DevelopLightroom Tips

Sharpening is all in the Details


Lb 1

Original file with no sharpening

Sharpening is one of those things that we all do, but we are never really sure if we are doing too much or too little. This tip helps you have a little more control.


Full sharpening (so you can see it)

I have cranked the sharpening all the way up so you can see it… but you will want to probably not be this heavy handed. 😀

Most of us can kind of figure out what Radius and Detail sliders do under Sharpening by moving the sliders back and forth, but Masking seems a little sneaky and hard to see. If you use The Option/Alt key while moving the masking slider you will now be able to see what areas are being affected. The white lines represent where the sharpening is being applied and the black areas are left untouched.


Basic beginning level of Masking… everything is being sharpened


Moving the slider right masks out areas that you don’t want sharpened

Once you let go of the Opt/Alt key, the image goes back to normal. Now you can be a little more confident to crank up the sharpening more than you may have in the past because you are only applying the sharpening in the key spots without messing up the skin and other areas.


Full sharpening, but only in the key spots




  1. Stephenie 10 November, 2019 at 11:13 Reply

    HI – I used this tip until this week’s update (10/11/19) but the alt key (masking)seems to have stopped working after the latest update? Has anyone else found this problem?

  2. Gary 24 March, 2015 at 16:58 Reply

    As always I can count on getting awesome information from lightroomkiller tips. Thanks for the post, because you’re right…it’s kinda hard to know how much sharpening is too much.

  3. Florian 22 March, 2015 at 04:07 Reply

    although I use the masking tool a lot, I have realized that I loose detail in areas that should not be affected by the sharpening according to the masking. Since realizing this, I use masking a lot less and much more conservatively.

  4. Carlos Viana 21 March, 2015 at 10:21 Reply

    This sharpening is applied before exporting and, therefore, resizing the image, right? Shouldn’t it be applied AFTER resizing it? I use to resize it in Photoshop with Preserve Details and then apply Smart Sharpen. What do you think? Thanks.

    • lyle 9 April, 2015 at 11:21 Reply

      A raw image needs sharpening straight out of the camera due to the nature of optics and sensor capture related limitations. Period. If you’re judging your initial sharpening at 100% view on a screen, your image is going to be suitably sharp in LR.

      You then need to re-process that high quality image state to look right on paper/screen (export or print module). They do the 1) resize and 2) addition of output sharpening if you choose it, to match the resolution, media pairing you indicate in that order.

      The first sharpening is to cleanup sensor limitations and get your image crisper at any display level, the export/print sharpening is to get the best looking image on the specific media at the final size and resolution.

      You can get more highly refined, and selective results in CC or using other sharpening tools, but for a lot of purposes you can live with the LR results and be happy with its results.

      make sense ?

      • Carlos Viana 8 June, 2015 at 09:04 Reply

        Thanks for the answer. But should the pre-sharpening applied to raw files be the same, no matter the dimension of the photo? Is the amount value absolute or relative? LR, has a preset for landscapes and portraits, which sharpens with the same values, 8MB, 16MB, 24MB, etc… resolution photos, hence my doubt.

  5. Paul C 19 March, 2015 at 12:08 Reply

    Great tip – but I’d like to know how output sharpening in export should be used alongside the Detail sliders. I always find output sharpening is so subtle that I need to crank it to max – would I be better off adding extra in the Detail sliders and cutting back in output??

    • lyle 9 April, 2015 at 15:49 Reply

      Leveraging a technique Scott documented in the March 2, 2015 show. Instead of varying the brightness stepwise in output files, make virtual copies of an image and in an orderly, trackable method create jpgs at 100% quality – varying the sharpening and detail parameters . Plug those 100% ppi output sized images into the cells and then print (or have printed) with no other adjustments. You’d then have a good working sheet to refer to when setting your Amount, Radius, Detail, Masking.

  6. Stefan Ljungwall 18 March, 2015 at 17:51 Reply

    The Alt/Option key is also valuable when you decide the Radius and the amount of Detail when Sharpening. I’ve never seen anyone mention that – I’m I the first one to notice it? 😉

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