I have re-read Chapter 8 of  Martin Evening’sThe Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book” Peachpit, 2010Berkeley, which discusses sharpening.

I shoot Raw and use Lightroom to process and optimize all of my images.

I use CS5 for further editing, if needed, for some of my better personal work and most of my OCA assignment work.  For holiday and family photographs  I simply use the preset sharpening tool available in LR for all my input sharpening, there are two pre-sets, Landscape and Portrait,  and these work fine as most are then simply uploaded as jpegs to an on-line photography site to order as 7x5 prints. I also occasionally use the Unsharp mask in CS5. However I must confess I have never really given the process of sharpening too much thought , it is just something to be done. I hope this exercise helps me understand the process in greater depth which in turn will improve my digital workflow. I take too many photographs to print them all myself but I do print all my OCA assignment work and any personal work that I intend to display in frames myself using an Epson R2880 printer. When printing my own images I use LR and use the Sharpen for print preset in the Print module.

Some considerations to keep in mind

1.All digital images need sharpening – hence require input sharpening

2. Images lose some sharpness when printing—hence require further sharpening for print

3.No amount of sharpening will improve a badly focused image

4. Too much sharpening will produce halo’s and artefacts.

6.Zoom in @ 100% to view on screen when applying sharpening.

7. Landscape or portrait images will require differing amounts of sharpening 

8. The choice of how much or how little sharpening is applied is subjective.

9. Printing is essential to assess the effect of the sharpening.

Input Sharpening using LR.

The Amount slider can be increased from 0 to 150 making the image crisper , creating edge definition.   

The Radius slider can increased from 0.5 to 3 and increases edge contrast. The setting will dictate the width of the edge details being sharpened.

The Detail slider can be used to suppress halos caused by Radius and Amount use. 0 applies the most suppression whilst 100 applies none.

Portraits with soft edges will need to have a greater Radius setting applied than a Landscape image, the effect is less noticeable due to the softer edges such as lashes and eyes. Landscapes will probably require a setting of less than 1.   

Using a Low detail and High Radius  will allow (if wanted)  more aggressive sharpening whilst eliminating halos.

The Masking slider can be used to protect areas that you do not want sharpened. 0 gives no mask protection and can be increased up to 100 to increase contrast at the edges whilst protecting smoother tones such as skin. 

The Clarity slider can be used to increase mid-tone contrast


No sharpening

The image is quite soft but not too bad on screen but in print noticeably  lacks definition and contrast. 


Average / what I tend to use most of the time

Amount 35

Radius 1.4

Detail 15

Masking 60

Although the sharpening is quite minimal the appearance on screen becomes slightly more detailed, especially around the eye area. Interestingly the print does not look that much different to the unsharpened version though.



Amount 150

Radius 3

Detail 100

Masking 0

On screen this looks awful . The skin has lost its smoothness , artefacts are noticeable, especially on the fur of the hat. However the printed version does not look as bad , I was quite surprised at just how different the two versions are. I would not use such aggressive sharpening but it demonstrates the need to apply more sharpening for images to be printed than those being displayed digitally on screen.   


Low detail & High Radius

Amount 100

Radius 3

Detail 0

Masking 60

This was my favourite printed version and even the screen version is reasonably acceptable. Using a high radius with low detail has helped keep the print crisp whilst preserving the skin tones. I shall probably try these settings again for any portraiture print but bear in mind I might need to adjust them. 

My prints were a surprise to me as the effect of aggressive  sharpening was far less discernable than the screen version. A printed image is the final step in my personal digital workflow and I understand slightly more than I did at the outset of the exercise the importance of sharpening and what each step and slider does.  However from personal experience  I also know printing it is often a laborious  case of trial and error but I hope my new knowledge will make this an easier task in the future.  


This project brings me back full circle to consider once again Workflow.

 I once lost over 200 images that cannot be replaced due to not having used a back up before a computer crash caused their loss. I now back up all my Raw images to a separate hard-drive and since  the start of the course  always now work on a copy of a file. Digital imagery can be viewed both on screen and as a printed medium. A vast number of digital images are never printed but shared via on-line via sites such as Facebook , Flickr , etc. I myself have two redundant computers containing images I never got around to printing or uploading to a photo site to be printed, I keep meaning to fire them up to do that  but never seem to have the time. Whilst sharing has become easier there is still something stimulating about a physical print. I can still remember the excitement of collecting a packet of newly developed photographs in the days of analogue photography. I get that same buzz now when either printing my own images at home or receiving my holiday or party snaps   as prints from Photobox. I like the physicality of a print that can be picked up and viewed with no need to sit in front of a monitor screen. 

My basic workflow for all sessions

Equipment check list.

1.Ensure camera batteries are fully charged. I use a battery grip with 2 fully charged batteries for each session

2. Memory cards x 2 formatted -- 4 GB and 8 GB

3. Chose lens and filters

4.Cable release


6. Light meter

7. Filters . I have a circular polarizer and a 9 stop ND filter

Camera settings /shooting


2.Spot metering  (if not using my hand held light meter)

3.ISO 100  or 200

4.Highlight clipping warning on

5.Auto WB -- I do not find this a problem as I shoot Raw and can easily change the WB setting.

6.I prefer to use the manual settings on my camera , not aperture or shutter priority , as I feel this allows me greater control .

I check the camera’s  histogram and often bracket my shots. Although shooting Raw and being able to adjust the exposure later on I prefer , if possible , to achieve the best exposure I can at the time of shooting.

I calibrate my screen every month using an X-Rite Colour Munki.

All images are imported into Lightroom and additionally copied onto an external hard drive. I review the images once imported. Any that are out of focus , badly exposed  or composed, are deleted immediately. The remaining images are tagged and put into a collection set / folder within the Lightroom catalogue. I then look through the remaining images and compare any very similar images side by side on the screen—I do find this a long laborious  task but a necessary one . Within the folder I use a coloured flag system to help me sort and further categorize the images . I always create and work on a virtual copy of a file. All remaining files are mainly processed in Lightroom. Some images may be further edited in Photoshop as a 16 bit Tiff file.



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