Sharpening Images

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by king_solom0n, Feb 18, 2016.

  1. Yes

    63 vote(s)
  2. No

    6 vote(s)
  1. king_solom0n

    king_solom0n Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 9, 2015
    Just curious to see how many of you do it..

    If you do use sharpening, can you share your settings and/or how you decide how much or little sharpening you apply?
  2. Jfrader

    Jfrader Guest

    Of course. Digital images always need at least some sharpening to offset the natural softening of the digital capture process. My settings won't help most folks much as I don't sharpen in Lightroom or Photoshop. I use the NIK Sharpener Pro plug-in because it gives me a lot of control.
  3. Aushiker

    Aushiker Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 12, 2014
    Fremantle, Western Australia
    Real Name:
    I just use the sharpening presets in Lightroom. My eyesight is not good enough for much more.
    • Like Like x 2
  4. pellicle

    pellicle Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 10, 2010
    Southport, OzTrailEYa
    Real Name:

    I will sharpen "as I feel is needed"

    I will sharpen differently for a print and a www output. For www when its at the final size I'll probably sharpen using an unsharp mask 1.3 pixels diameter @ >70%

    it takes a little while to get the hang of sharpening for prints, I understand there is software but I usually work depending on the size and output type.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Real Name:
    Sharpen AFTER sizing to the final resolution.
    There's lots of articles online, any of them that don't say the above probably don't know what they're talking about. The rest are probably OK.

  6. pake

    pake Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 14, 2010
    Real Name:
    In Lightroom I use sharpening between values 30-45 (depending on the ISO). Also the mask strength differs. After that I'll add more sharpening in Photoshop (after resizing) but the sharpening method and the amount depends on the noise level and the picture itself.
  7. king_solom0n

    king_solom0n Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 9, 2015
    Thanks for the replies and information. Whenever I try to sharpen my images, it usually doesn't look any different from the original or it ends up looking too sharp. Looks like I've got more reading and experimenting to do.
  8. robcee

    robcee Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 10, 2016
    Real Name:
    Rob Campbell
    depends on a lot (lens used, lighting, desired look, crop), but my default import settings start at Amount: 35, Radius 1.0, Detail: 25, Masking 5.

    The EM1 has no AA filter and the lenses I'm using are very sharp. For standard, documentary style photography I'll usually leave those settings alone, or drop the radius to 0.9. Maybe boost Amount to 40.


    first noreaster
    by Rob Campbell

    Amount: Amount 43, Radius: 0.9, Detail 33, Mask: 3.

    Sharp lens and a sharp sensor. Not a lot of sharpening required.

    By comparison, with my Nikon body and glass which did have an AA sensor, I'd frequently go up to 50-60 to crisp everything up.
  9. Brian Beezley

    Brian Beezley Mu-43 All-Pro

    Barry, I used to believe this was necessary for best results, but I no longer do. I'd be interested to know your reasoning.

  10. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    Real Name:
    Depends on what I'm shooting, meaning JPG or RAW.

    JPG - camera is set to -1 sharpening because I find that the Olympus EM5/EM5mkII/EM1 are a bit overly aggressive and this over aggressive sharpening can cause low ISO artifacting. Once downloaded into Lightroom, my base sharpening is +30 and I tweak from there if necessary.

    RAW - in Lightroom, usually between +40-50, tweaked as necessary.
    • Informative Informative x 1
  11. MRM

    MRM Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 9, 2013
    If it is a landscape I globally sharpen to around 20-30 and increase masking for sky regions. Then if i have an area of high detail or importance i locally sharpen using the brush in Lightroom. If I'm working on a picture with a defined subject i mostly just locally sharpen especially if it is an animal. This i feel makes the subjects pop more and does not increase noise in other areas of the photo. I feel that in most photos the whole photo does not need to be sharp and like to emphasize certain areas with brush sharpening along with contrast, vibrance and increased exposure. I wouldn't say any photo of mine is sharpened the same. I am a big fan of local sharpening with the brush however.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  12. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 14, 2012
    New Mexico
    Real Name:
    From raw in LR 25-40, never use luminance NR, develop to tiff and further sharpen in LR as necessary, usually using highpass sharpening at .3 to whatever, usually no more than one, but occasionally more for legacy glass, from which a lot of detail can be pulled with an increase in local contrast. Works for me, but it is personal.
  13. piggsy

    piggsy Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 2, 2014
    Brisbane, Australia
    I use Neat Image for both noise reduction and sharpening.

    How much or how little - depends on what the cause of loss of sharpness or noise is in the shot in a given area and what it's for.

    Stuff that I like about it -

    samples the actual camera sensor noise from a noise-only shot sample you can take from the same conditions as your real shots, rather than a guess at what that noise might be.

    can control different channel noise separately and sensitivity to what is considered to be that noise (good if you're eg messing with the primary saturation in LR and no longer have the same amplification of red / blue / luma noise, etc)

    3 different frequency sharpening and noise control - eg rather than hitting all edges detected with the same light/darkening or smoothing, you can control for how hard it will hit things like jpg artifacts, softening from in camera noise control, edges of baked in sharpening artifacts, diffraction softening, etc. And being able to work with it in photoshop as layers means you can easily apply different noise/sharpen regimes to different parts of the same image rather than just using the same masking/detail etc for all of the same image.
  14. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Real Name:
    Hi Brian,

    This article says it well:
    Tips for Sharpening Your Images the Right Way (

    I believe it gets even worse if you start with a much higher resolution and downscale to web res.

