How to Properly Sharpen Images in Lightroom

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom comes with powerful tools to sharpen images during post-processing. Located in the Develop module of Lightroom, the “Detail” box contains both Sharpening and Noise Reduction tools that allow Photographers to enhance their digital workflows by fine-tuning images and getting them ready to be published and printed in a quick and efficient way. Since I have already covered the noise reduction part in my Noise Reduction Tutorial, in this article, I will show you how to properly use the Sharpening tool instead.

1) Problems with Sharpening Images

Sharp images look aesthetically more pleasing than soft or blurry images. Because of this, most photographers try to sharpen their images in post-processing applications, which can result in all kinds of problems such as:

  1. Over-sharpening – when too much sharpening is used, it results in harsh, visible lines on edges and around objects. Over-sharpened images often look too “textured”.
  2. Too much noise – using excessive amounts of sharpening can add a lot more noise to an image. The worst result is when an image is already shot at high ISO levels and sharpening is applied on top of the digital grain, resulting in even more noise.
  3. Zigzag lines – straight thin lines can get converted over to zigzags and circular shapes can get cubic transitions when excessive sharpening with a large radius is applied.

Here is an example of an over-sharpened image:

Over-sharpened Image

NIKON D3S @ 550mm, ISO 2800, 1/1600, f/5.6

Note the amount of noise, visible lines, zigzag lines on the grass and too much texture – all because of over-sharpening an image.

2) Lightroom Detail Panel – Sharpening

Lightroom comes with a very powerful sharpening tool within the Develop module, under the “Detail” panel. It is very similar to Photoshop’s “Unsharp Mask” tool, but better, because it gives you extra controls over how you can sharpen your images. Before Lightroom, I used to sharpen every single image through Photoshop, which was painful, time-consuming and destructive (meaning once you make changes to an image in Photoshop, you cannot undo them). Unlike Photoshop, Lightroom does not modify images – it stores changes either in a separate file, or in image headers, depending on the image format. If I make a mistake or want to go back to the original image, I can simply reset the image to its original state or revert modifications through the history panel. Being able to specify custom settings on images during the import process is also another time saver, especially when working with thousands of photographs.

3) Sharpening Settings

It is always easier to explain things with examples. Go ahead and open a sample image in Lightroom, then do the following:

  1. Press “D” on your keyboard or click on “Develop” on the top right panel to get into the Develop module.
  2. Left-click your image to view it at 100%. I highly recommend to view your images at full size (100%) before making any sharpening changes.
  3. Expand the right panel in Lightroom and scroll down until you get to “Detail”.

The detail panel will look like this:

Detail Panel

* Note that the Noise Reduction section will look different if you are using Lightroom 2.

The Sharpening Tool has four different sliders:

  1. Amount – the amount of sharpening you want to apply to an image. Zero means no sharpening is applied to the image. The higher the number, the more sharpening you will see. Too much sharpening will also increases the noise. I typically set 50 as the default value to my images, but sometimes can increase or decrease the amount depending on the image and noise levels.
  2. Radius – the size of the sharpening area around the edges. The default value of 1.0 means that Lightroom will apply sharpening over 1 pixel around the edge. If you increase the radius to a maximum value of 3.0, sharpening will be spread over three pixels around the edge, resulting in thicker, “shadowy” edges. I use the default radius value of 1.0 most of the time and I recommend to keep it under 1.5.
  3. Detail – as the name suggests, the detail slider controls the amount of sharpening on the edges or “details” of the image. A small value like 0 only sharpens large edges, while a high value like 100 would sharpen even the smallest edges. For example, if you are working on an image of a bird, if you leave the detail at “0”, only the edges of thick feathers would get sharpened, while using a larger number above 50 would bring out and sharpen even the thinner feathers. I try to stay below 50 on the detail slider, because higher numbers often considerably increase the amount of noise.
  4. Masking – the most useful and versatile feature that masks out areas that should not be sharpened, similar to the mask tool in Photoshop. This is the tool that would take care of the extra noise produced by “Amount” and “Detail” sliders around your subjects. While it is not very useful for images that have too much detail and too many edges all over the image, it works magic for images that isolate subjects from the background. The softer and less defined the background, the better the results. See examples below.

