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Author: Bruce Fraser

Publisher: Peachpit Press

Review by Conrad J. Obregon

I consider myself a fairly competent user of Photoshop (PS), Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) which is a plug-in that comes installed in PS, and Lightroom (LR), but one area where I didn’t feel post-processing in my bones was image sharpening, which is the process of adjusting images to both overcome the image softness inherent in digital photography and to make artistic adjustments. I’d read the first edition of this book, and understood the difference between capture, creative and output sharpening, but wasn’t always sure what those sliders in Unsharp Mask were doing for me. Since that first edition, Adobe had improved the sharpening facilities in ACR and LR. It seemed like visiting the second edition was in order.

After explaining what sharpening is and why images need to be sharpened in Real World Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop, Camera Raw, and Lightroom, Schewe, building on the work of the late Bruce Fraser, explains multipass sharpening and the somewhat different approaches taken by the main PS, ACR and LR software. The author then describes each of the tools available and their effects. He then shows the application of each of the tools to a digital workflow in each of the three softwares, and finishes up by showing how to speed up the processes by using actions and presets. Along the way, he also discuses digital noise and its reduction, an area that is intimately linked with sharpening.

This is not a subject for the photographer new to post processing. A description of the tools involved may be quite intimidating to the tyro, but ultimately every image processor has to face up to sharpening. Luckily, it seemed to me that Schewe had improved on previous explanations, and he incorporates several graphic techniques that make it clear. If the reader really wants an appreciation of the sharpening tools, create the test file presented in chapter 4 and follow along with the author on a computer. When I had finished the book this time I not only had a much better feel for sharpening but I also had several pleasant surprises.

As Schewe explains, capture and creative sharpening require the use of several different PS tools for effectiveness, and understanding what each does is important to understanding the process. But LR and ACR combine these processes and ultimately make capture sharpening much simpler. Similarly, output sharpening is much more cut and dried, with the sharpening to be applied a matter of factors, like original and final image size, all of which are virtually formulaic, and which my image processor of choice, LR, applies on the fly. Creative sharpening (if needed for artistic reasons) still requires an export to PS, but is much easier if one is not being confused by capture and output sharpening.

To test my knowledge and good luck, I reprocessed and printed several pictures from scratch (i.e., the RAW file). Following Schewe’s guidance I was happier with each of these images than, or at least as happy as, I was with my old prints. I think I finally have a handle on sharpening.

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  1. […] Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop, Camera RAW and Lightroom [online article]. Available at: http://photofocus.com/2009/10/11/image-sharpening-with-adobe-photoshop-camera-raw-and-lightroom/ [Accessed 3 September […]

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