    Another article: - Sharpening Simplified

  15. Brian Beezley

    Brian Beezley Mu-43 All-Pro

    Barry, I understand why the sharpening parameters are not the same when sharpening before or after resizing. What I don't understand is why I should expect artifacts when sharpening before.

  16. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Real Name:
    One example I can readily think of is that a noisy image can look much worse after sharpening. However, downscaling it will flatten a lot of the noise, and sharpening should look better after that.
    I'll see if I can find an example image.

  17. Brian Beezley

    Brian Beezley Mu-43 All-Pro

    I can imagine how the order of sharpening and noise reduction might matter because I believe many noise reduction algorithms are nonlinear. But the common unsharp mask sharpening algorithm and resizing are linear operations. It shouldn't matter what order they are done. The only exception I can think of involves aliasing. If you sharpen first and boost the spectral region that will fold after resizing and the antialias filter associated with resizing isn't strong enough, you may get aliasing artifacts. But if you sharpen after resizing, the aliased stuff doesn't get boosted. However, I don't think I've ever see evidence of this kind of artifact, which should look pretty strange.

    I went to a lot of trouble to minimize sharpening in OV3 (I was able to set sharpen to -5) before passing a 16-bit TIFF at final output resolution to RawTherapee, where I used unsharp mask or occasionally deconvolution. But I discovered that sharpening halos were noticeably less obtrusive if I left sharpening at 0 in OV3 and then backed off the sharpening parameters in RT. This isn't what I expected since I had read all the advice about sharpening last. But it was true. I almost never use noise reduction and I haven't checked how that interacts.

  18. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    4 things are unclear from your 2 posts above.

    The first is whether you are shooting in RAW or JPEG. If you're shooting JPEG your camera may already be applying sharpening depending on your settings so applying further sharpening may result in over sharpening. Since you haven't said what you're doing, it's hard to comment.

    The second is what software you're using for sharpening. It's hard for anyone to make suggestions on what to do if we don't know what software you're using. Not all applications have exactly the same controls.

    The third is whether or not you're applying noise reduction and how much. Sharpening can increase noise and noise reduction can reduce sharpening. If you aren't applying noise reduction that may be part of the reason that some images end up looking too sharp. The solution could be applying less sharpening to those images, or it could be applying some/more noise reduction.

    The fourth is what kind of images are involved. The sharpening settings which work best for a landscape of scenic shot with a lot of fine detail in it will look overshare in many portraits because they will exaggerate every skin pore and detail. On the other hand the settings which work best for a portrait aren't going to give the best results with the landscape/scene where you want to reveal all of the fine detail there is. If you're applying exactly the same sharpening to every shot, some shots are very likely to look over sharpened than others.

    Sharpening is an area that people tend to struggle with until they "get it" and find an approach that works for them. It's hard for anyone to offer help when we don't have the kind of information I've just mentioned above because we don't know what you're doing. If you want to ask questions in order to learn or solve a problem, you need to give the people you're asking enough information so that they can get an idea of what you're doing and what may be causing your problem. Without a certain amount of information to work on, there's a good chance that a lot of the answers you receive will not be relevant to your problem. It's not that the people responding don't know what they're talking about, it's just that we all have a tendency to think that if someone is having problems the problems they're having are going to be the same or similar to the ones the respondent had and the simple truth is that not everyone has the same problems. Also it doesn't help much if you're using application x and a respondent gives you the instructions for dealing with the problem in application y and the 2 applications have different setting options.

    It's fine to ask questions because people do want to help but if you're going to ask a question you do need to provide enough information to enable people to try and provide an answer that will be of assistance to you.
    • Informative Informative x 1
  19. Hendrik

    Hendrik Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 27, 2015
    Unless I need more I generally accept LR's defaults for web distribution (which almost always involves downsampling). So, even when I don't visit the Details panel, I've sharpened anyway. For printing, a lot more goes on some of which is certainly to be sharpening and some of which might be de-sharpening. The policy is to get the idea across by doing whatever is necessary, whatever the best way of doing that may be.
  20. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Real Name:
    @Brian Beezley@Brian Beezley,

    My noisy test image came out so poorly with sharpening that it didn't seem to matter much when I sharpened it.

    So, another test; I downloaded this image:

    I used GIMP to sharpen and scale (to 1600x1200).

    Here are 4 versions, all scaled to 1600x1200 (complete image size; only the top left corner is shown here of the 'native' 1600x1200 scaled image):
    4 samples.
    The size of this image should be exactly 1354x404; you may need to click on it to see the full size.

    Can you tell which ones are sharpened, and when?

    There are a couple red herrings here (due to the nature of the original image and how the samples were scaled). I'm not going to explain them yet.

    Last edited: Feb 19, 2016