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Output sharpening in Lightroom

From: Photoshop Sharpening Power Workshop

Video: Output sharpening in Lightroom

When you share your images in Lightroom, you have the opportunity to apply output sharpening in order to compensate for the loss of sharpness that occurs with various output methods. For example, when printing an image, the ink will spread on the paper, a process referred to as dot gain, causing a reduction in the apparent sharpness of the image. Even digital displays such as projectors or monitors can cause a slight softening of the appearance of the image. In this lesson, we'll take a look at the process of applying sharpening to images when you are preparing to share them in a variety of ways. I've selected an image that I would like to share and I'll show you various methods of sharing that include a sharpening option. They're generally all the same options with only minor variations related to the particular output type.

Output sharpening in Lightroom

When you share your images in Lightroom, you have the opportunity to apply output sharpening in order to compensate for the loss of sharpness that occurs with various output methods. For example, when printing an image, the ink will spread on the paper, a process referred to as dot gain, causing a reduction in the apparent sharpness of the image. Even digital displays such as projectors or monitors can cause a slight softening of the appearance of the image. In this lesson, we'll take a look at the process of applying sharpening to images when you are preparing to share them in a variety of ways. I've selected an image that I would like to share and I'll show you various methods of sharing that include a sharpening option. They're generally all the same options with only minor variations related to the particular output type.

I'll start with the Export option. I've selected an image I'd like to export, so I'll simply click the Export button on the left panel in the Library module. This will bring up the Export dialog. I can choose one of my presets and then refine my settings for the export of my images. In this case, just one image and I'll assume I'm going to share it via email. If I scroll down, I can find the output Sharpening section and I have the option to turn on Sharpening. When I do so, I have two pop-ups that I can use to adjust the settings for Sharpening.

The first is what type of output I want to sharpen for. My options are Screen or For Print and when printing, I can choose between Matte Paper and Glossy Paper. Obviously, when exporting images, I might be using the resulting images for any of a variety of purposes, and so, it provides me with maximum flexibility here, at least in the context of what light room offers for output sharpening. Since I'm operating under the assumption that I'll be emailing this photo, I'll go ahead and keep the Screen option set. I can then choose the amount of sharpening I would like to apply, Low standard and High. Unfortunately, there's no previews available for any of the output sharpening options within Lightroom, so this does call for a little bit of trial and error and experience will be your best guide. Personal preference, of course, plays a role as well. In this case I think I'l set the options to Low, because I don't want to oversharpen the images.

I just want to jazz them up a little bit, so they look better when the recipients of the email see the photos. We have similar sharpening options in some of the output modules of Lightroom, as well. I'll go ahead and cancel my Export here and we'll switch over to the Web module. Here, we have the option to sharpen the image for the screen. I'll go ahead and scroll down on the right panels that we can find the Sharpening option. And the sharpening can be turned on or off. And with it on, we have only the option for Low standard or High.

Notice that we don't need to choose between screen and the type of paper we're printing to, since the Web module assumes that the images will be displayed on the screen. So, once again, I can choose the degree of sharpening I want to apply to these images when they're prepared for the Web Gallery. I can also sharpen when printing, of course. So I'll switch to the Print module, and once again, scroll down on the right panel so that I can locate the Sharpening controls. Here, it's called Print Sharpening, and once again, I have a check box that allows me to turn that sharpening on or off.

I can then choose the degree of sharpening, once again, Low standard or High. And I can also choose the Media type. The idea here is that Matte Papers are going to absorb the inks more than Glossy Papers, and therefore, will tend to look a little bit softer. In other words, with a Matte Paper, more sharpening needs to be applied to get the best results. Of course, with many papers, this isn't exactly a straightforward option. Semi-gloss papers, I would consider to be glossy, but also, certain Matte Papers, you might want to use the Glossy setting for.

That's because many Matte Papers have a coating that is designed to minimize dot gain for the inks. The key is to choose the best setting based on the type of paper you're printing to. In this case, I'll assume a Glossy Paper type, and then I'm going to adjust degree of sharpening as desired in this case, for example, I've been close stick with the standard option. As you can see the Output Sharpening options in Lightroom don't provide you with a significant amount of control or flexibility. And you'll need to use a little trial and error to find the best settings for your preferences and particular output methods.

These Sharpening options are great for many methods of sharing your images. But for images that are especially important such as a Fine Art Print, you may want to utilize Photoshop or other tools to exercise greater control over your Output Sharpening.

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Photoshop Sharpening Power Workshop

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