Lightroom Sharpening – Where to Start?

Adobe Lightroom has some good sharpening tools built into it, but what are the best settings to use? It is not an easy question, but I’ll tell you what I do and hopefully make it easier to get started.

Through experience, I’ve found that some good basic starting points for the sharpening panel in Adobe Lightroom are as follows:

  • Amount = 50 to 70. (50 for JPEGs and up to 70 for RAW files)
  • Radius = 0.5 to1.0. (0.7 for most files, 1.0 for some JPEGs)
  • Detail = 30 to 50.
  • Masking = 50.
Holding down the alt key for the last two settings above helps you see what parts of the image are being affected. Be sure also to be at 1:1 or 100% magnification or else you won’t be able to see your adjustments.

Refining these basic settings a bit, I’ve made good use of the following settings as starting points for my dSLR camera shots:

  • Amount = 65.
  • Radius = 0.5. (lower = finer, fewer artifacts)
  • Detail = 30. (higher = more halos, lower = smoother)
  • Masking = 50. (0 = everything is sharpened, 100 = only main edges are sharpened)

However, I’ve found that (of course) the amount of sharpening possible on any given photo varies by the camera used and the steadiness or focus of the shot. Because of those variables, the above settings can only be considered starting points and you will have to tweak each setting individually. I like tweaking, don’t get me wrong, but I can spend all day adjusting these settings and sometimes still not get the sharpness that I want.

Because of not being able to always get the sharpness I want, I’ve moved on to using deconvolution as a solution to getting better sharpness. Deconvolution is an algorithm-based un-blurring of an image. It is not like what is done in Lightroom and it is not like the unsharpen mask filter in Photoshop either. Deconvolution is far better and produces consistently better results for my photos. Where the unsharp mask approach is linear and is applied to the whole photo, deconvolution is not linear and is not applied evenly across the whole photo. I use Focus Magic software to get that extra sharpness that I need for my photos. It uses deconvolution and also takes the tweaking out of it because Focus Magic has a limited amount of things that can be tweaked. It just does the work and does it very effectively. SmartSharpen in Photoshop also uses deconvolution, but it is not available as a stand-alone solution like Focus Magic. I don’t want to have to buy Photoshop, so I use Focus Magic as stand-alone at a significantly lower price.

Whatever product you choose I suggest using, but then moving beyond, Lightroom’s sharpening panel for those shots that need high-quality sharpening.

Thank you for reading what I wrote — I hope your enjoyed it.

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