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Sharpening For Landscape Photos

If your landscape image has any visible noise in the image, the place it’s most likely to appear is in the sky. If you have a lot of clouds in your sky, those will often obscure the noise, but it’s those big open skies where you can really see the noise, and if you apply sharpening to your image (and I’m hoping you do – a lot of it), it just accentuates that noise. That’s why this technique is so handy. It allows you to apply lots of sharpening to your foreground and other important areas in your image without sharpening the sky. Check it out:

STEP ONE: Here’s our image above, and in Lightroom’s Detail panel (where we add sharpening) we’re going to crank up the sharpening amount quite a bit, and I increased the Radius to 1.1, and now the image looks nice and sharp, but applying sharpening like this also sharpens the sky.

STEP TWO: Hold the Option key on Mac (Alt-key on Windows), and then click and hold on the Masking slider. The entire image turns white (as seen above), which is Lightroom letting you know that the entire image is being sharpened – everything from the foreground to the sky – all of it. What we need to do is limit the sharpening to just the foreground areas and not the sky.

STEP THREE: Now, while still holding down that Option-key (Windows: Alt-key), drag the Masking slider to the right, and as you drag, any area that turns black is no longer being sharpened, and you can see here that the sky is totally black, so it’s not getting any sharpening at all.

There ya go – this also works wonders on portraits where you don’t want the skin texture accentuated – dragging the Masking slider to the right sharpening the detail areas, like eyes, hair, eyebrows, lips, etc., but avoids sharpening the skin.

Here’s wishing you an awesome week! 🙂

-Scott

P.S. If you’re ready to really learn your camera, your gear, how to get the most from them, along with your photo accessories like tripods, filters, lights, and more, you should definitely be at “The Photography Gear Conference” coming up in about a month. Here’s the link for tickets and details.

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7 comments

  1. Marc Schmittbuhl 23 April, 2022 at 06:56 Reply

    Hi Scott,
    Nice summary for fine LR sharpening. I was wondering, if you need to increase sharpening on say a 45mpx landscape photo (already using some texture+clarity) and you start your sharpening setting at 70 amount and 1.1 radius, from your experience would you rather increase the amount only, or the radius only, or both to crank it up ?
    Thanks.

  2. NotoriousRLS 21 April, 2022 at 14:09 Reply

    Now that we have masks in LR, maybe a check mark on them individually to allow not sharpening of them selectively ? I know, too much like PS…

  3. Dudley Warner 21 April, 2022 at 08:48 Reply

    This was incredibly helpful and will become a part of my workflow for all my landscape photos. I used it on an image I previously made, and it enhanced it considerably. The image was just chosen for the cover of a state-wide magazine.

    Thanks – Dudley

    • Scott Kelby 18 April, 2022 at 10:27 Reply

      Hi, Simon. Sharpening in general is always about increasing the contrast in edge areas to give the appearance of a sharper image (and it works wonders), but I’ve always thought of the term “edge sharpening” in the context of using Photoshop’s High Pass filter for sharpening, but like I said, it believe it refers to the entire process of sharpening, and there are so many different methods and filters that do just that. 🙂

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