but I hope it comes close. Mostly it doesn’t.

I loved Topaz DeNoise and have used it for years. It’s indispensable in my workflow. But I am not getting good results with Topaz Sharpen AI. I have tried the range of settings. The results are roughly comparable to other programs. Sharpening does bring out some detail (e.g., the nose on the face), but the overall improvement is marginal. I have tried Sharpen, Stabilize and Focus settings. The problem has to do with hand shake that becomes visible at lower shutter speeds (say 1/80 or 1/100) at 200 mm. So Stabilize should be the right settings. At this point, I would say that about 10% of my efforts yield successful results. That’s comparable with other sharpening programs. I hope that somehow I can learn to do better. But I am not too certain at this point.

If I were you, I would raise the ISO setting to use a faster shutter speed if possible. You may find that denoise AI will take care of the increased noise better than sharpen AI will reduce the motion blur.

Thank you for your response. I routinely use a very wide range of ISO settings. I shoot with a Nikon D810 and it has a max ISO of around 56,000. I can make an ISO of 12,800 work about 50% of the time. As I go higher, the chances of quality images degrade. I routinely shoot with what other concert photographers would consider high ISOs. Yes, Topaz deNoise makes a big difference. The problem is that I have hundreds or even a thousand images that I would like to improve through sharpening. I am still hoping that Sharpen AI will make a difference for me.

Can you use a tripod or monopod, which would help a lot?

Thanks again for your comment. A tripod is out of the question and a monopod may be used in some situations.

My focus is not on my shooting. My goal here is to find ways to improve my of Sharpen AI and to see whether anyone has any tips. Thank you!