Sharpening Preference


Today’s Question: Do you prefer to sharpen images in Lightroom [Classic] or Photoshop? I have been using Photoshop for many years to finalize images for prints or publication, paper or digital, but I am open to change.

Tim’s Quick Answer: I prefer to sharpen my photos in Photoshop rather than Lightroom Classic, primarily because Photoshop enables me to exercise more control over the sharpening settings.

More Detail: In Lightroom Classic you can sharpen photos whenever preparing a photo for output, such as in the Print module for prints, or in the Export dialog when you are exporting a photo to share in a particular way. However, the sharpening options are a bit limited. You can specify whether you are printing to matte or glossy paper versus sharing digitally. In addition, you can specify whether you want “Low”, “Standard”, or “High” sharpening applied. In addition, Lightroom Classic does not provide a preview of the actual sharpening effect, so it can take a bit of trial and error to find the right settings for a give image.

In Photoshop you are able to select from several different sharpening tools or filters. I typically use the Smart Sharpen filter, though in some cases I use the Unsharp Mask filter. In either case, you have considerable control over the actual sharpening applied to your photos. You can also preview the effect for the sharpening in Photoshop, which can be very helpful in terms of getting to the right settings more quickly.

To be sure, evaluating the sharpening effect in Photoshop can be a bit tricky when you will be printing the image you’re working with. For digital sharing, the photo will appear to viewers in the same way it appears to you, so it is relatively easy to achieve good sharpening settings. When you are printing a photo, you need to anticipate what the final result will look like based on the behavior of the specific paper and ink being used for the print.

With experience and practice you can get to the point where you are able to anticipate the right sharpening settings based on a preview in Photoshop. That can take a bit of time, but once you have a sense of what the preview should look like to achieve a print you’re happy with, you can sharpen more efficiently and with greater control using Photoshop rather than Lightroom Classic.