Detail Panel - Sharpening and Noise Reduction

Changing the Universe on pixel at a time.

Sharpening in Lightroom

There are three different kinds of sharpening:
    1. Input
    2. Special Effect Sharpening
      • Applied to Landscapes, architecture, hair, fur, eyes, flowers...
    3. Output to media
      • Print --Glossy or Matte paper
      • Screen --for The display, The Web, Computer, Video

The Detail Panel >  1. Input Sharpening

Lightroom --applies some default "input sharpening" even if you make no adjustments. (see default settings below)
This default sharpening ONLY applies to Raw images.

LR does NOT apply sharpening to .jpg's and .tiff's, as LR assumes that sharpening has been applied "in-camera"

Sharpening has been greatly improved in Lightroom and
As a result you should now do the majority of your sharpening in Lightroom.

The Default Camera Raw (Photoshop) sharpening setting is the same as in Lightroom.


Amount: 25

Radius: 1.0

Detail: 25

Masking: 0

The default settings are JUST a starting point for most images, applying some sharpening to a raw file that contain NO sharpening at all.

Always evaluate your sharpening at 100%, the Detail panels preview window shows a 1:1 (100%) or a 2:1 (200%) view.

You should NOT see sharpening halos at "Fill" or "Fit" magnification...

Amount and Radius

The Amount and Radius should be adjusted together.
The Amount determines how much sharpening is applied.
The Radius lets you decide how wide you want the white edges (the halo contrast on the edges) to be.

A radius of 1.0 works for most edges.

The Alt/Option Key
Pressing the alt/option key when using either the Amount and Radius slider will show you how much sharpening is being applies by revealing the edge details

Default Landscape Preset

Detail-Landscape Fine detailed subjects will benefit from a small Radius setting <  (Less than) 1 (about .8)

Default Portrait Preset

Soft detailed portraits can use a radius  > (Greater than) 1   (1.1–1.3)

In both cases don't fret over the value, the difference of +/- .1 is negligable!

Sharpening "Halo/Artifact" Suppression

The Detail slider
is a “halo avoidance slider,” it suppresses the sharpening effect so you don’t get sharpening artifacts and other unwanted effects from over sharpening.

The Alt/Option Key
You can "see" the effect Detail has on the image by holding down the ALT or Option key, the sharpening is occurring in the grayscale, hence the gray display.
The larger the value the more the sharpening effect is passed through (100 % allows the total sharpening effect to happen.)

Masking Slider
creates a grayscale mask that works exactly like a layer mask in Photoshop.

0 is no masking, and 100% is a full mask protecting as much of the photos as possible.

The Alt/Option Key
Set the mask high for skin and soft areas, use lower values if you want to sharpen details. The ALT or Option key reveals the masking effect showing you what's being protected.

Portrait and Landscape presets

The presets used above comes with Lightroom, and are supplied in the Presets panel in the Develop Module:

Lightroom 4


Lightroom CC Presets


Remember, These values are JUST a starting point…

you can make additional adjustments and save them as your own Sharpening preset.

Noise Reduction

Noise in photography has 3 possible sources:

  1. An Under Exposed image
    • If the Exposure slider is increased greater than 3/4's of a stop, noise will be introduced into the image.
  2. Long Exposures
  3. Noise-HiISO-longexpose
  4. High ISO

Two kinds of Noise:

  • Luminance Noise (monochrome grain in the sky or uniform bright areas)
  • Color Noise (Red and Green, colored speckles in the darks and shadows)

Do Color Noise First

Start with Color Noise reduction first.
Default Color: 25
Default Detail: 50 --For High ISO go more... Zoom to 3:1 or 4:1
Default Smoothness: 50 --Default of 50 works for most Photos, but if the noise is excessive try more!

Luminance Noise

Luminance Slider = 25 go higher you start losing detail
Detail Slider = default is 50 Increasing the Detail slider value preserves more edge detail
The Contrast slider is use mostly for high ISO images, to preserve contrast and texture. A lower setting will give an overall smoother result.

After you have worked on Noise Reduction go back to the Sharpening Mask slider and see if re-adjusting it helps with detail.

Hiding Noise by Introducing Grain

Noise-Grain Open the Effects panel, add no more than an amount of 25, experiment with Size and Roughness. Grain will soften the image, so be careful to only add a small amount...

2.0 Creative Sharpening in Lightroom

The adjustment Brush

Add Sharpening and Clarity


ShowMask Show Mask Buttons in the image "Tool Bar"


2.0 Creative sharpening in Photoshop

The sharpening tools in Photoshop have an larger range than Lightroom, and it's easier to make accurate sub pixel masks.

As a smart object in Photoshop

For when you need two or more levels of EXTREME sharpening in an image

  • Send the image from Lightroom to Photoshop as a Smart Object.
  • Duplicate the layer as a smart object... Right Click in the layer, choose Copy as a smart Object.
  • Send the top layer to Camera Raw and sharpen the butterfly in Camera Raw's Detail Panel...
  • Okay sends the image back to Photoshop
  • select the bottom layer, and choose Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen.
  • This sharpens the entire layer. Close the sharpen Dialogue
  • To just sharpen the butterfly you need to make a Layer Mask for the top layer
  • You can now adjust/fine tune your sharpening without having to redo it again.

3.0 Output Sharpening

In the Print Module

Choose the amount of sharpening, Low Standrd or Highthere is no preview so you may want to experiment.

Media Type? Your choice depends on whether you are printing to Glossy or Matte papers

In the Export Module

Choose your media type, Screen, Matte or Glossy paper and the amount of sharpening Low, Standard or High.