Capture Sharpening Settings


Today’s Question: In Thursday’s Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter you said that sharpening should always be applied in the Develop module of Lightroom Classic. The sharpening adjustment is set at Amount 40, Radius 1.0 and Detail 25. I guess this is the default. So, would you go beyond that and increase the Amount or other factors?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Those settings are the defaults for raw captures in Lightroom (as well as Adobe Camera Raw), and are reasonably safe settings for most images. However, I do recommend reviewing (and refining) these sharpening settings for images you are optimizing for eventual sharing.

More Detail: Sharpening is applied by default in Lightroom Classic (as well as Adobe Camera Raw) to all raw captures. For other image formats, such as JPEG captures, there is no sharpening applied. The lack of sharpening for other formats is generally a good thing, as there is a good chance that a JPEG capture, for example, will have had some degree of sharpening applied in the camera at the time of capture.

For raw captures in particular, I highly recommend evaluating the settings for sharpening, and refining them to optimize the appearance of the photo. Very generally this would involve possibly reducing the value for Radius by at least a small amount, and increasing the value for Amount. You might also want to fine-tune the Detail and Masking values depending on the image.

For images with a fair amount of relatively fine detail, I generally set the Radius to a value of about 0.6 to 1.0, which means I often reduce the setting at least slightly. When the texture has a bit larger structure in the image, with smoother transitions along contrast edges, I’ll often increase the Radius setting to somewhere between about 1.0 and 2.0.

For images where I want to make sure the fine detail is enhanced, I typically increase the value for Amount to somewhere between 50 and 75. It is important not to take this setting too far, creating what amounts to the appearance of noise or over-sharpening halos in the image. The lower the setting for Radius, the higher you can push the value for Amount. And the higher the setting for Radius, the more careful you need to be about increasing the value for Amount.

You can increase the value for Detail if you want to be sure to emphasize as much fine detail as possible, and reduce the value if you don’t want to accentuate details too much. A high value can sometimes result in a somewhat “crunchy” appearance of too much texture in the photo.

Finally, you can increase the value for Masking to focus the sharpening effect only on areas with a fair amount of texture, helping to protect smooth areas of the image from getting sharpened. When you apply sharpening to relatively smooth areas of a photo, those areas can appear to have a bit too much noise or texture.

For all of these settings you can hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while dragging the slider to get a grayscale preview that shows more clearly how the setting is impacting the photo. And, as always, I recommend evaluating the effect of sharpening at a 1:1 (100%) view setting.