How To Sharpen Your RAW Wildlife Images in Lightroom

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry Leave a Comment

Sharpening is a very important but misunderstood part of digital image processing.

It is important to understand that there are various different types of sharpening.  One of these is output sharpening which is normally done last and specifically for either print or web use.  The other is the initial file sharpening which takes place on the original, full sized RAW file.

Before we get going it is important to remember sharpening cannot make a bad, out of focus image better but can make a good image even better.  Also, sharpening does not, when compared to exposure or white balance, pull more information from your RAW file but only increases contrast along the edges of an image which is shown in the image below and explained in more details in the attached video.

This  video will explain the basics of sharpening in Lightroom and also give you a better understanding of what the Amount and Radius sliders in Lightroom do.

So to summarize.

– Sharpening increases the contrast along the edges of your images.

Amount Slider:  This slider controls how much sharpening is applied.  Think of it as an intensity or volume control.

Radius:  This slider determines how far from the edges the sharpening contrast will be applied.

Detail:  Use this slide once you are happy with Amount and Radius to fine tune to the details around the edges.

Masking:  Use slide to mask out the smooth areas of the image and only apply sharpening to the edges.

– During all the sharpening adjustments in Lightroom hold down the ALT key to best see your results.

– Too much sharpening will increase the amount of digital noise in the darker areas of your image.

Pretty much all your RAW files will be able to benefit from a certain amount of sharpening.  It is however difficult to create a standard template as to how much you should adjust each slider but I find that a good starting point, obviously depending on the type image,  in Lightroom is:

Amount: 25

Radius: 0,8  (A tip would be to increase the slider until you see hard, jagged edges and then back it up from there.

Details: To choice but careful of overdoing!

Masking: 75

One other thing to remember is that when you are sharpening your images that the sharpening is only applied to the luminance values and not the actual colors in your image.  This is the reason that you get to see the image in grayscale when holding the ALT button during sharpening.

It is also worth keeping in mind that if you were to sharpen the image too much that certain colors can be affected so rather err on the side of caution.

Remember that the above refers to the RAW sharpening and that for best results you still need to apply a certain amount of output sharpening to your image.

If you have any questions or have anything to add – comments are are open!

Until next time.

Gerry van der Walt


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Comments 0

    1. Post

      Only a pleasure, thanks Mac! Glad you’re enjoying the content and please let us know if there is anything you would like us to focus on! 🙂

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