The process or sharpening images with Adobe Lightroom is nearly identical to the process of sharpening photos with Camera Raw. After all, Lightroom does use the Camera Raw engine for its image processing. As you may know, I’ve already written a post that talks about how to sharpen an image with Camera Raw, so you can read that at any time. Today though, I’d like to move into covering the same process in Lightroom. There are a few additional tools and features I’d like to discuss.
In today’s post, I’d like to write about the process that’s necessary for sharpening a photograph using Adobe Lightroom. As I mentioned, while it’s very similar to the one that’s used inside of Camera Raw, Lightroom has a few extra flips and switches inside of it, so it’s worth it to cover the entire process again. Luckily, it’s not a long process. Sharpening images is super easy.
Today’s Demo Image
Sharpening is important when it comes to faces and detailed images. To combine these two ideas, I thought a picture of a lovable gold retriever would be perfect to experiment on. Take a look at this.
Let’s see if we can bring out some of the detail of the whiskers and the nose.
Navigating to the Detail Panel
The sharpening controls for Lightroom are contained in a panel on the right side of the application. By default, the Basic panel is opened up, but if I collapse that by clicking on the small right triangle that’s at the right of the panel, I’ll have some additional space to see the panels below. I’ll click the triangle at the right of the Details panel to get a glimpse of the sharpening controls.
Warnings, Switches & Indicators
Before I get into the actual sliders, I’d like to show you a few neat little tools you can use while making your edits. The first one is a warning that Lightroom gives you regarding the sharpening of an image. This warning is in the form of an exclamation point. Take a look.
Here’s what this is about. The warning says that you should view the image at 100% size or larger in order to see any changes you make. As you probably already know, the effects of sharpening are quite difficult to see, especially when the viewable size of the image is small on your screen. To get the best picture possible of what’s going on, the view will need to be enlarged. By clicking on this warning symbol, the view will automatically grow to 100%. If you were to enlarge your view of the image without the assistance of this tool, once you reached 100%, the warning icon would disappear.
The next tool I’d like to bring to your attention can be found directly above the warning I just mentioned. This one is a switch that turns on and off the sharpening effects. As you make your changes, you can click on this switch at any time to see what you’ve done. Sometimes, it’s tough to see how your gradual effects have altered the image. By clicking this switch, you can make abrupt changes that are easily seen.
Finally, if you take a look at the Amount slider in this panel, you’ll see that the right side of it fades into the color red. This is meant to serve as a warning. The more into the red territory you go, the more drastic and dangerous the sharpening effects will be, so be cautious in this area.
What Each Slider Does
Now let’s get into what each slider in this panel does. I’ll list them and explain what they do below.
Amount: If you push this slider to the right, you’ll increase the amount, or intensity, of the overall sharpening you’ll impose on the image. If you press and hold the Alt key while pushing this slider, you’ll see the image turn to black and white, which can be helpful as colors in an image may confuse the eye to the sharpening effects.
Radius: To sharpen an image, Lightroom finds certain areas that contain high contrast. Those areas are considered edges. The Radius slider controls how many pixels from each edge the sharpening will have an effect. If you push this slider to the right, a larger area around each edge will have the sharpening effect applied to it. Also, if you hold down the Alt key while moving the slider, the image will gray itself out and only the affected edges will show.
Detail: This slider finds the small details of an image and applies a sharpening effect to them. If you don’t want those areas to be sharpened, push this slide to the left and if you do, push it to the right. Again, if you hold down the Alt key while doing this, you’ll see exactly what areas of the photo will be adjusted.
Masking: This is one of the most helpful tools of the bunch. Smooth surfaces of an image generally don’t need to be sharpened (such as skin pores). Only the detailed edges do. If you push this slider to the right, Lightroom will find those smooth surfaces (the areas without much detail) and mask them out so they’re not affected by any of the other sharpening sliders. If you hold the Alt key down while pushing this slider, you’ll see the image turn black and white. The black areas will be hidden from any sharpening while the white will have the affects applied. This is helpful for keeping the sharpening effects to a minimum and a more focused scope, if need be.
If you do a good job, you’ll see the eyelashes, hair or anything else you’d like to come alive, stand out. Here’s what this dog’s nose looks like after a bit of tweaking. Not bad, right? I know you can’t see it very well at this size, so just trust me on this one and experiment for yourself.
I hope I clearly explained how to go about sharpening an image using Adobe Lightroom. If you have any questions regarding this post, please let me know in the comment section below or in the Lightroom discussion forum. Thanks for reading!