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Some professionals do not sharpen their raw photos when they postprocess them and the result is still great! How is that possible? Quality of lenses? Different workaround? Thank you!

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    Please give some specific examples. – Philip Kendall Sep 1 '19 at 16:04
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    This is probably way too broad to answer satisfactorily... But the notion of "getting it right in camera" is going to be a significant factor. Lenses, cameras, sensors and lighting all play a part in it as well, but it really comes down to knowing your equipment and knowing how to make it do what you want it to. – twalberg Sep 1 '19 at 16:06
  • I bought a f/2.0 50mm fixed focal length lens and I'm totally astonished what difference it makes compared to the standard lens shipped with the camera. – Thomas Weller Sep 1 '19 at 16:24
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Quality of lenses, stopping down a bit from the maximum aperture of lens and desired depth of field, arrangement of the scene by grouping elements to appear in focus into a comparatively "flat layer". And not overdoing resolution.

Of course it helps if your camera is a "resolution underachiever" compared to the lens quality. I like my ancient DSC-R1 camera from 2005: pretty good (fixed) lens, APS-C class sensor (crop factor 1.66), just 10MP, non-BSI CMOS sensor. That means that the actual light sensitive areas are small enough to have quite lacklustre high-ISO performance given the large sensor size and small pixel count, but have considerable separation, leading to an image that is quite well-defined at the pixel level.

Of course, if you have higher sensor resolution to work with, scaling down should also work to provide images that are comparatively well-defined at the pixel level.

Sharpening comes at a cost of noise, and noise can be kept low by keeping scenes well-exposed. For studio (and a number of other explicitly lit scenes) you can keep ISO values low enough that at least noisiness for a quite basic sharpening level is not much of an issue. However, other image operations like local contrast enhancements or tone mapping also come at a cost in noise while providing more striking effects at larger scales.

I can well imagine that with a carefully set up scene, photographers would prefer investing their noise headroom for more global effects rather than improvements at the pixel level.

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