Before the rush

Before the rush
by evan-pak

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All my photography tools have sharpening options.

  • My camera has sharpening (in the picture profile). Not sure that applies to RAW though.
  • In Lightroom I can sharpen twice: in develop and in export
  • My photo printer has built-in sharpening as well.

But where should I sharpen? If I sharpen in Lightroom development, will additional sharpening in export and/printer eventually bring out grain again?

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Some existing questions cover aspects of this: What is the optimal order of post-processing steps?, Why should my last post-processing step be sharpening?. And there's a number of questions about sharpening before or after specific operations: 1, 2, 3. – mattdm Dec 17 '12 at 2:07
up vote 7 down vote accepted

You should really only sharpen once, and base that on your intended output.

If you shoot a JPEG in camera, as you suggested it can apply sharpening depending on your settings. If you shoot RAW the in camera settings typically do not apply. In Lightroom, I would suggest sharpening in the develop module. The develop module gives you much greater flexibility in how you sharpen, and the amount of sharpening you apply. The export sharpening is really just a quick and dirty method if you don't want to mess with the settings in the develop module. I would stay away from this unless you want to maybe use it for quick web or email output usage.

As far as your printer, it really depends on the printer. This might be a good solution, but it might not be. I personally prefer to leave my printer set to default or off sharpening settings and do all of my sharpening in the Develop module of Lightroom or Photoshop.

What is important is that you sharpen as close to the final product as possible, and only sharpen once. You don't want to sharpen first, lose detail and bandwidth, then edit and develop the image. Instead leave it for last as the final step before output/printing/upload.

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It should be noted that in tools like Lightroom, sharpening can be edited at any time. It is applied as one of the last steps in the rendering pipeline. All sharpening edits in a non-destructive editor like Lightroom are really just instructions on how to sharpen, not a fixed edit with error that can affect IQ results in the long run. – jrista Dec 16 '12 at 23:50
@jrista - Yes, I asked Tim Grey that exact question when he was featured on the blog here, see his answer:… – dpollitt Dec 17 '12 at 2:57

The in-camera should impact only jpegs, not raw.

Most of the time (99%?) you want to sharpen only once, and you want to do it knowing the output medium. You sharpen differently for web presentation vs high res printing.

I would disable both the in-camera and in-printer and have Lightroom do it all.

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