NEW! SLR Lounge Quarterly Plans are Here!

How to Sharpen Images with the Detail Panel in Lightroom 4

April 18th 2013 1:30 PM

Introduction

In this video from our Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD, we will go over the Sharpening settings from the Detail Panel in Lightroom 4. The Detail Panel also includes settings for Noise Reduction, but we will go over those settings in the next video. In this article, we will be explaining the different sharpening sliders and we will also demonstrate how to correctly sharpen an image with the Detail Panel in Lightroom 4.

Watch the Video

The Detail Panel

To expand or collapse the Detail Panel, press “Ctrl + 5.” Once you expand the Detail Panel, you will see 3 sections: the 1:1 Preview Panel, the Sharpening settings and the Noise Reduction settings. To get the best quality out of your images, it is important to understand each value in the Sharpening and the Noise Reduction settings.

01-lightroom-4-detail-panel

1:1 Preview Panel

First, we have the 1:1 Preview Panel, which shows us a 1:1 preview of the image selected. Currently, our 1:1 Preview Panel is displaying the gray background of the image, which is not very useful. To adjust the preview in the 1:1 Preview Panel, click on the Adjust Detail Zoom Area Tool. After you have selected this tool, bring it over to an area that is useful, like the eyes of your subject, and click on that area of the image.

02-lighroom-4-detail=panel-sharpening-1-to-1-preview-panel

As you can see in our image below, we have the Adjust Detail Zoom Area Tool over our subject’s eye.

03-lightroom-4-detail-zoom-tool

Once you click on your image, you will have a locked 1:1 preview in the Detail Panel that you can refer to when you are adjusting the Sharpening and Noise Reduction settings.

04-lightroom-4-detail-panel-preview-panel

You can also zoom to 1:1 by selecting the 1:1 zoom at the top of the Navigator Panel, which can be found at the top left in Lightroom. Once you have selected the 1:1 zoom, you can simply click on your image to zoom in and out of 1:1. To adjust where you zoom into, simply click and drag your image.

05-lightroom-4-navigator-panel-zoom-ratio

A 1:1 zoom will help you see if you have correctly sharpened your image. If the Sharpening effect looks good at 1:1, then your image will most likely also look correctly sharpened when it comes out as a print.

Amount of Sharpening

The first Sharpening value in the Detail Panel is the Amount. The Amount is the overall strength of the Sharpening effect. When you drag the Amount slider to the right, it will increase the strength of the Sharpening effect and when you drag the Amount slider to the left, it will decrease the strength of the Sharpening effect.

06-lightroom-4-increase-sharpening-amount

This is what our image looks like at a 1:1 zoom with the Amount of the Sharpening effect pulled all the way down to 0.
07-lightroom-4-decrease-sharpening-image-example

If we drag the Amount slider all the way up to 150, we will be able to see every adjustment in complete detail because the Sharpening effect is at full effect.

08-lightroom-4-increase-sharpening-amount

This is what our image looks like at a 1:1 zoom with the Amount of the Sharpening effect pulled all the way up to 150.
09-lightroom-4-increase-sharpening-amount-image-example

Radius of Sharpening

The next Sharpening value is the Radius. The Radius adjusts the amount that the Sharpening effect extends from each line in the image. In other words, the Radius increases or decreases the thickness of the Sharpening effect. The higher the Radius, the stronger lines will appear in the image.

10-lightroom-4-increase-sharepning-radius

As you can see in our image below, the strong lines between his ears and the lines in between his cheek line and the background become stronger when we bring the Radius up.
11-lightroom-4-increase-sharpening-radius-image-example

To see the strength of any of the Sharpening values, hold down “Alt” as you move the sliders. A mask will appear over your image to show you how each Sharpening value will affect the image.

If we bring the Radius slider all the way down to 0.5 while holding down “Alt,” the edges in our image are not very strong.
12-lightroom-4-mask-radius-decreased

When we increase the Radius, we can see that the edges in our image are much thicker.
13-lightroom-4-increase-radius-mask

When we let go of “Alt,” we can see that the edges in the overall image are much more prominent, especially the edges over the eyes and where the skin meets the gray background.
14-lightroom-4-increase-radius-image-example

Detail of Sharpening

The next Sharpening value is Detail. Detail controls how much of the fine detail in the image will be sharpened. When we move the Detail slider to the right, it will increase the fine detail. When we move the Detail slider to the left, it will decrease the fine detail. When we are editing portraits, we do not want to bring the Detail up too high because we do not want to sharpen the pores and blemishes on the skin.

