For ul­ti­mate sharp­ness, you will need to learn some post­pro­cess­ing tech­niques

Digital Photograper - - 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

Out­put sharp­en­ing.

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.

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