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- Understanding Lightroom catalogs
- Importing photos from multiple sources
- Organizing photos with ratings, keywords, and collections
- Working with virtual copies
- Making basic corrections to photo color and tone
- Making local photo edits with the Adjustment Brush and Graduated Filter tools
- Removing spots from multiple photos at once
- Reducing digital noise and sharpening
- Cropping and straightening
- Printing and exporting edited photos
Skill Level Beginner
You can think about sharpening as something that should be done to every digital photo. Fortunately, Lightroom's sharpening engine recently underwent an overhaul and is better than ever. I've gone ahead and opened the Detail panel here on the right, which contains the four sharpening sliders. It also contains this preview window. I am going to set the area visible in this preview by selecting this icon at the top-left of the detail panel, and then I am going to move into the image, and I'll just pick a place that I want to see in that preview--maybe something in the foreground, something I might miss in the larger photo--and click there.
And that sets that as the preview area. I can still scroll around in here, but by setting that, I'll be able to see two parts of the photo at once: one here and over here. And then I am going to zoom in to 100%, which is still the best view of image detail while you're sharpening. So, where do you start when you're going to sharpen? Well, I think a useful starting point is one of the Sharpening presets that comes with Lightroom. To access those presets, I'll open the left panel group by clicking in its outside border, and then I am going to click on the Presets panel to open that, and I'll click on the arrow to the left of Lightroom Presets, and here's this whole long list of Lightroom presets.
And as I scroll through them, you can see them previewed up there in the Navigator panel. But I want to go all the way down to Sharpening. And because this is a scenic photo that does have lots of narrow edges, I'll choose this sharpening preset. If I were sharpening a portrait, I would choose this one here, Wide Edges, but I am going to Sharpening Narrow Edges Scenic. And when I click there, the values for Amount and Radius and Detail and Masking, here in the Detail panel, are set to these particular values.
So that's the preset. I can use those as a starting place and tweak them from here, and I'll show you how I would go about tweaking them in just a minute. First, I am going to close this left panel by clicking in its outside border, and now I want to take a minute to tell you a little about the way that Lightroom Sharpens, because I think that will help you when you start adjusting these sliders. In a nutshell, what Lightroom does is look for edges in a photo, all of these places where there are light pixels right next to dark pixels, and then it makes the light pixels lighter and the dark pixels darker, which gives those edges the illusion of sharpness.
And by the way, those light and dark pixels are called halos. Now let's turn to adjusting the Sharpening sliders. The first slider, Amount, determines the intensity, or strength of sharpening. I usually adjust this by pulling it all the way over so that everything looks way too crispy, and then just bringing it back over to the left until things look more normal, but still sharp. Now I think the preset was something like 50, and it looks like that might have been almost right on, maybe I'll leave it a little bit over 50.
I'll put it there at 57. Now, there is nothing magic about these numbers, because the numbers will be different for every photo, but this is the sort of range that you would be in for Amount in this kind of a photo with lots of fine detail. Next, I'll go to the Radius slider. What Radius does is determine the width of the sharpening halos, those white and dark pixels, out from an edge. To get sharpening along the fine lines in a detailed image like this, a number less than 1 is usually best. And as you can see, the preset shows 0.8.
Now, I think this looks pretty good. Let's see what happens if I increase this. The image starts to look a little bit too sharp, too crispy, so I am going to go back and I'll stick with 0.8 to match that preset. The Detail setting here is like a damper on the Amount and Radius. It kind of keeps the sharpening halos from being noticeable. The lower the Detail value, the more the suppression of halos there will be, and the higher the Detail value, the less suppression, and so the sharpening will appear to be stronger.
Now, in this case, I do want the sharpening of all this fine detail to show through this attempt to suppress, so I am going to drag the Detail slider up from 35. And I am just keeping my eye on the image as I make this and all these slider decisions, maybe somewhere in the high 50s. That looks pretty good. If I hold down the Option key--the Alt key on a PC--and click, I can see a kind of map of where those edges are with this value. So, I do have some fine edges.
If I came down the other way towards 0, you can see that the edges turn into blocks. And that isn't what I want, so I'll leave that, as I said, around 59. And finally, masking refers to a mask that protects areas from sharpening where you don't want to exaggerate texture, like the skin on a model's face. Now, here there's really nothing to mask out, except for maybe, if I go all the way up to the top, the sky, if there is some noise in the sky that I didn't want to exaggerate.
But I don't think there is, so I'm going to leave masking at its default of 0, so it's not protecting any areas from sharpening. So that's an approach for you to apply to sharpening here in Lightroom. Keep in mind that this is what's called capture sharpening. It's for purposes of fixing the softness that's inherent whenever a digital photo is created or captured. Later, this image might be sharpened again for output, either here in Lightroom in its Export dialog box, or if I'm taking it into Photoshop at the end of my Photoshop workflow.