I was reading this article A Simple Workflow for RAW Processing. I noticed that sharpening is not recommended (only noise reduction is), as it should only be the final step before publishing. However, I do this all the time, and I presume LR4 would take additional sharpening that I did into account before publishing, for example, on Flickr.
What is your opinion about it?

  • AFAIK, common (best?) practice is to do a small amount of RAW presharpening, and then final sharpening based on the output size, resolution etc. You can do too much damage by oversharpening, but I don't think a small amount of presharpening is a problem.
    – MikeW
    Feb 28 '13 at 9:51
  • Unless you want to use a program that can't deal with RAW files, or you want to use multiple programs (i.e. Canon's DPP for WB, dust delete, NR, and cropping and then LR for tagging, non-global exposure adjustments, or other functions that DPP doesn't have) the conversion to TIFF is not necessary. I often do all of my processing in DPP and then export a full resolution JPEG and a low resolution JPEG for each image. No need for LR unless I need to make non-global adjustments.
    – Michael C
    Feb 28 '13 at 10:35
  • The possible dupe is similar, but this question is specifically about LR4 and RAW. Feb 28 '13 at 11:19

In this case, I think the author is looking at raw processing from almost an 'archival' perspective, which is really how we all should do it, strictly speaking. In the real world though, I suspect most of us take some photos, likely with the intention of online viewing, and process them straight away for that purpose.

The author is looking at it from the viewpoint of "I don't know if I'm going to print this photo or display it on the web, so I will get it ready up to a point, and sharpen it etc appropriately when the time comes." This is efficient, but by no means absolutely necessary, because the non-destructive nature of raw editing means you can simply adjust the sharpness later on anyway.

He also uses a somewhat odd workflow where he exports a TIFF to edit further. This strikes me as a waste of time and hard drive space.

As for Lightroom taking your sharpening into account before publishing, I wouldn't bet on it. The look of a photo is subjective - how is it supposed to know if you think the sharpening is enough or not?

  • If he wants to use DPP for global adjustments and LR for non-global adjustments (which DPP does not do) converting to TIFF is needed to preserve the changes made in DPP. Otherwise, opening the RAW file in LR does not reflect the work done in DPP.
    – Michael C
    Feb 28 '13 at 10:38
  • Based on the article, it appears he only archives the TIFF as his "master copy". That would, for example, explain why he doesn't crop using his RAW developer. If he needs a different aspect ratio for a different sized print he wants the entire image on the TIFF. Everything he does prior to the TIFF is somewhat "baked in".
    – Michael C
    Feb 28 '13 at 10:49
  • Let's say I add some creative and postprocessing sharpening. Do I need to enable output sharpening anyway when publishing from LR?
    – Bob
    Feb 28 '13 at 23:59
  • assuming you sharpen at the end of the workflow, would you still need to do an additional output sharpening, assuming the photo is supposed to be viewed on screen?
    – Bob
    Mar 1 '13 at 7:43
  • It's up to you. If you think it's sharp enough, don't use output sharpening. There are no hard and fast rules in photography. Mar 1 '13 at 7:51

The article doesn't say sharpening is not recommended in post processing - only that you need to do it last (see right near the bottom of the post "Apply sharpening to taste").

The author of this post has a multi-step workflow that moves the image between different programs - LR is in the beginning of the workflow + you need to sharpen at the end = you don't sharpen in LR.

There are many questions on this site the order of sharpening in relation to other processing steps so I won't talk about it here, but you really want to sharpen at the end, after resizing and when you know how the picture is going to be displayed.


Sharpening is a destructive process which removes information from the image.

Once you have destroyed information by sharpening, other processes have less of the original image data to work with. The overall result is that early sharpening is more likely than not to degrade end quality.

Unlike some processes, where the position in the chain of processes can have a significant effect on final effect, the aim and effect of sharpening is much the same at the time that it is applied anywhere in the process. If you apply it early it will achieve about the same effect as if you apply it later, when viewed immediately post sharpening, but not only does early application impact other processes (as above), but other processes are liable to "de-sharpen" the image subsequently.

eg Sharpness and contrast are "different faces of the same coin". If you apply a "curve" which alters the relationships between levels in bits in close proximity you will impact the "sharpness" of the transition between them. Correcting this as desired for effect as a final step is better thamn having curve applications de-sharpen a sharpened image.

  • Sharpening a JPEG and saving is destructive. Changing the sharpening settings attached to a RAW file is not, except in the sense that the previous sharpening settings are no longer saved in the side-car data.
    – Michael C
    Feb 28 '13 at 10:18

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