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- What is Lightroom used for?
- Importing photos and videos
- Organizing your library with collections
- Adding keywords and ratings to photos
- Cropping and straightening photos
- Adjusting color and white balance
- Reducing digital noise
- Working with video
- Making changes with the Adjustment Brush and Graduated Filter tools
- Sharing photos on Facebook
- Printing photos
Skill Level Beginner
The very act of capturing a photograph digitally introduces some softness into the photo. If you shoot JPEGs, your digital camera probably tries to correct for that. But if you shoot RAW photos those come out of your camera uncorrected and without sharpening treatment. To compensate for the inherent softness in a digital photo, particularly a RAW photo, you can specify sharpening settings here in the Detail panel of Lightroom's Develop module. This is the same Detail panel that I showed you in the last movie on noise reduction. If your Detail panel isn't open, you can open it by clicking the triangle on the right of the Detail header.
Before you start with the sharpening settings you do want to come down to the Noise Reduction section and tweak those settings, because otherwise you might end up sharpening specks of digital noise. Now before I show you how to change the sharpening settings, keep in mind that its fine in many cases to leave these settings at their defaults. There are couple of reasons for that. First of all if you're working with a RAW file, the sharpening controls are on and by default they are applying some sharpening. And if you're working with a JPEG, as I said, your camera probably already applied some sharpening. And in that case the default for the sharpening controls will be zero for that reason.
Moreover, this is just the first stage of sharpening. This is sometimes called capture sharpening. As I said, its purpose is just to compensate for the softness that you get by shooting a photo digitally. Later, when you're ready to output a copy of the photo for print or for viewing online, you'll do more sharpening. And that sharpening will be geared specifically toward that particular kind of output that you have in mind. You might be doing that in Lightroom's Print module or Lightroom's Export Dialog box, both of which are covered later in this course. Or if you brought your photo into Photoshop to do your final work there, you'll do some export sharpening in Photoshop.
So here at the capture sharpening stage, you can often just stick with the defaults. But if you do want a photo to look sharper here on your screen at this stage, here's how to work with the Detail panel's Sharpening controls. The first thing you want to do is set up your previews. You have your preview of your sharpening, a live preview, here at the top of the Digital panel. And if you don't see it, you can click this black triangle to open the Preview area. I can set this Preview to any part of the photo by clicking on the target and then clicking on the area of the photo that I want to see in this preview.
And I can even come in and click-and-drag to move that around. By default, this small preview is set to 1:1 view. That's really important because you cannot accurately preview sharpening unless you're viewing the photo at one-to-one. And that's also true in the other preview that you have, which is out in the Image Window. Your Image Window has to be set to 1:1 view as well in order for you to judge your sharpening here. So, I'm going to go up to the Navigator panel and I'll click the 1:1 button there.
And then I'll use this small square in the Navigator panel to drag the image in the image window to the part of the photo that I want to see as I'm sharpening. Now, let's talk about what sharpening does. Sharpening looks for edges in a photo. The edges between dark and light tones, like this edge here at the corner of the building. And then when you sharpen, that adds light pixels on one side of the edge and dark pixels on the other. Those are called Sharpening Halos. These halos increased contrast at the edges and that creates the illusion of sharpness.
To see that better, I'm going to go over to the Sharpening settings and I'm going to drag the amount slider way over to the right. And, then I'm also going to zoom in. I normally wouldn't do this when I'm sharpening but I want you to see that along that edge, there are some white pixels and along the other side of the edge, some dark pixels. And those are the halos I just mentioned that create the illusion of sharpness. This Amount slider determines the strength of sharpening, how brighter, how dark the sharpening halos are. The next slider, the Radius slider, determines the thickness or spread of the sharpening halos.
How far out from an edge a sharpening effect extends so you can see that if I drag the Radius slider to the right keeping your eye on these halos, they're going to move out from that edge as I increase radius. And if I decrease radius, those halos go back in toward the edge. Now if the Radius slider is up too high, you're going to see a kind of a ghostly glow on the edge of the building when I go back in to a 1:1 view. I'm going to do that now. Coming up to the Navigator panel and clicking 1:1.
So you can see I've still got that glow along the edge of the building and that means that my Radius slider is up too high. So, I'm going to drag it down. Now, there is no formula about where to put any of these sliders, but in general, you want the radius slider to be less than 2.0. In this case, I'm going to drag it over to the left until I see a lot of that glow disappear, and I'm going to take it down pretty far, maybe 2.6. And then I'm going to go back up to the Amount slider. And I'll move that back over to the left until I just like the amount of sharpening.
And as I said, there is no perfect number and it's different on every image. This is really a subjective decision. But you do want to be careful not to over-sharpen at this capture stage because, as I said, later you will be sharpening again when you output a copy of this photo. In this case I'm going to bring that all the way down to around 50. There are two more sliders here, the Detail slider and the Mask slider. The Detail slider determines which edges are being sharpened. If I drag the Detail slider to the right, more edges get sharpened.
And if I drag it to the left, fewer edges get sharpened. Now that's a little bit difficult to see. So I want to show you a kind of a map of which edges are being sharpened here as I drag the Detail slider. I can do that by holding down the Opt key on the Mac, or the Alt key on a PC, and dragging that Detail slider over to the right, and now you can see what's being sharpened. If I go in the other direction, you can see that fewer details are being sharpened. So I'm going to release the Opt or Alt key to go back and view the image and I'm just going to drag the Detail slider to taste until the sharpening looks right to me.
Now by dragging the Detail slider over to the right, I've manage to sharpen lots of fine details including some that I really don't want to sharpen; here in the background in the hills and a little bit in the sky as well. And in that case I can use the Masking slider to protect areas that really aren't edges from sharpening. Again, I'm going to hold down the Opt key on the Mac, or the Alt key in the PC, as I drag the Masking slider to the right. And this is showing which parts of the image are being sharpened, the white parts. And as I drag the Masking slider over to the right, the parts that are turning black are being protected from sharpening.
So, I'm protecting the sky and some of those hills in the background as well. I'll release the Opt or Alt key so I can see my image again. And then I can tweak that masking slider I'm looking at the image, maybe I'll drag it back a little bit. As I said, there really are no formulas. But in general, if I'm working on a scenic image like this, an image with a lot of fine detail, I will increase the Detail slider quite a bit and I may not have any masking. If I do, it will be fairly low. But, I were working on a portrait, someone's face, then I'd probably would lower the Detail slider and increase the Masking slider because I don't want every little detail in a subject's skin to be exaggerated by sharpening.
Now I want to mention that these Sharpening controls affect the entire image. But if you want to apply more or less sharpening to a specific area you can do that using one of the two local tools which I'll cover in the next chapter; the Adjustment brush and the Graduated filter. And I'll also mention that sometimes you can apply a sharpening preset and that will do all the work for you. Lightroom does shift with the number of presets. Those are located over here in the left column in the Presets panel which I'll open by clicking this triangle. The presets in Lightroom 4 are inside of Subject Matter folders.
These are User Presets and in the User Presets there is a folder of Lightroom General Presets. And here, I have two Sharpening presets that come with the program. A Sharpening preset for faces and another for scenes like this one. You can certainly try those out, at least as the starting place, and then you can tweak the sliders to taste.
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