Lightroom 3 beta, CS5 and Sharpening

Morning everyone! Hope you had a great weekend. I wanted to cover something today that I’ve seen mentioned quite a bit (in the comments) here on the blog – sharpening and how it affects Lightroom 3 beta and Photoshop CS5. See, Adobe introduced something called the process version in LR3 and CS5. You can watch a video I created about it here. It’s a whole new way of reading the raw file. By default, any new photos will automatically be converted to the new process version. But if LR3/CS5 detect any previous camera raw settings on the photo (whether its a sidecar XMP or info in the DNG file), it’ll keep the photo in the old process version and let you convert later. So what’s the problem?

Well if you’ve added, say, sharpening to photos and you convert them to the new 2010 process version (in the Camera Calibration panel), sometimes that sharpening may appear overbearing (which is why Adobe doesn’t do the conversion for you automatically). Check out the example below (you have to click to see it larger to see what I mean). On the left is the 2003 version with (some liberal) sharpening applied. It looks fine. On the right is the same photo and I just changed the Process version to 2010 manually. As you can see, the 2010 process version shows the sharpening effects more.

So what’s the answer? I guess it depends. Visually, the process version only really affects sharpening, noise reduction and vignetting. So if you haven’t used any of those on your photo then there’s nothing to worry about. Also, even if you have used those settings, sometimes changing process versions leaves the photo just fine. In that case, you don’t have to do a thing. But depending on the amount of sharpening you’ve added to a photo, you may need to adjust the sharpening settings for your photos which can be a total nightmare. There are ways to make it easier. If you always used a large sharpening setting like 90-100 then chances are it’s going to look bad. So you could always just sharpen one photo with lower settings and sync that with a group of other photos that were similar. There really is no “great” answer though. As LR3 officially comes out (again, please don’t ask me when) :) I guess we’ll see how big this really is but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts in the meantime. Especially if you’ve already upgraded to CS5. Have you seen any issues with some of your older photos?

Author: Matt Kloskowski

Matt is the full-time Director of Education for Kelby Media Group and a Tampa-based photographer. He's the Editor-in-Chief of Lightroom Magazine, the lead instructor on the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom LIVE Seminar Tour and author of several best-selling Photoshop books. Matt also hosts the world's top Lightroom blog, LightroomKillerTips.com, where he's built up a massive library of Lightroom videos, presets and tips. In addition to teaching Photoshop, Lightroom and photography seminars around the world, he's an instructor at Photoshop World and one of the full-time staff writers for Photoshop User Magazine.

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25 Comments

  1. Hey Matt,

    When will LR3 come out? :)

    Thanks for the article.

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  2. “only really affects sharpening, noise reduction and vignetting.” – also affects fill light & recovery in some cases.

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  3. Wow – that really is a night and day type of difference. I’ve not seen a difference but that could be because I have a rather unique work flow which actually avoids this (albeit unintentionally)…

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  4. I’ve heard you talk about the sharpening in the Nik plug-in, how you like it, and how you like the “structure” slider. So, how does this sharpening compare ? Does the Nik plug-in still have an advantage here, or has the LR/CS5 camera raw + the targeted sharpening in CS5 really closed the gap here ?

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  5. Just to be sure, this is just RAW sharpening, right? Stuff done in CS4/CS5 and saved as PSD or TIFF won’t be changed?

    Thanks,

    Steve

    Post a Reply
    • Yep, it’s the so called pre-RAW sharpening that has changed. When you export as JPEG of TIFF (or something like it) Lghtroom will apply output sharpening. As fas as I know the output sharpening hasn’t changed.

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  6. Matt,

    Sharpening in LR3 is like adding noise to the entire images unless you really tweak the mask and details sliders. I don’t understand the extreme change in the way they are handling this. My 5DMII images at ISO100 look like ISO1600 if I sharpen in the same way I do in LR2. Why did they change it so drastically?

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    • Then don’t sharpen the same way you used to in LR2.

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    • My files look SO MUCH BETTER (D700) on LR3 than LR2… but I work them so LR3 results are optimal and forget about LR2 (just leave them as-is)… Also the beta profiles for the D700 made a significant image “feel” improvement. Can’t wait for LR3 to be released so I can upgrade and re-work some images shot in low light (high ISO) …

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  7. Maybe I am misunderstanding the process, but what happens if sharpening, etc. is _removed_ from the old versions, and then converted to the new process? Yes, it is still a pain, but since LR is non-destructive, would removing the adjustments help?

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  8. Many thanks Mat for the work you selflessly put into this. You save many of us mountains of time testing, experimenting and fault finding.

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  9. “Visually, the process version only really affects sharpening, noise reduction and vignetting.”

    Post-crop vignette style is no longer a component of the Process versioned 2010

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  10. KC is asking a very good question, that I would like to see answered. What would be the best solution for the problem: 1. Resetting the sharpening to the default values in LR2 *before* importing the pics into LR3 and converting them to the new process version; or 2. Importing the pics into LR3 as they are, converting them to the new process version, and *then* adjusting the Sharpening settings in LR3?

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    • Hey Patrick – They both kinda sound like the same thing to me. Either way, you may have to resharpen all of your photos right? Or you could just leave them as is when importing and not convert to the new process version. If you were happy with them before then you can just use the new process version for your photos going forward.

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  11. Matt, slightly off topic (let me know if you’ve covered this elsewhere) – how will LR2 develop presets be affected by the new process version when imported into LR3?

    Also to take adavntage of the new Post Crop Vignetting “Highlight Priority” can you update imported LR2 presets in LR3? or will you need to create a new preset in LR3?

    Thanks,
    Steve

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  12. The mask feature has really come into play in LR3. I noticed the same thing as WPBranham with my 7D and was worried that there was something wrong with the camera. Thanks for your help Matt.

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  13. Hey Matt, what about new sharpening presets for the new process version? The old presets are no longer usable in Lr3.

    Thanks,

    Mattia

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  14. I’m a little confused (sorry), I understand that new imported photos will automatically use the new process, but could someone explain what will happen when I import my LR2 catalogs into LR3 – will LR3 keep the old process and leave the sharpening as it is, or will it apply the new process to these already processed photos?
    Thanks.

    Post a Reply
    • Matt’s quote:

      But if LR3/CS5 detect any previous camera raw settings on the photo (whether its a sidecar XMP or info in the DNG file), it?ll keep the photo in the old process version and let you convert later.

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  15. AAARRRHHH thats what’s going on. I was quite concerned! I import using a collection of presets and the shots looked horrible. I stopped using the import preset sets without knowing quite why. Now I get it. Thanks I will ditch the presets and make more. Thanks Matt.

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  16. matt—-can you do a tutorial that integrates LR 3 with CS5-camera raw-and bridge. Has the new Camera Raw and Bridge—made LR unnecessary??
    Thanks

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  17. Hi Matt (and other readers of this blog) –

    If someone (ie me) currently uses Lightroom 2 and expects to buy Lightroom 3 when it comes out, is the current beta stable and “better” enough to justify moving to now instead of waiting for the commercial release?

    Jim

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