Sharpening Technique

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Today’s Question: I have a few questions related to sharpening in Lightroom Classic CC. I find that moving the Sharpening Amount slider to about 60-65 seems to be about the right amount for my images. How dependent is sharpening on the camera and/or lens? And, the subject matter? Is sharpening something that you would consider automating during the import process to save time? I’ll assume that masking should be done on a per image basis.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Optimal sharpening settings will vary based on the camera and lens, as well as the content of the image. For that reason it is best to customize all of the sharpening settings for each image. That said, you could most certainly update the default settings to be closer to what you prefer to use when sharpening your photos.

More Detail: As noted previously in the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, the sharpening available in the Develop module in Lightroom Classic CC is intended for compensating for factors that reduce sharpness in the original capture, not for finalizing a photo for output such as printing. As such, this sharpening should be relatively modest.

By default a very small amount of sharpening is applied by Lightroom. Most photos will benefit from an increased level of sharpening. However, the optimal settings for a given image will vary. It is therefore best to evaluate each image individually to find the best sharpening settings.

An Amount value of around 60 or so is perfectly reasonable, provided the Radius is left at a relatively low value of about 1.0 or lower. That’s not to say these settings will work well for all photos from all cameras, but they are reasonable values for many photos.

So, while I don’t recommend applying the same sharpening settings to all photos, I do think it is perfectly reasonable to establish different default values than Lightroom employs. This can be done by creating a preset in the Develop module that contains only the adjustments you want to apply by default to all images. That preset can then be applied to all photos during import, or even to large batches of photos later in your workflow using the Saved Preset popup in the Quick Develop section of the right panel in the Library module.