Combining the above controls, you could effectively sharpen your images without much work and dramatically cut your workflow time. Let’s now play with a real image to see how we can sharpen it in Lightroom.

4) The Option/Alt Key

I had to write about this in a separate header so that you don’t miss it. The Option (Mac) or Alt (PC) key on your keyboard can do a lot of the magic in Lightroom. One of the biggest challenges in sharpening, is seeing the effect of sharpening on your images. Sure, viewing the image at 100% helps, but playing with such sliders as radius, detail and masking often confuses Lightroom users, because slight changes could be invisible when looking at the image. That’s when the Option/Alt key comes in handy. Simply press the Option/Alt key on your keyboard and then use the mouse to move the slider from left to right for any of the four settings. You will see something like this:

Alt Key Radius

That’s how the image looks like when I press the Alt button and move the “Radius” slider. It gives me a clear indication of how exactly radius will affect my image. As you can see, at the maximum setting of “3.0”, the radius around the edges is too thick, giving an unnatural look to the image and dark shadows around the subject. Pressing the Control/Alt key while moving the sliders for Amount and Detail will also show the effects on a gray background, giving us a pretty good idea on how the setting will affect the image.

The “Masking” slider works a little differently with the Option/Alt key. As I have explained earlier, the masking tool is used for leaving the smooth areas intact, while applying sharpening only to the edges. We can control where the edges start by moving the slider from 0 to the right. At “0”, no masking is applied to the image and therefore, the entire image is sharpened. If you have a smooth background like the sky, sharpening will certainly add noise to the sky, even when noise is very minimal to start with. Here is what happens when you start moving the slider:

Alt Key Masking 1

As you can see, both the bird and the background have lots of grain. This means that sharpening is applied to all of those areas. Now take a look at this image:

Alt Key Masking 2

As I moved to the right, I was able to get rid of the static/grain in the sky and only leave the bird in the frame. What this does, is it makes Lightroom apply sharpening only on the bird, leaving the surrounding areas intact. This is a great way to selectively sharpen subjects, without affecting the entire image.

5) Sharpening Example

Let’s now jump to a real example. Download the full-size version of the following image to your PC and import it into Lightroom:

Sharpening Example - Bird

NIKON D3S @ 420mm, ISO 220, 1/1000, f/5.6

  1. Inside Lightroom, press the “D” button to go to the Develop module. Once you are in the Develop module, open the right sidebar and scroll down to “Detail”.
  2. Hold the Option/Alt key and move the Amount slider to around 75. Note how the background gets a little noise when the value goes above 50. Try moving all the way to 100 to see plenty of noise in the background. Go back to 75 and release the Option/Alt key when done.
  3. Hold the Option/Alt key and move the Radius slider from 1.0 to 3.0. Note how thick the edges around the bird get. Release the Option/Alt key and see how badly the edges look in color. Now put the Radius back to 1.0 by moving the slider or typing “1” on the right hand side.
  4. Hold the Option/Alt key and move the Detail slider to 75. Note the whiter edges and added noise to the background.
  5. Finally, hold the Option/Alt key and move the Masking slider from 0 to 50. Note that only the bird and the tree are visible – the background should be completely black.
  6. Look at the final result and press the “” button on your keyboard several times to see how the image looked before and after you applied sharpening to it. You can also see the Before and After images in two separate windows by pressing the “Y” button, or you can use the switch on the “Detail” panel to turn Sharpening on or off.

Here is a before and after example – move your mouse over to see the difference.

Move mouse over to see before and after Sharpening

The above values are for this example only – I normally do not use values above 50 for Amount and Detail sliders.

6) What about Output Sharpening?

Many Lightroom users get confused about the Output Sharpening feature in the Export window. Should it be used after sharpening is already applied to an image? If you are exporting the image in its original size, then I recommend turning off Output Sharpening during the export process. If you are resizing the image to a smaller version for the web, then I recommend leaving it checked with the Screen/Standard amount of sharpening applied. When images are reduced in size via Lightroom, the sharpness is also slightly reduced, so sharpening the images a little bit does not hurt. Output Sharpening does not use the same settings you used for the image in the Develop Module though – it just slightly sharpens the entire image.

Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below.


  1. 1) Gyula
    August 12, 2010 at 6:39 am

    Hey Nasim,

    I think, you fully covered the topic with this great article.
    Thanks for it!

  2. August 12, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Excellent explanation! Thanks you very much.

    • August 18, 2010 at 5:00 pm

      Enche, you are most welcome and thank you for stopping by our blog!

  3. 3) Wid
    August 13, 2010 at 7:38 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Very good description, I like Lr more than Ps for its simplicity yet powerful enough…especially when I need to process hundreds of images.
    I often use the sharpening feature, but shamefully I don’t notice the “Option” key to see the sharpening effect ’till I read your post…

    Thanks for sharing…


    • August 18, 2010 at 5:00 pm

      Wid, you are most welcome!

      I hope your workflow has gotten better, now that you use the option key :)

  4. 4) Kaspar
    August 13, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Thank you for such a detailed article! I’m experimenting with the Lr sharpening tool as right now and I’m getting some pleasing results. This is very helpful!

    • August 18, 2010 at 5:01 pm

      You are most welcome Kaspar! Let me know if you have any questions.

  5. 5) Tao
    August 15, 2010 at 7:31 am

    Your articles are always useful, thanks for your sharing

    • August 18, 2010 at 5:01 pm

      You are most welcome Tao, thanks for visiting!

  6. August 21, 2010 at 6:49 am

    Wow! Finally, someone explains it all to me in a very clear and concise manner. I am so thankful for this. I was one of those people getting confused by the various sharpen features and had no clue about the ALT function on my Mac. I recently had a shoot with a friend of mine and had some shots that I wanted to clean up and save but had no idea how to go about doing it with the very limited knowledge I had about Light Room 2. I will employ your suggestions as soon as possible now that I am psyched about my prospects! Thanks so much, Nasim!

    • September 2, 2010 at 12:50 am

      Sean, I’m glad that you found the article useful. Thank you for your feedback!

  7. 7) Eric
    August 25, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Thanks a lot for this useful tutorial!

  8. 8) subodh shetty
    September 1, 2010 at 6:26 am

    one word….wow ….

    fantastic….never knew importance of sharpening till i read n did this in practical….

    wow wow wow

    U r my mentor …n i ll proudly mention your name to anyone n everyone who asks me how i do what i do ;)

    thank u so very much

    god bless

    “Stop War – Do Photography” ;)

    • September 2, 2010 at 12:51 am

      Subodh, thank you for your kind words. Good luck!

  9. 9) Pak Ki So
    September 13, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Thanks so much for this article…I am fairly new to LR3 and this has saved me a ton of time.

  10. 10) Bill Swindaman
    September 16, 2010 at 5:37 am

    Thanks for your various helpful Lightroom posts. One quick question — the output sharpening in Lightroom is in addition to whatever sharpening was applied in the develop module, right?

    • September 17, 2010 at 1:14 am

      Bill, the output sharpening is in the export dialog box.

  11. 11) Marsha Thomas
    September 18, 2010 at 10:22 am

    This was an excellent tutorial. Without use of the command and option key, its like stumbling around in the dark. Thank you very much. I now see where I went wrong and how to do it better.
    My question is, what are the settings for output sharpening? I can’t see their actual values anywhere.
    I have been turning off the output sharpening since I don’t know what it is adding to the image.
    A client of mine submitted one of my images to a national magazine for an ad, and it looked hideously over sharpened, yet it looked fine on my monitor. I hate cringing when I see it in print.

    • October 4, 2010 at 10:25 am

      Marsha, leave output sharpening on when you downsize images. So, if you have a sharpened image at full resolution and you are converting it to 1024×1024 for web, the image will look a little soft when you downsize it. Leaving output sharpening on will sharpen it further more after the reduction process runs.

      Hope this answers your question.

      • 11.1.1) amy
        February 18, 2012 at 3:00 pm

        Nasim- I just sharpen on export, depending where it is going..web or printed in a magazine.
        To understand, I should sharpen in Develop mode and not sharpen on export unless I am downsizing?