15-lightroom-4-detail-sharpening-effect

We can also see how Detail affects our overall image by holding down “Alt” again. When we pull the Detail up to 100, we can see that all of the pores have been sharpened.
17-lightroom-4-increase-detail-mask

When we decrease the Detail down, we only see the strong edge lines being sharpened.
16-lightroom-4-decrease-detail-mask

Masking of Sharpening

The last Sharpening value is Masking, which is an overall sharpening reduction tool that allows you to mask out parts of the image so they are not affected by the sharpening. The Masking value masks more of the image as we pull the slider to the right.

18-lightroom-4-masking-value-sharpening

When you pull the Masking slider to 100, it will only sharpen the thickest and most prominent lines in the image. To see how this effect works, hold down “Alt” while moving the Masking slider. When we move the Masking slider to the right, we will see less of the Sharpening effect. The white areas indicate where the Sharpening effects show up in the image while the black areas are where the Sharpening effects are masked out. When the Masking value is set at 0, the mask is completely white because we are revealing all of the Sharpening effects. When the Masking value is set at 100, only the strongest lines of the image will be sharpened.

In the image below, we have pulled up the Masking value all the way up to 100 while holding down “Alt.” As you can see, only the strongest lines of the image remain in this mask.
19-lightroom-4-masking-value-mask

Correctly Sharpening Images

Now that we understand how each Sharpening value affects our image, we are going to dial in the correct Sharpening settings for this image. First, we are going to reset all of the settings that we previously applied. To reset settings, hold down “Alt” and click on “Reset Sharpening” in the Detail Panel.

20-lightroom-4-reset-all-sharpening-settings

We will raise the Amount value to 89. Next, bring the Radius up to 2.0. With Detail, we do not want to bring it up too high since this is a portrait and we do not want each pore on his face to be enhanced. We will bring the Detail up to 25 and we will leave Masking at 0.

21-lightroom-4-sharpen-image-detail-panel

This is what our image looks like with the correct Sharpening effects applied. Since the Sharpening effects look fine at the 1:1 zoom, the image will also come out fine as a print.

22-lightroom-4-sharpening-image-image-example

Conclusion & Learn More!

If you want to enlarge an image in Photoshop and you need to know exactly how much to sharpen the image, bring the image into Lightroom 4 first. Then, zoom in at 1:1 and if the Sharpening effects look good at 1:1 preview, then the image will print out correctly. Previewing an image at 1:1 is the easiest way to check to see if your image has been correctly sharpened.

We hope you enjoyed this article and video excerpt from the Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD. Stay tuned for our next article and episode!

The Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD is a 14 hour video workshop turning any Lightroom novice into a complete master of Lightroom 4 in no time! The Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop can be purchased by itself, or within the Lightroom 4 Workshop Collection which also contains our award winning and industry standard Lightroom 4 Preset System, as well as the Lightroom 4 Workflow System.

About

Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography, LJP Studios and SLR Lounge.

Follow my updates on Facebook and my latest work on Instagram both under username @pyejirsa.

Comments [5]

Please or register to post a comment.

  1. Joseph Prusa

    Thanks

    | |
  2. Amy

    Hi! I wonder why you don’t use the masking at all with the portraits. I thought you mentioned that sharpening will sharpen every pore and blemish on their skin. Why wouldn’t you apply sharpening and a heavy mask to keep just the detail parts of the face crisp and the rest of the skin “clean”. Just a little clarification. Thanks so much! Usually when I sharpen for portraits, I am looking to enhance the skin by having the skin seem smoother, seems like less work in PS or LR to account for the sharpened pores and blemishes?

    Thanks!

    | |
  3. ngiardina

    I notice that you set your radius to 2.0. I was under the impression that the radius value was dependent on the total resolution of the sensor. Is 2.0 the value you are using for a 5D3? The reason I ask is that I use a D800 as my primary body and also use 2.0 for my radius typically. I see most people keeping it around 1.5 or so.

    | |
    • Matthew Saville

      Ngiardina, we do often use 1.5 radius!

      | |
    • ngiardina

      It always seems to me, and it may just be personal taste, that 1.5 on the D800 files still seems soft. Have you noticed that? Or do I just prefer extra-crispy as opposed to original recipe?

      | |