Sharpening Presets

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Today’s Question: Are presets (or actions) for sharpening good or not so good?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I would say sharpening presets are “not good” in general, because sharpening is something that should be specifically customized for the particular output you are preparing the image for.

More Detail: Presets in applications like Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw enable you to quickly establish settings as a starting point for an image. In some cases the preset (or an action in Photoshop) might even provide the optimal settings for the final result, such as when adding a creative effect to a photo.

However, sharpening generally doesn’t fall into this category.

The settings you use for sharpening will need to be fine-tuned for the specific image you’re working on. For example, varying degrees of detail from one image to the next will call for different sharpening settings. A photo with fine detail will need a different Radius (size) setting for the sharpening effect, for example.

In addition, sharpening should ideally be applied based on the specific size and output type you’re preparing the image for. For example, printing to a paper with a matte surface will generally require a higher degree of sharpening than would be necessary for a photo being printed to glossy paper.

Because of these issues, I recommend only using a sharpening preset as a basic starting point, with the understanding that you would then fine-tune the overall sharpening settings before finalizing the effect for the image.