  12. 12) Lori
    September 22, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Great tutorial! One question: are these slider number recommendations/guidelines for RAW files? I sometimes shoot JPEGs and I am seeking guidance for a starting point on the detail slider numbers. Thanks!

    • October 4, 2010 at 10:26 am

      Lori, no, the slider recommendations work for both JPEG and RAW. The only thing to keep in mind, is that the camera already applies some sharpening when the image is shot as JPEG, so you have to be careful at what values you use for sharpening. Do not over-sharpen JPEG images…

  13. 13) Andre Roussakoff
    September 24, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    I really learned a lot from this article. Being a fan of Lightroom for a couple of years and not knowing these simple tricks! Unbelievable! I am very happy with your advice as now I see the sharpening process as something logical and tangible.

  14. November 4, 2010 at 3:50 am

    Hi Nasim!

    Thank you for your explanations on sharpening. I learned a lot and have known features I did not know before.

    I am a bird photographer in the Philippines.

    Is it proper to do all the sharpening and denoising in LR using the raw files, rather than in PS after exporting the raw into tif file? Or is it better to do some sharpening and denoising in LR, and then make the final ones in PS after cropping the tif picture into the desired composition?

    Essentially, my question is – is it better to sharpen and denoise the picture in full resolution using the raw file, or after cropping the tif file into the desired composition that we then apply the sharpening and denoising? I’m a bit confuse in this regard.


    Alain Pascua

    • November 17, 2010 at 6:22 pm


      I personally do all the work in Lightroom first and then take it to Photoshop for additional changes, if necessary. If you use Photoshop plugins like Nik Software Dfine or Viveza, I would pre-process and crop in Lightroom, and then remove noise/sharpen in Photoshop. Once saved, it will become a large TIFF file.

      If you are not using any Photoshop plugins, then do everything in Lightroom.

      • 14.1.1) jovelino
        March 25, 2011 at 4:18 am

        great tutorials!!
        congratulations and thanks for sharing

        1) why do you prefer ‘use Photoshop plugins, like Nik Software Dfine or Viveza, in Photoshop’ , once you can do it directly from Lightroom ?

        2) defaults values sharpening in Lightroom: are they applied to ALL IMPORTED PHOTOS ? how can we disable that in Lightroom?

        3) default sharpening in-camera is applied also to raw files?

        Many thanks,

  15. 15) Rukkas Hu
    December 31, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    This is an excellent article – thank you! I have one question: is it better to sharpen before cropping or after cropping?

    thank you


    • January 6, 2011 at 11:27 pm

      Rukkas, I personally do it after cropping, although some amount of cropping is already applied to my images in Lightroom.

  16. 16) Wayne
    January 1, 2011 at 11:17 am


    Thank you for the time to write, detail and explain a great tutorial.

  17. 17) Ruth
    March 14, 2011 at 9:31 am

    I have been looking all over the web for this!!! Thank you for explaining it SO well!!!

  18. 18) siju
    March 20, 2011 at 10:51 am

    hello nasim
    what is difference b/w lightroom and photoshop,,which is a better tool

  19. 19) Noah
    March 23, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Awesome tutorial.. Could u apply settings like this on import to all photos as a base, and then adjust from there?

    Do you find 50 is the minimum amount for most photos?

  20. 20) Alex
    April 13, 2011 at 2:13 am

    Very detailed tutorial.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge.


  21. 21) Dushi
    April 29, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    This really is a great site, loaded with tips for “beginners”. I still learn a lot! Thanks.

  22. 22) Mahmoud A. Raouf
    June 22, 2011 at 2:52 am

    Awesome, Big Fat Thanks ;)

  23. July 23, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Best explanation I’ve seen yet. Thank you!

  24. 24) Paul
    August 1, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Thank you for this great tutorial now i know how sharpening is done properly

  25. 25) Amanda
    August 29, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Love your photographic inputs, very helpful! What is the best measure for this sharpening technique if using Photoshop CS5? Thanks!

  26. 26) eric
    October 23, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Is LR3 an appropriate solution for “final” sharpening? Or should I sharpen, export, the re-sharpen in PS or some other external editor? Thanks.

