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Adobe Photoshop vs Lightroom (Part 2)

Input Sharpening

This is the second part of an extended look into the benefits of both Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Connect on social media to follow this detailed breakdown and comparison.


Different types of sharpening

Before going into how Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom handle sharpening it’s important to understand the different methods available. Typically there are three phases at which sharpening would be applied to an image; input, creative and output, with each phase having unique goals.

  • Input sharpening – correct anti-aliasing caused by the digital sensor in your camera and to sharpen the image as a whole.
  • Creative sharpening – where individual areas receive additional sharpening for artistic purposes.
  • Output sharpening – additional sharpening to suit the final image output size and media, be it screen or print.

So with this in mind lets take a look at the different techniques available to us for input sharpening.

Input Sharpening – Adobe Photoshop

When you open a RAW file in Adobe Photoshop a dialog box will appear with various controls. You will see a box titled sharpening, this is where will focus for now.

Dragging the slider on amount will increase the amount of sharpening applied to the image during the import of the RAW file into Adobe Photoshop. Don’t worry about making the image tack sharp just now, this is only the first round of sharpening, simply sharpen to a point where the entire photo looks good.

For the most part this would be enough involvement for input sharpening in Adobe Photoshop, however you will notice three more sliders below amount, these change the way the sharpening is applied to the image.

  1. Radius – this is the size of the sharpening area around the edges of objects within your photo. An edge is where there is a high degree of contrast between colours. The default value of 1.0 means that Adobe Photoshop will apply sharpening over 1 pixel. Increasing the value causes the sharpening to be spread over more pixels, resulting in thicker edges, this is useful for making outlines thicker but as this is being applied to the image as a whole you will lose detail doing this, I tend to leave this at 1.0.
  2. Detail – this slider controls the amount of sharpening on what Adobe Photoshop believes is details. The more you increase the value, the the smaller the details that get sharpened. Again, I tend to ignore this slider as I can better control this during the creative sharpening phase.
  3. Masking – this I use a lot. This allows you to only apply your input sharpening to edges of objects in the image rather than the image as a whole. This helps reduce adding noise to less detailed areas.

Input Sharpening – Adobe Lightroom

This works similarly to Adobe Photoshop, with the same sliders available. The main difference here is that as previously mentioned Adobe Lightroom is a non-destructive editor. You can easily change these values in Adobe Lightroom without having to reimport the RAW file each time. When you import the file into Adobe Photoshop and then save your sharpening changes you will be creating a new file.

Adobe Lightroom also has the added benefit of a Dehazing tool. Primarily designed to remove haze from photos it is useful to add an extra punch to images without haze.

Are there any other input sharpening tools?

Within both Photoshop and Lightroom you will see a box called Presence, the only slider which affects the sharpness of an image here is Clarity. This applies additional sharpening to the mid-tones only and can have a dramatic effect on your image.

And the winner is?

Lightroom wins for input sharpening. The additional dehazing tool, along with the fact that Lightroom is an excellent file management tool puts it just ahead of it’s older sibling Photoshop when it comes to input sharpening.

Next we will begin comparing similar features in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, starting with an extended look into sharpening.