Lightroom: Sharpening Photos

category: Lightroom • 2 min read

We all want sharp photos. Lightroom has had sharpening since the “before” the beginning. The problem with the sharpening in Lightroom is that some of it, is automatic and some of it, is manual.

The problem with sharpening is what to sharpen and how much? The photo? No, never, actually almost never. iStockPhoto, Alamy and the other stock agencies will reject your photos if you sharpen them too much. I have found 812 entries on the iStockPhoto forums about people asking/complaining about their photos being rejected because of sharpening.

  1. By default when exporting a photo, Lightroom applies “standard sharpening”
  2. In the Develop module, there’s the sharpening panel
  3. The “trick” is to sharpen only the edges, the outline of the “characters of the photo”

Lightroom: Photo Without Any Sharpening

Lightroom: Photo Without Any Sharpening

You need to work backward from the bottom to the top.

  • Select what is being sharpened by pressing the Alt key while moving the slider of the Masking.

Lightroom: Masking of the Sharpening

Lightroom: Masking of the Sharpening

  • Note that you can see clearly the outline of the cat. Only the portion in white will be sharpened. I have set it, so that only the edges will be sharpened. Everything in black will not be sharpened. With a value of 0, zero, everything will be sharpened. Usually I oscillate between 30 and 60. Most of the times, I don’t look at the value but at the reverse black and white image.
  • Then do the same with the Detail by pressing the Alt key while moving the slider. Usually, I oscillate between 20 and 50.
  • Then do the same with the Radius by pressing the Alt key while moving the slider. Usually, I oscillate between 1.0 and 1.2. It’s pointless of going below 1.0, you can’t have a radius of less than 1 pixel.
  • Finally, I deal with the amount. Usually the amount is much greater for prints than for the screen. Usually, I oscillate between 30 and 50 for the screen and 60 to 90 for prints.

Books, the cat, is very worried

Lightroom: Sharpened Photo

It’s a little crisper, not too much, not too little. People won’t notice it, but if they have to select, they will usually select the sharpened version without knowing exactly why.