    • October 26, 2011 at 12:51 am

      Eric, it depends on what you are trying to do. For web use, I believe it is. I typically sharpen it at around 50/25/50 in Lightroom and apply more sharpening when resizing for web. However, if I need to sharpen specific areas of an image without touching the sky or other areas, then I use Photoshop plugins from Nik Software to do that.

  27. 27) Devinder
    November 13, 2011 at 2:39 am

    Really nice article…. on sharpening in Lightroom…

  28. 28) schroeder
    December 17, 2011 at 3:07 am

    i’m buying a nikon d3100 for Christmas and i’m using your blog as reference. it’s so newb-friendly and it doesn’t kill amateurs with all those complexities! keep up the good work sir!

  29. 29) Eugene
    December 27, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Hello Nasim,

    I’m a beginner in photograpy and I apologize if my question might be a no brainer. I’ve noticed some of the photos posted on pixel-peeper are so clear and crisp. Do you know whether or not they use RAW images or JPEG and do they use Lightroom to sharpen images or they just have excellent cameras? I have similar lens to what they use but some of the images are way too sharp and crisp to mine. I hope I’m not being too wordy here. I would appreciate any response. Thanks!

  30. 30) Ishti
    December 28, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Before I used picasa to edit my photos. Recently I starting shooting in RAW and moved on to LightRoom. In LR all these time I was using the sharpening tool without even having any idea how it actually work. I watched few youtube videos on LR sharpening but they were not that much of a help for me.
    Your article is complete. You explained everything so nicely. Now I know exactly how these 4 sliders work.
    Thank you so much for taking your time to write this.

  31. 31) London Wedding Photographer
    December 30, 2011 at 7:09 am

    Very helpful! :-)

  32. 32) Emanuele
    January 6, 2012 at 5:15 am

    Thanks for the excellent post! I just discovered your website and I have to say it’s really interesting and professional!!

    I am new to RAW processing and I am currently using Adobe Photoshop CS5/ACR plus Noise Ninja. I have some doubts with my workflow since I could use sharpening and noise reduction both on ACR and Photoshop/NN. My workflow (focus only on sharpening/noise) is:
    – ACR Sharpening: Set optimal
    – ACR Noise reduction: Not used
    – PSP Noise Ninja: Set optimal
    – PSP unsharp mask. Set optimal

    What do you think about this, is it correct or could be improved?


  33. 33) Luis
    January 8, 2012 at 3:35 am

    Best article about that i had read. Thank you so much.
    Greetings from Spain

  34. 34) Praveen
    January 12, 2012 at 12:14 am

    Excellent site long time reader first time poster.
    I have a Nikon D7000 and wanted to know your thoughts regarding capture nx2 vs lightroom.
    I am an amateur shooter and workflow is not really a problem,i post process very few pictures.
    I workflow is not an issue do you think capture nx2 is better than lightroom.Some ppl say it can access nikon raw data better than lightroom.
    Thanks and keep up the great work.

  35. January 16, 2012 at 2:26 am

    Really excellent and in-depth post about Lightroom sharpening, thanks a lot! I have been using export sharpening more; will start to get to grips with the process you suggest here. Cheers!

  36. 36) Andrey
    February 3, 2012 at 4:19 am

    Thanks for the great article, Nasim!

    It would be great to know you recommendations on in-camera sharpening:
    1. what values are optimal (D7000) and whether to use it at all considering that sharpening can be done in post-production?
    2. If in-camera sharpening is used, does the original image get modified irreversibly (RAW), or sharpening is just saved as a part of metadata? If it’s a part of metadata, do you have any info on whether software like PS/LP can properly recognize it?

    Thanks in advance,

  37. 37) Radek
    February 6, 2012 at 7:34 am


    Nice tips indeed but…Regarding before/after comparison of a bird picture, for me it’s hard to believe that you could actually recover so much details from such a blurry photo…:)


  38. 38) Poolakkal Suresh
    February 8, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Iam new to the DSLR world. Recently owned canon 550d. Still exploring, really enjoying it. this website has given me lot of inputs. very very clear & informative. thanks a lot.

