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Camera RAW has its own sharpening controls. Sharpening is most important just before you output a photo. If Camera RAW is your last stop before you plan to take an image to print, or put it online, then definitely sharpen here. Even if you plan to do further work on this photo in Elements Editor, and after that, to do your final output sharpening in the Editor, you may still want to do some capture sharpening here in Camera RAW. Sharpening in the Camera RAW workspace is done in the Detail tab, where you'll find these four sharpening settings: Amount, Radius, Detail, and Masking.
Before we get to those, I want to do something very important, which is to zoom into 100%, which you should do in sharpening in order to see an accurate preview of the effect of the Sharpening controls on your photo. I'll go down to the menu at the bottom of the screen, and I'll choose 100% from there, and then I'll use the Hand tool to move to the part of the image that I want to see as I do my initial sharpening. But because this image is so much bigger than the document window, I should be constantly moving around using this Hand tool as I move the various controls in the Detail panel, so that I make sure to see the effect of those controls on all parts of the photo.
Sharpening here in Camera RAW basically works like sharpening in the Full Photo Edit workspace, which I've covered earlier. Sharpening increases contrast at what the program perceives to be edges in the photo. That's where light pixels meet dark pixels. When you sharpen, light pixels at those edges are brightened, and dark pixels at those edges are darkened. This increase in edge contrast creates the illusion that an image is sharper. The controls in the Detail panel regulate various aspects of that sharpening process. The Amount, and Radius sliders are the same as the Amount, and Radius sliders that we saw in the Adjust Sharpness, and Unsharp Mask dialog boxes out in the Full Photo Edit workspace.
The Amount slider controls the strength of this lightening, and darkening at edges treatment. The Radius slider determines the width of the sharpening halo; how many pixels out from an edge gets this treatment. And these two sliders influence each other. I am going to start with something I wouldn't always do, which is to take the Amount slider, and drag it way over to the right, and the same with the Radius slider, because I want you to see what sharpening is doing. If you look along this whisker here, you can see that there are light and dark pixels along the whiskers, and that's meant to give this illusion of sharpness.
However, this is obviously way too much. So I'm going to start by moving the Radius slider back until I don't see those sharpening halos. In this case, I am going to move it way back; maybe to about 1 or so. I generally don't put Radius at more than 2, and in fact, the maximum on this slider is 3. Then I'll take the Amount slider, and I'll drag that to the left until the sharpening looks better to me; not so over sharpened.
Now, sharpening is subjective, and it also depends on where you are planning to output. So if I'm planning to output this image for print, then I am going to want it to look a little sharper on screen than I expect it to look in the print, because it will get a little softer in the printing process. So in that case, I might put the Amount at something like, say, 100. Now, I see that there is some sharpening going on here in the background; in this area that almost appears to be noise. So if I haven't already done this, I would go back to the Noise Reduction sliders, and make sure that I had already reduced, not only color noise, but also luminance noise; the grayscale noise that I mentioned in the last movie on noise reduction.
I can do that now, and I can see if that helps with the sharpening, and yes, that makes this area a little bit softer to drag the Luminance slider over to the right. Now I'd like to compare a before and after. So I'll go up to the Preview menu, and I'll uncheck it. That's where I started. There's quite a bit of softness in the areas that I would like to be sharp; the eye here, and this area of the fur. When I check Preview again, you can see the difference that just the Amount, and Radius slider have made there. Now let's take a look at the Detail, and Masking slider.
When you have an image that has lots of fine details in it that you want to sharpen, then you are going to want to drag the Detail slider further to the right in order to include more details in what gets sharpened. But if you have a photo that's mostly of sky, or something smooth that you don't want to sharpen, then you'll pull the Detail slider more to the left. To see what the Detail slider is doing, I am going to move over here a little bit, so we have some of the background, and the middle part, and the foreground in the image, and then I'm going to hold down the Alt key in my keyboard, and drag that Detail slider over.
Notice that as I drag over, if you look closely at the area toward the right of the document window, there are some white patterns in the gray. The white patterns represent the area that's going to be sharpened. So I really don't want to sharpen that background material. So I'll drag the Detail slider back over to the left, and then I can see that the white edges are only in the squirrel's face; not in the background area. There's one more slider here, and that's the Masking slider. To show you that, I am going to have to zoom all the way out, so you can see more of the image.
So I'll double-click the Hand tool to fit the image on screen. The Masking slider can protect smooth, solid areas, like this white snow in this photo, from sharpening. You might typically use the Masking slider to protect a model's face in a portrait, or to protect a bright blue sky in a landscape. When this slider is at 0, nothing is being protected from my Sharpening settings, but as I drag the Masking slider to the right, I am telling Camera RAW to protect more and more of the smooth area of the snow from sharpening, and to apply sharpening only to the well-defined edges.
To see a grayscale preview of exactly what's being protected, I'll hold down the Alt key -- that's the Option key on the Mac -- as I drag the Masking slider to the right. As the background becomes black, and expands, more and more of the snow is going to be protected from sharpening. So the dark parts of the mask represent the protected areas, and the white edges represent what will not be protected. When I am doing setting all the sliders, I'll zoom back into 100%, and thoroughly check all of the image at that view.
Using the Hand tool to move around the image to make sure that I'm happy with the impact of my sharpening settings on all parts of this image, and as I do that, I'll often uncheck and then recheck Preview to see the difference between how the image looked unsharpened, and how it looks with sharpening. Sharpening is almost the last step in the workflow of processing a photo in Camera RAW. All that's left to do now is to output the processed photo, either by saving it with these settings, or by opening it into Elements Editor for further editing, all of which I'll show you in the next movie.
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