If you're a Lightroom user you may not have considered the sharpening tool as a serious feature, just dragged the amount to the right and never given it a second thought. Well it's a much more powerful tool than that and here we explain how to get the most out of it.
There are four Sharpening sliders found in the Develop module: Amount, Radius, Detail and Masking.
Lightroom Sharpening: Amount
Amount is the most straightforward to get your head around as it simply affects how much sharpening is applied. Sliding to the right makes the photo look sharper. A value of 0 turns off sharpening. By looking at the preview window you can see when you've gone too far as the contrast increases dramatically and it just looks over sharpened. Try to avoid sliding too far to the right for a cleaner image.
Hold down Alt key (option on Mac) as you adjust the Amount slider to preview changes in greyscale.
Lightroom Sharpening: Radius
Radius adjusts the spread of pixels that are affected ranging from 0.5px to 3px from any edge detail. A lower setting is ideal for finer detail. Start off at 1px and adjust accordingly.
Holding down Alt key (option on Mac) as you adjust the Radius slider shows the edge detail affected by the radius highlighted with white outlines.
Lightroom Sharpening: Detail
Detail is a fine tuning slider with a scale of 0 to 100. Use a lower setting to remove blurring and a high value for emphasising textured areas. If the Amount slider is to the left you won't see much difference as you adjust this slider. As the Amount slider is moved to the right the effect of using the Detail slider becomes more apparent.
Holding down Alt key (option on Mac) as you adjust the Detail slider shows the same edge detail seen when adjusting the radius where edges have white outlines.
Lightroom Sharpening: Masking
Masking is set to default at zero which allows sharpening to be applied evenly across the image when the other sliders are adjusted. By increasing masking you start to reduce the areas that are sharpened. As the slider is moved to the right (maximum setting is 100) the smoother areas are not sharpened and sharpening is applied just to the finer areas.
Holding down Alt key (option on Mac) as you adjust the Masking slider shows a mask like preview where black is unaffected pixels and white is affected.
Other useful Lightroom Sharpening tips
* Turn the Detail Zoom on by clicking the small icon top left. Now you as you move your cursor around the large view the preview window will magnify just that area. Click in the main window to store that preview position and turn the Detail Zoom off.
* Lightroom comes with a selection of presets - two of these, found under general Presets, are for sharpness - one is Sharpen - Faces and the other is Sharpen - Scenic. You can use these as a quick starting point and fine tune accordingly. If you like using presets there are others available to download and add to your collection. Here's some from Lightroom Killer Tips
* You can turn off sharpening using the panel's on off switch
* Ctrl+Y turns on the before and after preview.
* As Lightoom is none destructive the sharpening changes you make do not appear on the original file. And you can have two or more variations of sharpening for each photo - one for printing and one for web viewing, for example. When you've adjusted the sharpening to the desired settings save as a snapshot (Develop>New Snapshot or ctrl+N). Then no matter what you do you can revert to that version by clicking on it in the left Snapshots menu. If you exporting the file at full size you can then turn off Output Sharpening when you export.