Output Sharpening

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Today’s Question: In discussing sharpening in Lightroom [Classic CC], you mention that Lightroom sharpening is intended for compensating for factors that reduce sharpness in the original capture, not for finalizing a photo for output such as printing. That raises the question of where and how do you do, and how do you evaluate, output sharpening?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In Lightroom Classic CC the final output sharpening is applied at the point you are actually producing your output. The evaluation of the result therefore must be performed after the output is actually created.

More Detail: When you are actually producing output from Lightroom Classic CC, you are able to apply output sharpening. For example, you can adjust the sharpening for a print with the settings available in the Print module. You can also select sharpening options when using the Export feature. In all cases of establishing settings for output sharpening in Lightroom, there is no preview that enables you to evaluate the final result.

Instead, you must create your output (such as a print or an exported image file) and then evaluate the sharpening effect in that output. If you aren’t satisfied with the result, you can adjust your settings and create the output again. Naturally, this can lead to a bit of trial-and-error. However, with time you’ll get a sense of the settings you typically want to use for various output types.

For images being shared online, the output sharpening options generally work perfectly well, even without a preview of the effect. For printing, however, it can be more challenging to create a great result without being able to preview the sharpening effect.

For these reasons, when exporting images to share online I will use the sharpening options that are available within Lightroom. However, when creating a print I will generally send the final image to Photoshop from Lightroom, so I can resize and apply sharpening before creating the final printed output. This enables me to preview the actual sharpening effect in Photoshop before actually creating a print of the image.