  39. 39) Amartya
    March 15, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    thanks as always for the insightful articles
    i sometimes use the sharpening in my Nikon ViewNX 2 software.
    i find this software very intuitive and therefore easy to use. how has been your experience of this.
    one major defect, however, is that View NX 2 drastically reduces the size of the images after any editing, incl. say sharpening or brightness.
    some nikonian forums reccomended buying and using the Capture NX 2 software instead.
    what are your views on the same as non-pro like me would like an intuitive software as opposed to something as forbidding as Photoshop.
    Btw – what in your view is the best book for learning photoshop for beginners?
    Thanks & Regards,

  40. 40) André
    May 3, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    Hi Nasim, im fairly new to Dslr , when I purchased my first one three months ago I’ve never taught id be improving so fast in learning all the techniques thanks in part to your website wich has always been a great support for my learning curve.However I’ve never taught editing pictures would be such a huge part of the job, but when I saw what could be achieved I wasted no time in shooting raw and trying to attain the best possible in photography. Anyways I hope you will be able to answer this question . I’m very divided between Capture NX and Lightroom . I’m using both right now because sometimes I find its very hard to attain particular goals in lightroom and the same could be said about Capture NX. And also the colors and sharpness of the unedited raw with the nikon editing software is much better at the start. IHowever even with this tutorial and trying every wich way possible I find that with the picture control utility (and some of the capture nx settings) I’m most of the time able to reach a certain sharpness in some pictures that I just can’t with lightroom. Dont get me wrong sometimes my sharpness is just has good with LR but lots of times some picture I dont know why I cant get the sharpness I get with capture nx or even View nx its like theres is a small blur that I just cant get rid of in lightroom ?
    sorry for the long text your answer would be really appreciated
    thank you

  41. 41) André
    May 3, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    oups sorry I forgot to mention that blur is mostly visible once that particular shot is converted in jpeg (in lightroom ) (I make sure the quality is at 100%)
    thank you

  42. 42) Dan
    May 18, 2012 at 4:45 am

    Thank you! I also didn’t know about command option in lightroom! Now, I’m getting better results when sharpening.

  43. 43) Dee
    May 29, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Thank you, this was very helpful. I was using sharpening just on export and found some images to be very noisy. I’m also finding they seem darker after export, do you know what this is due to?


  44. May 31, 2012 at 2:55 am

    You dont know how helpful is your tutorial for me !!!!
    thank you :)
    God bless

  45. 45) ronaldo serafim
    June 4, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Thank you very much! That was a great help.

  46. 46) CKeever
    June 12, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Great explanation! What, if anything, would you change to update the specifics you discussed for LR4?

  47. 47) Georgette Grossman
    July 29, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Great article. I am always afraid of oversharpening and seem so have trouble with choosing the “correct” amount and detail even with the ALT grayscale screens. Any tips on how you decide.

  48. 48) Neil
    July 30, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Great article, as a LR newbie I am happy to read from the experts. Now one question I have, is there any way to export that sharpen mask into Photoshop along with the image for later final sharpening of the PS edit? Would save a bunch of time over the whole !glowing edges! method!!



  49. 49) Donald
    September 3, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    By far the easiest to-understand-explanation on LR sharpening I have found. Suddenly the lights have come on. Many thanks

  50. 50) aquilar
    October 19, 2012 at 11:29 am

    this is great. my understanding of sharpening was blurry before. not anymore ;)

  51. October 25, 2012 at 1:28 am

    Again a brilliant tutorial! I have been using lightroom since a year and did sharpening just by hit-and-trial. No other blog explained amout,radius and masking so precisely like you did.
    Thanks again! :)

  52. October 25, 2012 at 1:28 am

    Again a brilliant tutorial! I have been using lightroom since a year and did sharpening just by hit-and-trial. No other blog explained amount,radius and masking so precisely like you did.
    Thanks again! :)

  53. December 2, 2012 at 6:48 am

    Thanks for this write up. Was editing an awkward photo last week and applied your masking tips to it. made it perfect. Big thanks.

  54. 54) Kori
    December 14, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    I’m trying to use the alt/option button but it doesnt always work. Is there a setting or something I need to change?

