SHARPEN IN POST
For ultimate sharpness, you will need to learn some postprocessing techniques
sharpening is an important part of postproduction and a much bigger topic than most photographers realise; there have even been whole books written about it. it is essentially a three-stage process: capture sharpening, creative sharpening and
capture sharpening is carried out at the RaW processing stage to offset the natural softness of digital capture caused by antialiasing filters, lens aberrations and the interpolation of colour from the information recorded by the sensor (‘demosaicing’).
creative sharpening involves sharpening specific areas of the image – for example, the eyes in a portrait. it is not so common in landscape photography, but there are occasions when it is necessary. Output sharpening is the final round of sharpening which is applied to the image to make it ready for reproduction; the amount and nature of output sharpening depends on the medium of reproduction and size of the image.
all good RaW converters offer a high level of control over sharpening. if we look at one of the most popular applications, adobe Lightroom, there are four sliders: amount, Radius, detail and Masking. amount does exactly what you’d expect, Radius controls how far from each pixel the amount setting is allowed to affect neighbouring pixels, and detail preserves detail in the high-frequency parts of the image. the Masking slider controls how much of the overall image is affected by sharpening and enables you to mask off areas of smooth texture, so that any noise there isn’t accentuated.
for most landscapes, the idea is to reveal fine detail and change settings slightly from the Lightroom defaults; a higher amount, lower Radius and higher detail setting usually does the trick – try values of around amount 40, Radius 0.7-0.8 and detail 35. there is no ‘magic setting’ for Masking, which will vary from image to image – hold down the alt key and increase the amount until the areas you want to mask off are selected.
in Lightroom, there is also the clarity slider, which can be used to enhance detail on textured surfaces – though it can also increase noise, so should be applied with care.