The Best Way to Sharpen Your Photos: Photoshop Versus Lightroom

Sharpening images is a crucial step of every photographer's post-production, but with so many different ways to do it, which is the best?

I have gone through so many different methods of sharpening my photos in post production, I have forgotten several. One of my earliest techniques was taken from a photography magazine (you know, those shiny paper book things we used to hoard) where to get a dramatic monochrome portrait, you used a High Pass filter. I liked how "sharp" it made my images, so I started to do this to all my images in totality.

I was making a wealth of mistakes, however. Firstly, it was a destructive method which caused a lot of noise as a byproduct. Secondly, in a similar vein, it caused haloing on a lot of objects in the scene. Thirdly, I applied it to the image in totality. The third mistake is something that persisted through all of my various techniques I employed for sharpening for many years.

As Nace mentions in this video, localized sharpening is not only a better way to apply your sharpening method, but can aid in drawing attention to whatever you want as the focal point. No matter which sharpening route you take, that is one takeaway I would really recommend hanging on to.

Which sharpening methods do you use? Do you prefer Photoshop or Lightroom? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Robert K Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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16 Comments

NIK within Photoshop. I use Capture One having abandoned Lightroom many years ago.

I select the closest eye to the camera and then wait for the beep sound and mine come out sharp. I'm also shooting with strobes at f8 so maybe that would help.

beep technique never fails!

Topaz Sharpen

I use Topaz Sharpen AI. Works better than either Lightroom or PS. Although with Sony A7RIV and top quality lenses I hardly ever need to sharpen.

Great product. I particularly like the Stabilize mode -- excellent sharpness enhancement and no fringing.

I have the Denoise AI and it’s also very good for sharpening. You don’t have to use the DeNoise, you can just use the sharpening and recover detail sliders. I’m also testing and most likely going to buy the Gigapixel AI for up resolution, since I’m using 20.8 MP Nikon D5 bodies and at times would like to or need to print bigger than 13x19. Sure the D5 can already do that, but the Gigapixel AI works pretty well if you just use 100% to 200%. Anything beyond that like the advertised 600% is overkill and I think looks strange.

There are lots of good ways to sharpen, but not the ways this video shows. Lots of LR errors here, didn't get to the PS part. Judging sharpness at 300% is crazy, and no mention of output sharpening which is critical to the whole process. If you want to learn about sharpening, look elsewhere

Perhaps this should be called; "How to ruin an image"

Not gonna share my secret, but it's a complicated version of highpass. I absolutely love the results. Subtle and pleasing sharpness boost and no obvious haloing.

You're participating in a discussion about sharing sharpening techniques just to gloat that you won't share your magic secret?

LoL...

100%! Once someone duplicates it and puts it out on YouTube, i will concede. I gave y'all enough info. It's a variation of highpass.
I developed it on my own, no YouTube training. Why would i share? If it was simple and common knowledge i wouldn't even comment.

Glad to hear from you that you have special knowledge. Not sure how we can stand the torture of not knowing it ourselves, but we'll muddle through somehow.

Mr Muhlestein. Thanks for sharing your opinion on something we cannot check. Hope you're happy with it. We move on with sharing (read the f.. question) our experiences. Now to all others: Topaz Sharpen AI does an admirable job, but keep in mind that it does in fact adds artifacts. Sometimes a weird pattern can be seen in the pictures. To me it seems like the artificial sharpness is based on what the human eye perceives as sharp, thus applying patterns to certain parts of the image that on closer inspection (100 - 200%) look somehow weird. In 90% of the cases, the software is spot on. Slow, but accurate.

I use Photoshop and Photoworks, the automatic photo editor you guys once wrote about- https://fstoppers.com/originals/automatic-photo-editor-photoworks-refres...
Tbh, I don't see much difference and I believe that you can't fully save a blurry-as-heck photo no matter what software you use.