    • 54.1) AC
      December 26, 2012 at 2:31 am

      Need to hold down the Alt key while moving the slider around with the mouse. Took me a few times to get it…

  55. 55) AC
    December 26, 2012 at 2:29 am

    Great articles as always! Very succinct & clear explanation. Is there a guide for using Spot Removal & Brush adjustment tools?
    Thanks so much~~

  56. 56) dennis
    December 29, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    Very nice explanation.

    Is there a way to apply “spot” sharpening? e.g. only to the eyes of the bird

    Thank you.

    • 56.1) Robert
      April 27, 2014 at 9:37 am

      Of course! Just use the adjustment brush and increase the value of the sharpening slider (increasing Clarity this way is also very helpful to apply to eyes)

  57. 57) ken smart
    March 23, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Thank you so much for this amazing article. With this and your noise reduction article i have just redone a number of photo’s for a friend and the results are incredible. Thanks for taking the time to provide such a concise and easy to follow explanation. I particularly like your little touches such as the before and after noise reduction just by placing the mouse over the pic. Great job.

  58. 58) joseph abularrage
    March 25, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Great article. I am still a little confused. If I do sharpening in the sharpening panel, do I still do some sharpening in the printing module before printing?
    Also, if I have a photo in Lightroom, make some adjustments there, and then send it to Photoshop and do sharpening via unsharp mask in photoshop and then take the photo back to Lightroom for printing, do I use the sharpening section of the print module to do more sharpening?

  59. 59) Jennifer
    May 1, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Wow. Didn’t know alot of this stuff. Thanks for teaching it!!

  60. 60) Josh
    June 28, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    I found this page after discovering that images exported in LR were losing sharpness.

    Why is that? If I resize an image in Photoshop it doesn’t lose sharpness?

    It seems nuts to resharpen an already sharpened image … I would think artifacts and other degradation would be show up at that point.

    • September 3, 2013 at 11:31 am

      Josh, when exporting at the same size, you should not sharpen images during the export phase. Sharpening should only be applied when exporting at a smaller resolution, as indicated in the article.

  61. 61) Radu
    September 1, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    I stumbled on your very useful tutorial following a link from DPReview. One minor editorial comment, though. In your text you say Command/Alt in a number of places where I think you meant Option/Alt.

    Thank you for your contribution to the community.

    • September 3, 2013 at 11:26 am

      Thank you for your feedback Radu, I corrected the article! :)

  62. November 18, 2013 at 9:10 am

    Hi Nasim
    Thanks for your really useful article.
    Just wondering does the same ‘output’ sharpening rule (use if downsizing image for screen) apply to output sharpening for print??
    Thanks so much

  63. 63) Sardor
    January 23, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    Hi Nasim! Thank you for tutorial, it works and helped me!

  64. 64) Dippy
    February 25, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Thanks so much for the detailed yet succinct explanation. Very very helpful to me Nasim.

  65. 65) Maureen
    March 13, 2014 at 9:53 am

    Hi Nasim! Your website is so wonderful and helpful!!
    Looking for a little advice – as I have been using your write up on sharpening and noise reduction for lightroom – I recently ordered an enlargement of an image, and both myself and my customer were disappointed in the amount of grain on the image when it came back. (20×30). Due to the price of the enlargement – I want to be certain that I have done everything I can (post production) to ensure the next one comes back looking clean and sharp. You recommend making the changes with the image at 100% or 1:1. If my standard image size is 3456×5184 – what magnification should I review that is closest to what I would see when enlarging to a 20×30” photograph. (does that even make sense?)) Thank you!!!

  66. 66) Ayse
    April 8, 2014 at 10:25 am

    Thanks Nasim! By the Web’s standards this is an oldie but a goodie post! I’ve been looking for good advice on how to work this problem and this article offers some great insight. Thanks!

  67. 67) Robert
    May 11, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Great post! Sorry to be dense, but I can’t see how to download the full-size image of the bird you used as an example. Right clicking the image only gets a 155Kb version!

