Lightroom portrait sharpening
Use this Professional RAW sharpening technique
Lenses vary considerably in their ability to produce sharp pixels. Optical lens performance can come at a cost, so upgrading your kit is not always a viable solution. Fortunately, programs such as Lightroom come with a good number of options to sharpen up pixels for added definition; ideal if you plan on printing your images further down the line.
In these steps below, we’ll look at various options inside of Lightroom’s Develop module for making detail stand out. Controlling adjustments for Masking and Noise Reduction are essential in reducing pixel degradation, and even using Adjustment Brushes will give the freedom to apply sharpening to a specific area in need of extra clarity. Although sharpening can be applied to compressed JPEG images, the results are more effective on RAW files, as those finer details will still be in place.
1 A closer view Head into the Detail section of Lightroom’s Develop module to find the Sharpening and Noise Reduction options. Zoom into your image using 1:1 magnification in the Navigator panel (top left).
2 Increase Sharpening Start by boosting the Amount slider for Sharpening. From 0 to 50 gives a subtle level of sharpening, and 50 to 150 gives a stronger level. For crisp detail, set Amount to 100.
3 Control radius Increasing the Radius slider will help reduce softness of pixels around edges. A setting of 1.5 to 2 works well for most images, but for high-res images a larger setting may be required.
4 Micro details The Detail slider will boost micro details in the portrait, and will be most noticeable on skin and clothing. Increase the Detail slider up gradually to 70, or until you start to see significant changes occur.
5 Apply masking To reduce the appearance of noise from over-sharpening, increase the Masking slider up to 60 or more. In some cases, this can soften the image and reduce the effects of sharpening.
6 Tackle noise To further help reduce noise, under the Noise Reduction section increase Luminance to 30 and the Detail slider to 70. This combination works nicely to reduce any noise created from sharpening.
7 Selective sharpening To apply selective sharpening to areas such as the eyes, click on the Adjustment Brush icon at the top right of the Develop module. Reduce all sliders to 0 and set Sharpness to 45.
8 Sharper facial features Apply the Adjustment Brush to your image over areas such as eyes or lips, to boost the detail in those areas selectively. You may need to boost Sharpness if no changes are noticeable.