Better understanding Lightroom sharpening

Better understanding Lightroom sharpening

In post production Sharpening an illusion that software creates. It doesn’t pull the details out of images but adds contrast by making the bright pixel extra brighter and dark pixel even darker. Sharpening is really an important part of the post production which can distinctly enhance your photos but, on the other hand, over sharpening can at times make your photos look more edgy, harsh and noisy as it works to add the digital noise on your images. Over sharpening can make straight lines look as zigzags and high radius circular shape as a cubic transition. Here, we will find out about radius below.

Sharpening is usually applied at the end on retouching workflow to sharpen the final images.

In this post i will be talking about lightroom sharpening.

In Lightroom, there are usually two ways to control the sharpness. One with Clarity and another with Sharpening.

Clarity controls the sharpening of only details and textures by adding a mild tone contrast. It also creates less noise.

The difference observed while using clarity, can be seen below.

Before and after sharpening with clarity

Before and after sharpening with clarity


Sharpening:  – This section is provided with  4 options.  Sharpening looks best in 1:1 ration. As it ensures, we see the changes we make.


Sharpening section

  1. Amount: – The amount slider controls the overall sharpening that is applied. In other words, it’s about how much lighter and darker a pixel can get. It ranges from 0 to 150. If we press the slider with Option key on Mac and Alt key on Windows, picture will get something like this; black and white with a little noisy element in it.
    Amount slide with alt/option key                                                          The areas with noises are the areas where sharpness is applied.
  2. Radius: – Radius determines the size of the area around the edges that can be affected. Radius ranges from o.5 to 3. If the radius is 1, 1 pixel around the edges will get affected. Images with fine details work better to lower radius such as landscapes. Whereas, images with very less details such as a close-up-portrait works better on higher radius. Radius slider with option or alt key makes images look like this. Moving a slider gives us exact idea on how the effect can be applied.
    radius with option or alt key
  3. Detail: – Detail slider is responsible for smaller details, textures and patterns. But higher values can bring out the halo effect around the edges. With details and with Option key on Mac or Alt key on Windows the image would look like this.detail slider with option/alt key                                             If you observe the above image , some halo effects are already visible around the edges
  4.  Masking:- This is a very unique option of sharpening  in Lightroom . It literally creates an edge mask. Just like the masking we do in Photoshop, it detects the major edges allowing the above changes to apply blocking the rest part of the image. The black part you see below is the blocked area whereas, only the white part of the image is selected and the effect merely is on it.
    masking with alt/option key

There is no any hard and fast rule or fixed standard setting for the sharpening of the images as different images require different amount. I basically work more on a visual impression. With the technical knowledge, I tend to go for what looks more beautiful.

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About author

Anup Ghimire
Anup Ghimire 60 posts

Anup ghimire is a self learned Photographer/Designer and recently graduated in multimedia technologies from London metropolitan university.Traveling is something he loves the most after photography. You can see some of his photos at his facebook photography page

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