How to sharpen your images in Lightroom Classic
This is a quick start guide for Sharpening your images in Lightroom Classic.
There’s more than one way to sharpen in Lightroom, but the most popular is through the Detail panel. And just below Sharpening, we have our Noise Reduction tools, and we’ll cover those in another video tutorial.
In essence, when it comes to sharpening, Lightroom targets the details in your images and will apply the sharpening along the edge of that detail.
Sharpening includes four sliders to maximize the sharpening and where that sharpening is applied. And I’ll explain why you don’t want to sharpen the entire image in a moment.
First, let’s look at the basics. Each sharpening option has default settings, and these are the settings for my Nikon D500. But my Nikon z6 has different settings for the defaults.
Your default settings differ depending on your Preferences setup. And to learn more about why that is, check out the Sharpening preferences tutorial in the description.
So, the Amount increases the quantity of sharpening, and sliding it to the right, you’ll gradually increase the amount.
Radius increases the size of the sharpening area around the edges of detail or texture. So a default value of one means Lightroom will apply sharpening over one pixel around the edge of your detail.
If you increase the radius to a maximum of three, the sharpening will be spread over three pixels near the edge.
This results in a thicker edge, almost like you applied a shadow along the edge.
The Detail slider gives you control over the different-sized details that get sharpened in your photo.
So, a lower setting will sharpen large edges, and a high setting will begin adding sharpening to the smaller details. The higher you go, the more detail is targeted, but if you go too far, you’ll begin introducing digital noise or digital artifacts that degrade your image.
For example, the default setting targets hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows since they’re fairly thick.
As I increase Detail, it starts to target the smaller detail, like the pores in the skin, and the skin’s texture, which results in a lot of grain. And begins to enhance any skin blemishes. So, you don’t always want to target every detail in the image. It depends on the subject.
For birds, the Detail targets the larger feather edges at the lower values, and if you want to sharpen the feathers with a skinnier edge, then increasing detail will also target those edges. In this case, it might be ok to go higher vs. a portrait.
Masking provides even more control over where the sharpening effect is applied.
At zero, one hundred percent of your image is receiving sharpening. As you increase it, the sharpening effect will be removed from the finer details in your image, like skin texture or the blue sky in a landscape.
If you hold down your Alt or Option key, the image will turn pure white when it’s at the default of zero. As you slide to the right, black will be introduced, representing the areas of your image that no longer receive the sharpening. The further you go, the fewer the details that are sharpened.
So far, we’ve covered the basics of sharpening. But there’s much more to learn to ensure you get the sharpest image possible without over-sharpening.
Watch this complete sharpening guide next to learn everything you need to know about sharpening in Lightroom Classic.