Excluding the Sky from Sharpening


Today’s Question: In Lightroom Classic, if I do not want sharpening applied to the sky, I do not include the sky in the masked area that I want to sharpen. Am I correct?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Correct. If you define a mask that excludes the sky for a targeted adjustment, sharpening (and other targeted adjustments for the same mask) will not apply to the sky. You can also use the more detailed sharpening controls for a global adjustment, increasing the value for the Masking slider to avoid sharpening smooth areas such as the sky.

More Detail: The masking features of Lightroom Classic enable you to apply adjustments that only affect specific areas of a photo. If you define a mask for the entire foreground of a photo that excludes the sky, for example, you could apply sharpening and other adjustments that would affect the foreground but not the sky.

In many cases, however, you can achieve the same result for targeted sharpening more easily by using the Masking slider for the sharpening controls found in the Detail section of the right panel in the Develop module.

When you increase the value for the Masking slider, you will gradually focus the sharpening effect so that it applies to areas that have texture, without affecting areas of smooth texture such as the sky.

To get a better sense of the right setting for the Masking slider, hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while dragging the slider. This will display a black and white preview over the image, where white areas indicate portions of the image that will have sharpening applied and black areas indicate areas that will not be sharpened. In this example you could hold the Alt/Option key until the sky area is entirely black and the rest of the image is entirely white in the preview, or as close to that as possible to focus the sharpening only where you want it.