Video – My Sharpening Workflow in Lightroom

Sharpening is always a hot topic when it comes to working with Lightroom and Photoshop. We have sharpening sliders in the Detail panel in Lightroom and we also have sharpening controls when it comes to printing and even more sharpening in Photoshop. Which ones are you supposed to use and in what order? That’s what I’ll cover in this week’s video.

Click here to download the video to your computer. [Right-click and choose the "Save As" option]

Author: Matt K

Matt is a full time Education Director for the NAPP and Kelby Training. He's a best-selling author of various books on Photoshop and Photography co-hosts the live weekly photography talk show "The Grid" and is co-host of "Photoshop User TV". In his spare time he practices as a 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo and enjoys spending time with his family in Tampa, FL.

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38 Comments

  1. The link is not working.

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  2. Hi Matt, In step 2 of your sharpening video, why did you use Photoshop for ‘creative sharpening’, rather than the adjustment brush & sharpening slider in Lightroom? Can you acheive ‘creative shapening’ inside Lightroom or is Photoshop still necessary for this?

    Also, can you explain how sharpening with the adjustment brush & sharpening slider relate to sharpening in the sharpening panel.

    Thanks.

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  3. Hi Matt.

    I was going to ask the exact same question as Paul but he beat me to it. I just wanted to ensure that my interest on that subject was reflected as well. I was very curious why you would use Photoshop instead of the Adjustment brush in Lightroom to sharpen.

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  4. I have another question, when you “edit in lightroom” it seems that it opens up in photoshop as a .tiff instead of a .psd. Is there an option some where to turn on .psd?

    Thanks!

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  5. Nevermind. ! Found the option. Great video!

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  6. Excellent stuff, Matt. I have the same question as Paul and Michael: Why not use the Adjustment Brush for eyes, lips, hair, etc., rather than jump to Ps? Thx.

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  7. Please ‘reconnect’ the link!!

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  8. Echo the ‘why not use adjustment brush in Lightroom?’ question!

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  9. There is no file to download. Link broken.

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  10. A technical q for you Matt (or webmaster) about the video: the RSS feed for this tip linked to the .flv video rather than the normal mp4 (which is above).

    Any reason for the change? The .flv was terrible as the compression artefacts moved around on still images (not a great thing to see on a sharpening video).

    Is there a setting that may have changed in my newsreader (NetNewsWire)? If there is, I certainly favour the higher quality .mp4.

    Thanks

    Rob

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  11. Hi Matt,

    There is no file to download, the linkie seems broken ?

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  12. Hi Matt

    Thanks for the helpful tips and for explaining the sharpening sliders. I have one question. When would you use adjustment brush – clarity to creatively sharpen items vs going to photoshop (like you did in the video)?

    thanks
    martin

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  13. Great vid, same question as above! Why not use the adjustment brush? I have gone so far as to make preset brushes for eyes that tackle sharpening, clarity, brightness and saturation in one shot – what advantage does CS2/3/4 have?

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  14. Thanks Matt! I was just wondering about all of the sharpening and the Lightroom workflow, so your timing was right on! Thanks for the insight!

    Larry

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  15. What’s going on!? The video was working yesterday and now it says I need to install Flash. Did I miss something here?

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  16. I think one reason for going to Photoshop to add creative sharpening is control. The adjustment brush in Lightroom is very limited in this regard, just more or less. Whereas in Photoshop you control not only the amount but also the radius. For something like a portrait where you’re more likely to add some extra sparkle eyes and hair the adjustment brush is probably more than adequate. But when tackling something like a landscape or architecture I always use Photoshop.

    Matt, one thing you didn’t mention as part of the rationale for print/output sharpening is that it’s main purpose is to correct the softening that occurs through dot gain (ink spreading on paper). Matte has more gain than glossy so more sharpening is needed to achieve the same result, thus the two media settings. Within each class of media there are papers that have more gain and less gain, so you can fine tune the sharpening by choosing a different amount (say High were you know the paper has more spread than normal). But, like Matt, I typically leave mine set at Standard and don’t bother beyond that. Ultimately the output sharpening serves to maintain image sharpness created through the first two passes (capture sharpening to restore sharpness lost through the digital process, and creative sharpening to enhance/emphasize).

    This was a great video as it’s such a widely misunderstood concept. Fortunately, Lightroom has brilliantly implemented the capture sharpening component and with Lightroom 2 the output sharpening is exceptional using algorithms from Pixel Genius. With a little more beef in the creative stage it could cover all the bases.

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  17. Great video Matt, thanks.

    Just a quick one to comment that the Option Key (Mac) – ALT Key on PC when you are working with the sliders to see what’s being “masked” also work with the rest of the sliders (Amount, Radius, Detail).

    That is: Press Option (MAC) or ALT (PC) and move the sliders to see the effect on the image.

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  18. Matt,
    Thanks for the video; my only question is: How does the LR sharpening compare to other plugin programs like Nik’s Dfine and Sharpener Pro?
    Thanks, Chris

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  19. Great video. This one realy helped me out. THANKS!!!

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  20. Awesome video! I’ve been wanting to have a more complete understanding of this issue. Thanks for addressing it!

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  21. The guy from topleftpixel uses sharpening to get the type of effect like below without much other processing. I hope he could share more detailed steps. But I can’t blame him for it because that’s his edge. Any insight would be very much appreciated.

    http://wvs.topleftpixel.com/09/08/19/

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  22. Wow. Just… Wow.

