The more you edit in Lightroom, the more time you save. This sharpening tip will give you one more way to maximize your editing time.
When sharpening a photo in Photoshop, using a layer mask will usually give you the best result. Some areas we want to be sharp, like eyes and jewelry. Other areas can stay nicely soft such as fine lines and wrinkles.
In Lightroom, it’s best to sharpen using the Detail Panel – it gives us the most control over amount and radius. The adjustment brush is good for spot sharpening, but we can’t change its radius, and it’s hard to constrain the adjustment brush to very small areas.
Unfortunately, Sharpening with the Detail panel is global. That is, it applies the sharpening amount to your entire image. In the comparison below, you can see that the middle image has areas that are oversharpened. The white of the eye is getting that dry crispy look, the fine lines on her skin are more visible and, if you have a sharp eye, you can see sharpening artifacts in her eyebrows and between the lashes.
Lightroom gave us the masking slider to help with this. When it’s set to 0, sharpening is applied to the entire photo evenly – as in the middle image above. When you slide it to 100, sharpening is restricted to areas near the strongest edges. This is a good start, except that it’s hard for us to know where to place that slider between 0 and 100.
That’s where this handy trick comes in. Hold down your alt or option key as you adjust the masking slider. Your image will turn into a good old-fashioned layer mask. Remember that black conceals and white reveals?
So, in the screen shot above, I moved the slider to 79, which was where the mask captured only the areas I wanted to sharpen. You can see that the edit is being applied just to eyelashes, the hair in the eyebrow, the iris and the catchlights. Say goodbye to crispy eyes, artifacts in the eyebrows, and sharpened pores and lines.
The Detail Panel below the masking applied to the image as a whole. It’s perfect – only parts of the hair, eyes and dress are sharp.
*** When using MCP Quick Clicks sharpening presets, make sure to fine tune your image using this same masking slide for the best results!
I couldn’t have created such a perfect mask in Photoshop. Could you?