  68. 68) Shawn Ray
    May 11, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    Great post! I have “crappy–lens” and insufficient sensor density guilt when I see how my photo goes from fuzzy to tack sharp. Because, I know that the sharpness is only then perceived and not actual. Information is forever lost in my translation. :(
    On the other-hand I feel I would suffocate without a camera, of any kind. ;)

    Could this behavior define “pixel-peeping”? If so I need rehab because I can spend hours looking at lenses I could never afford in this country. ;)

    • 68.1) PASCAL Philippe
      June 12, 2014 at 12:55 am

      First, there is no guilt : all professionals do that…and they master sharpening (among a lot of other things) :D
      Second, sometimes crappy lenses with aperture stopped down (but not too much to avoid diffraction) can become a lot sharper. Try to find aperture “sweet spot” (if you didn’t already) by taking several shots of the same scene on tripod and pixel peeping them ;)
      Third, using a tripod, higher speed, different auto-focusing settings… can improve sharpness too. Some portraits shooters use a flash (even in full daylight) without any diffuser, just to improve sharpness by creating reflections on eyes, eyebrows…
      Sharpness don’t always come from lens and sensor :D

      And about “perceived sharpness” vs “real sharpness”, it depends on a lot of factors. Especially viewing final size.
      When you reduce a Nikon D800 image down to web size WITHOUT sharpening…you get a dull image.
      Even with a 36MP sensor ;)

      Sharpening is mandatory for any size reduction and any output (screen/print). The only thing you gain with sharper lens and bigger sensor is final viewing size. As most ppl don’t even print in big size…there are enough MP even on any recent camera.

      Side note : pixel peeping is good for pre-sharpening (on raw). BUT for final output, you need to view it at final viewing size. Because the radius will change a lot between 100% and final size. That’s why some ppl pre-sharpen on raw at 100% and just let Lightroom do it’s own sharpening at final export without any further setting. Nik Sharpener Pro is a nice option, if you want to manually set final export sharpening too :D

  69. 69) Lorena
    June 26, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    I think, it’s the best tutorial/explanation I have ever read about sharpening. I have finally known and understood what all the names mean!

    Thanks a lot!

  70. 70) Nitin
    June 29, 2014 at 6:27 am

    Thank you Nasim, this is excellent information. More so because it is not really available from the manual. You must be either one of the developers of LR or a genius hacker.

  71. 71) chris pook
    August 10, 2014 at 2:02 am

    I echo the comments above – great article thanks!

  72. 72) Florian
    August 13, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    I have thought that masking works exactly as you describe – that areas that are black while pressing the alt/option key are not affected. Therefore, I often use a very “strong” mask to only sharpen the edges of a subject/scene. However, I have recently realized that in some images I am loosing detail in areas that should be hardly/not affected by sharpening. Although you mention that masking is not effective in images with a lot of detail, I was surprised that I actually loose a lot of detail. I am much more careful with the masking tool now!

  73. 73) Eddy
    August 17, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Thank you for an interesting article. I see that this is an old post, but I can try and perhaps get an answer. Why does LR soften all images after you have exported them? I use LR 4, but this has been a problem for me since the first LR version. I don´t see an option for posting pictures here or else I would have, so you can clearly see on the screenshot an exported version and the one in the LR next to each other. This is also very easy to check.

    Thank you for your answer.


  74. 74) Chris
    October 29, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Excellent! Just what I was after! thank you!

  75. 75) Kelleh
    December 1, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    This was so so helpful, easily understood and explained in simple terms. Just what I was looking for, thanks so much!

  76. 76) Manish
    December 17, 2014 at 2:59 am

    Thanks !!

  77. 77) linda
    February 4, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    this was so clear and helpful. thank you so much. once you sharpen a photo in lightroom, so you also use sharpen more in photoshop, or is it an either or?? thank you for help on this. linda

  78. 78) Karemoodles
    March 22, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    Very helpful. Thank u

  79. 79) Cindy
    June 29, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Thank you for this article; I am currently using LR5 and having so many problems sharpening my images. I don’t have a good camera, I am using images taken with my LG-G2 phone. The problem I’m having is images look great in LR but once I Export and upload to my blog, they look terrible. Any additional tips you can give for sharpening phone pics? LR does not recognize my ‘camera’/phone so that could be part of the problem.

  80. 80) Jim Fenner
    July 10, 2015 at 5:50 am

    I agree, yours is the best tutorial I have ever read about sharpening. Short and sweet and meaningful. Thank-you Nasim
    – Jim , Canberra

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