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- When to sharpen
- Zoom settings for sharpening
- Sharpening RAW captures
- Preparing a photo for output and sharpening
- Using Unsharp Mask and Smart Sharpen
- Creative and targeted sharpening
- Using advanced blending options
- Multiple-pass sharpening
- Using third-party tools
Skill Level Intermediate
In addition to the sharpening adjustments available in Adobe Camera Raw aimed at compensating for softness in the original capture, you can also apply output sharpening. To be perfectly honest, I recommend against the use of this output sharpening in Adobe Camera Raw, because in most cases the image you convert with Adobe Camera Raw is not the final image you'll print or otherwise share with others. That said, in certain cases you may want to utilize Adobe Camera Raw to quickly prepare a raw capture for final output, rather than going through the normal full workflow for the image. Let's take a look at the output sharpening options in Adobe Camera Raw. The output sharpening settings are part of the workflow options in Adobe Camera Raw.
There's a summary of the current settings at the bottom of the preview. This text link indicates the current settings for our workflow options. If I click on this text link, the workflow options dialog will appear. I can choose which color space I'd like to convert this image into, the bit depth that I'd like to use, the output size resolution, and I can apply sharpening. In this case, let's assume that I'm preparing some images to send via email to a client, and so I want them to be sharpened just a little bit. Obviously I could probably get better results by really working with the image in Photoshop, but when time is of the essence this can be a good alternative.
I'll use the sRGB color space since this is going to be sent via email. That's an appropriate color space for viewing images on a monitor display, and I'll leave the bit depth at 8 bits per channel, because ultimately I'll be creating a JPEG image from this raw capture, and JPEG images only support 8 bits rather than 16 bits per channel. I'll also go ahead and take the opportunity here to reduce the size of the image. In this case my smallest option is 1536 by 1024. Approximately 1500 by 1000 pixels, and that's actually a pretty good size for sending via email. The actual options available to you here will depend on the resolution of your specific camera.
So for each camera, there will be a completely different set of options. I'm going to go ahead and choose the smallest option here. The resolution setting is irrelevant for an image that's only being viewed on a monitor display. So I'll just leave that alone and I can take a look at my sharpening options. You'll see that I can choose whether I want to sharpen for the screen or glossy paper or for matte paper. When printing we have the issue of dot gain to contend with. The spreading of ink on paper and matte paper has more dot gain than gossy papers.
So it's important to choose the appropriate type of paper if we're sharpening for a printed image. In this case, I'm sharpening on the assumption that the image will be viewed on a monitor display, so I'll simply choose the screen option. I can then choose the amount of sharpening that I want to apply. As you can see, there's not a lot of flexibility or control here. I simply have low, standard, or high. If I'm concerned about the image getting over sharpened, I can use the low setting. If I really want to accentuate detail, I can use the high setting. And if I'm not sure, I'd probably just stick with the standard setting.
In this case, I think standard would be fine. Because while there is a fair amount of detail, it's not fine detail, so I don't feel the need to apply extreme sharpening in this case Of course, in reality, none of the sharpening options here in workflow options will actually be extreme. All of them are going to be relatively subtle, just trying to compensate for the softness that occurs when outputting our images. So I'll leave that option set to standard, and then I can click OK. When I then convert this image, opening it in Photoshop, the settings will be applied, and the image will have been sharpened.
It's important to keep in mind that the workflow options are sticky, which means the settings you establish here, will become the default settings for future images, opened with Adobe Camera Raw. As a result, it's a good idea to get in the habit of checking these settings, whenever opening an image in Adobe Camera Raw. Especially if you've recently processed an image in a way that differs from your typical workflow.