Sharpening Your Photo In Lightroom

Sharpening is always one of the very last steps in a post production workflow for your photos but also one very important part of getting an image just right. Today i’ll review how to sharpen your images in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. I’ll be using Lightroom 3 but the steps will be very similar for any older versions of Lightroom. To start off select an image and go to the Develop module. You will want to be working in a 1:1 view so that you can see the real effects of the sharpening.


All of the sharpening settings are in the Develop module on the right under Detail. Expand this section and you will see a section for sharpening with 4 main sliders underneath. The sliders are for Amount, Radius, Detail and Masking. Lets check out these 4 sliders in detail and see what they really do to an image.

Amount – This will simply control the amount of sharpening on the image. This slider will move from 0 to 150 and remember that the more sharpening you do to the image the more grain it will add as well so you don’t want to over do it.

Radius – This will adjust the side of the area that sharpening is applied to. You can set the slider anywhere from .5 to 3 and normally between .5 and 1.5 is a good range. Photos with very fine details may need a lower radius setting. Photos with larger details may be able to use a larger radius. Using too large a radius generally results in unnatural-looking results. Also a really nice tip is to hold down the Option key (on a mac) or Alt (on a PC) to view a black and white line art style view of the image when you are dragging these sliders. This will give you a great way to really see how the sharpening is being appiled.

lightroom sharpening radius slider

Detail – The details slider will adjusts how much high frequency information is sharpened. This will also adjust how much the sharpening process emphasizes edges. Here a lower setting will sharpen edges to remove blurring and result in less halos around the edges of the images. If you have a higher value in the detail slider this will make more halos appear on the edges.

Masking – This slider controls an edge mask. When you have it set to 0 everything in the image will get the same amount of sharpening. If you set this to 100 the sharpening will be restricted to those areas near the strongest edges.

lightroom sharpening masking

When you are done hit the \ key to toggle back and forth between the original image and the new sharpened image. Now you can really tell how much sharpening happened and make sure that you didn’t overdo it. Remember the goal of sharpening isn’t to create the sharpest image imaginable but to create something that fits within your vision of that particular shot.

If you want to see the original vs new just create a virtual copy (Control click on the image in the bottom bar and choose Virtual Copy). Then highlight both images and click on the compare button (at the bottom it has a YY) and this will compare the two side by size and use the original settings on the image on the left and the final settings on the image on the right.

comapre lightroom

That’s it! Pretty quick and easy right? I hope this was helpful, as always if you have a photography question or comment leave it below or also head on over to our Facebook wall and leave us a message!

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Author: Mark

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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  1. Hi Mark,

    I really appreciate this post. I am making the switch from Aperture to Lightroom soon and am looking for as much help as I can to get up and running quickly with Lightroom.

  2. I really appreciate these tutorials…I learn so much so quickly from them. Thank you!

  3. Hey Mark,

    Did you do a sharpening for portraits or weddings? Just curious…Thanks!

  4. Hi Scott,

    Yes, I do slightly sharpen images for wedding and portraits. Let em know any other questions you have 🙂


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