    That video does a real disservice to those trying to learn about digital sharpening and goes against most conventional wisdom on the matter. Multipass sharpening is the preferred workflow, and each pass serves a different purpose:

    1) Capture sharpening in the Develop module does nothing more than restore that lost during the capture process. Turning reality into discrete pixels results in jagged edges. So most cameras have a filter over the sensor that slightly blurs detail to offset this. You recover that sharpness in the Develop module, and restrict it to the edges using the mask. You also want to avoid overdoing it such that halos start to appear. This is just sharpness recovery. This also prepares the image for subsquent sharpening.

    2) Creative sharpening allows you to selective enhance components of the image. There may be lots, like a landscape, or little, like a portrait as Matt showed. But it’s at this stage were you fine tune the sharpness of the image. Again, avoiding halos. You can use Lightroom’s adjustment brush, or go into Photoshop with USM. At this point you have created your master image.

    3) Output/print sharpening maintains what you did previously and is specific to your document’s resolution and the type of media being used. Your intent is to offset the spread of ink on paper. Lightroom automates this for you. Here halos are actually desirable, but no so much that you can see them at normal viewing distances. More often than not Standard will be the preferred setting. Chose high where you know a paper within a particular media class has higher than average dot gain, or chose low where lower than average (ex. a high gloss paper).

    The bible for this stuff is Bruce Fraser seminal Real World Image Sharpening. A must have resource for anyone interested in getting the most from their images.

    That video has the creator stacking the deck with over-sharpened examples at the Development stage to start with. Which doesn’t help matters. If you are oversharpened in the first place that’s just going to be exaggerated at the output stage. A properly sharpened image that has no output sharpening will appear soft (lost to dot gain). A poorly sharpened image that has perfect output sharpening will appear soft (it’s not adding sharpness, just maintaining it). Thus you need multiple stages to achieve different results: restore, enhance, and maintain.

    Sorry to barge in on a question asked to Matt but I’m just stymied over that Lightroom for Digital Photographers video.

    Quoted from above…

    Recently I saw another video on another siteĀ… which seems to recommend that you only want to sharpen once, either in the develop module, or when print/exporting. It seems to say that if you do both, you will be double sharpening and might run into trouble.
    Here it is:
    http://www.thedigitalphotographyconnection.com/LFDP_player.php?ID=82

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  23. Your tips have been (and continue to be) a great help to me as I learn to benefit from the capabilities of Lightroom/Photoshop! Thanks.
    A question…”In the videos when you zoom to 100% your images look crystal clear with no loss of clarity. When I zoom to 100% on my system (Dell D620 Latitude laptop and Dell 2408 monitor) my images are not clear. They print very sharp, but they don’t look like your video examples. Do I not have something set right?” Suggestions please.

    Thanks, Dick

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  24. Great video as always. Quick question, why not use local adjustment brush using the sharping sliders ? Is there a different in quality in sharpening in PS or is that just how your work flow goes?

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  25. I’m new to working with the tools found in Lightroom and I greatly appreciate your instruction. Working with high school seniors make you want to get the most out of the sharpening effects to get that edgy look that clients desire in their senior portraits. Thanks for your help! Ken B in SO CA.

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  26. There is a Canon’s white paper for the 1D line where it recommends a capture sharpening using USM 300%/0.3/0 or 300%/0.3/1 (I don’t remember) using Photoshop.

    My question is: what would be the equivalent sharpening settings when using LR ?

    Thank you.

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  27. If you have photos printed at a place which uses the fuji photochemical processors rather than an ink jet, do you still want to set the output sharpening to standard, o does that just apply to inkjets?

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  28. Hi Matt,

    Printing is really great for portfolio. But I have a portoflio album over here that’s on A4 format. What I want to do is print a landscape photo on 2 portrait A4’s so I can put them into my portfolio album.
    The only thing I can’t figure out is how do I print a landscape photo spread over 2 pages?! Something like printing a poster on multiple pages.
    Really hope to hear from you.

    Stefan

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  29. Great video, Matt. Would you consider doing the same for “Noise Removal” in Lightroom? Sometimes I feel like this tool is not working at all!

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  30. Hi Matt, Why didn;t you do the selective sharpening i Lightroom with the brush tool? Is PS better? I saw that other people asked the same question,but didn’t find an answer from your. Thanks, Edgar

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  31. Hi Matt, Why didn’t you do the selective sharpening in Lightroom with the brush tool? Is PS better? I saw that other people asked the same question,but didn’t find an answer from your. Thanks, Edgar

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  32. Hi Matt, why did you not open in PS as a smart object? I am trying to create a round trip workflow between LR and PS (without importing another file into LR) but it seems that when i make the edit in PS the changes are not reflected in the LR file. Is this the way it works? if so then what is the point of the smart object export?

    best,

    robert

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  33. Matt, just finished watching your three Lightroom videos. Why is it that when I import into Lightroom from my DVD or from my Flashcards that some images are imported without negative back-up. If I go from my Collection in my Lightroom Library to the Develope mutual I get a dialoge box:”The File named “20090710-IMG_Edit.jpg”is offline or missing.”
    Some file are fine, but most of them this dialog box comes up when transfering to Develop. Even from the sameCollection. Can you help?
    Thanks
    Bert

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  34. Thanks Matt, that’s a great video. I had no idea about what the different Lr controls did, and wasn’t overly sure about the Ps masking tool. Can’t wait to give it a go now, cheers

    G.

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