Sharpening in Lightroom

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Mike Farley
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Joined: Tue 11 Sep 2012, 16:38

Sharpening in Lightroom

Postby Mike Farley » Tue 20 Jun 2017, 12:18

I gave my "Lightroom Overview" at Selsdon CC last week an subsequently received an enquiry about sharpening. I thought it would be worthwhile copying my response here as it could be of wider interest. There is more information about my workflow in my "Picture at the Exhibition" article which was published in March 2017 issue of the club's bulletin.

In respect of sharpening, I cover the topic in greater detail in my presentation about Raw processing, which concentrates solely on the Develop module.

Essentially, sharpening is carried out in three stages:

1. Capture sharpening. Images straight out of the camera are a bit soft and some sharpening is applied during the processing (demosaicing) of the Raw image. Lightroom has a couple of presets, Faces and Scenic, which have generic settings to cover most subjects. I usually stick with those for cameras with Bayer sensors, but see my note below about Fuji cameras.

2. Local sharpening.
A number of local adjustments such as the Graduated Filter and Radial Filter tools have an option to apply additional sharpening. I do not usually bother with the Sharpness slider, but I occasionally use Clarity to enhance specific areas where I want to bring out texture. Clarity differs from Sharpness as it works on the midtones rather than the values at either end of the tonal range. Clarity also has the option to be applied globally.

3. Output sharpening. This is the sharpening applied to the final image and the optional Lightroom function varies according to how it is going to be viewed, screen or print, gloss or matte paper. It is possible to use the tools in Photoshop, but I have always found that the Lightroom sharpening works just fine on the standard settings. It is a key component in having just one source file however the eventual image is output. The days of having different versions according to sharpening settings and size are over for those content to let Lightroom do the work.

Things are a bit different for Raw files taken using one of the Fuji X-Trans sensors. Fuji has a unique Colour Filter Array pattern which requires a different algorithm for processing the files. With Adobe Camera Raw fine detail can come out looking a bit mushy on the default sharpening settings. The solution is to set the detail slider to 100% and for my Fuji images I use the values suggested by Pete Bridgwood, who also talks a lot more about Capture sharpening than I have given in my summary. Some people prefer to use Capture One for Fuji files and while it does extract a bit more detail, based on the articles I have seen the differences are not that significant in practice. It seems to be pixel peeping territory.

The Amateur Photographer website is running a series of articles about using Raw files which you might find useful. The last link specifically addresses sharpening. ... raw-106356 ... eps-106379 ... ion-106105

If you do not like these, there are the other sources of information I mentioned in my lecture. Google is your friend!

Mike Farley
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