February 23rd, 2014
First a brief explanation as to what is happening when you sharpen. All types of sharpening analyze the image for areas of high contrasting pixels which are contingent such as edges of doors, windows or a balloon in the sky. The software then according to the settings you use darkens the darker pixels and lightens the lighter pixels along these edges to essentially increase the contrast at the pixel level. The software does not add or remove pixels it simply works with the pixels that exist within the image. This is why images that do not have well defined edges (blurry photos or wispy clouds for example) do not sharpen very well.
Techniques to sharpen images in Adobe Lightroom (LR) and in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) are very similar. Both do a great job but perhaps one short coming is that they sharpen the whole image although LR can also do selective sharpening as well. I should say at this point that sharpening is generally the last step in your post workflow so things such as white balance, clarity, vibrancy, and the myriad of other editing choices come first.
So now to sharpening. These are the steps I use and in this order:
- Analyze my image to determine how much fine detail there is and to a degree how far from the camera is that fine detail because there is no point in trying to sharpen someones hair if they are too far from the camera or the leaves on trees that are 100 feet away, there are just not enough pixels to work with to have any hope of sharpening them.
- Zoom in to 100% view because at this zoom level you can really see what is going on during sharpening.
- The first slider is Amount and all it really does is control equally all of the sliders below it in the Sharpening section (Radius, Detail and Masking)
- Next is (and this an important one) the distance in pixels that will be affected on either side of the edges found in the image. For images such as a close portrait where the individual hairs and eyelashes are discernible I would initially set this to .6 or .5 and then after setting the next two sliders come back see if I need to increase this value.
- The next slider is the Detail slider which sets how dark or light the affected pixels can get. On some images (most) setting this too high will make the image look unnatural and almost pixelated. A setting of 25 - 30 is a good starting point and adjust up or down as necessary.
- The last slider in this section is Masking which helps define which areas of the image are not to be sharpened so areas in the image that may have minor changes in contrast will not be sharpened such as expanses of blue sky for example. The best way to set this slider is (in Windows) to hold down the ALT key while using the mouse to adjust the slider. The screen will go white then start to darken except leaving the edges still in white and it is these white edges that will be sharpened not the black. Where you set this will determined by how much fine (or very fine) detail is in your image.
December 2nd, 2013
I have been using a new program (to me) for viewing my photos called FastPictureViewer ( http://www.fastpictureviewer.com/ ). I find it works really well and is especially suited to photographers. You can view your RAW images as well as quite a few other formats but it doesn't read .dng files without purchasing a codec pack. Does anyone else use this program? If so what are your thoughts or if not what are you using?