Should I sharpen only the parts in focus or should I sharpen the whole picture?

  • For me this is mainly aesthetic decision Dec 25, 2015 at 8:28
  • 1
    The best way to find out is to do 2 versions of the same picture, one only sharpened in the focus are and one sharpened everywhere. Then compare the 2 pictures and see for yourself what the result is.
    – Dragos
    Dec 25, 2015 at 11:11

1 Answer 1


It always depends on what type of picture you are processing, and what you want to achieve in that picture.

  • Are you processing a macro photo?
  • A landscape?
  • A portrait?
  • How is the depth of field in the picture?
  • Where does the attention of the viewer needs to be attracted?

All these question will influence the way you process your image, respectively the area and the amount of sharpening you are applying to your image.

It will also help to understand what sharpening actually is and how exactly is that achieved. Cambridge In Colour has a small and useful introduction to this theme.

Excerpts from the article:

Image sharpening is a powerful tool for emphasizing texture and drawing viewer focus. It's also required of any digital photo at some point — whether you're aware it's been applied or not. Digital camera sensors and lenses always blur an image to some degree, for example, and this requires correction. However, not all sharpening techniques are created equal. When performed too aggressively, unsightly sharpening artifacts may appear. On the other hand, when done correctly, sharpening can often improve apparent image quality even more so than upgrading to a high-end camera lens.

In some cases, you want to use sharpening in order to give the feeling of a better focus in the image and thus also draw the attention of the viewer to the focused area. In this case, you would sharpen only the "in focus" area, like in this image, where the attention is supposed to be on the eye of the subject

Focus on the eye - source: joyphoto.eu

In some other cases, you want to create the impression of a wider focus area and try to sharpen also the surrounding area. Take a look at the next 2 pictures and notice how the sharpening in the second picture is popping up also the basket, but leaves the area outside the basket still out of the "interest area"

Unsharpened picture vs. Sharpened picture

On the other hand, if your image is a landscape, and the whole image is supposed to be in focus, then you would most likely want to sharpen the whole image.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.