sharpening

New Book & Course Launch

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The Photographers Guide to Image Sharpening in Lightroom

It’s been a very busy weekend with the launch of my latest book “The Photographers Guide to Image Sharpening in Lightroom”. Although this is now my seventeenth book, each one brings a new set of challenges.

With this book, I wanted to include free access to a companion Video course I developed. I love books but I see video fast becoming an essential element of the learning process; this is why I recently established Lenscraft Training.

At present, there are only two courses available (but many more planned):

  • “Secrets of the Darkroom Masters” available free to anyone who registers.
  • “Sharpening Photos with Adobe Lightroom” available for US $20, but Lenscraft Members can currently use a 75% discount code.

You can find the book on Amazon for US $5.99/£4.99 or similar in other countries (allowing for variations in tax and exchange rates). I will continue to operate my Magazine Pricing Policy where I price my books on a par with popular photography magazines.

The books aimed at people who already know how to use the basics of the Lightroom Develop module but who want to achieve the highest quality results when Sharpening and applying Noise Reduction. It presents the three-stage sharpening methodology on which Lightroom is based, as well explaining how to use the various tools. There is plenty of advice on how to achieve the best results, together with full length worked examples you can follow. Supporting RAW files and sharpened example images are provided on my Lenscraft site. Inside the book, you will find a 100% discount code for the sharpening video course mentioned above.

If you’re interested in the book, here are the links to the UK and US amazon stores. For other Amazon sites, please search for “The Photographers Guide to Image Sharpening in Lightroom”.

View on UK Amazon

View on US Amazon

If you would like to visit the new training site here is the link

http://training.lenscraft.co.uk/

If you don’t have a Kindle device, you can download a free Kindle Reader from Amazon using the link below. The reader is available for different popular platforms including Mac, Windows and Android computers, tablets and phones.

Link to Kindle Reader

Note on Sharpening XTrans RAW Files

I have been asked if the new book examines the “special” treatment needed when sharpening Fuji XTrans RAW files. The short answer is no. My intention is to share some of my recent findings and recommendations via my You Tube Channel. I just need to clarify some points before publishing these.

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Sharpening the Fuji X-T2 RAW

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Sunrise in the Peak District
Sunrise in the Peak District. Fuji XT2 + 16-55 lens + 0.3 ND Grad filter.

I have now been shooting with the Fuji X-T2 for a couple of months. Whilst I have only had a few outings, I’m very pleased with the results. I like the handling of the camera and also the lens quality despite a couple of problems. In fact, the 10-24 and 16-55 lenses are nothing short of exceptional.

There is though one problem that has niggled me for a while and this is the “Wiggly Worm” pattern. You tend to find this in areas of fine detail when converting RAW files using Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW. This is a real shame, especially as I use Lightroom for much of my cataloguing and image management.

To illustrate the problem, a look at the image below which has been magnified at 2:1 in Lightroom; you may need to double click the image to open it at full resolution (I was also running my Mac at 2048 x 1152 when I took the screen shots so this will magnify the image further).

Section showing Wiggly Worm pattern. Click to topen the image at full resolution.
Section showing Wiggly Worm pattern. Click to topen the image at full resolution.

I can easily avoid the problem by switching to Iridient Developer or RAW Therapee but I like working in Lightroom. I have therefore been looking at how to reduce the “Wiggly Worm” effect and I think I have hit on something.

I had originally put the effect down to the demosaic routine that converts the RAW file. But I have changed my mind and now think it’s the sharpening routine that creating much of the problem. The example I showed above was created using the default Lightroom Radius setting of 1, an Amount setting of 45, a Detail setting of 75 and Threshold of 10. The culprits that seem to exaggerate the problem are the Amount and Masking sliders.

Masking causes the sharpening effect to be concentrated onto the edges in the image. Only when the Masking is set to 0 is the entire image sharpened. The “Wiggly Worm” effect seems to be created when the edges in areas of fine detail become exaggerated. Effectively the edges are becoming over sharpened, which is why the Amount slider has such an impact on the result. You only need to increase it slightly and the effect is emphasised. The Detail slider has less of an effect because it sharpens only very high frequency details.

So, what does this mean and how can you use it?

Limit the sharpening applied in Lightroom. Here is the same example but sharpened using much less aggressive settings.

Section with alternate sharpening settings.
Section with alternate sharpening settings.

This used the settings or Radius = 0.8, Amount = 30, Detail = 30 and Masking = 0. The image is a little softer but much more natural.

Following this approach, I have found I can minimise the “Wiggle Worm” effect whilst producing images with greater detail. Although the images coming from Lightroom are slightly softer, they respond so much better to additional capture sharpening using Nik RAW Sharpener or Photoshop Smart Sharpen. You can see a further example here viewed at 100% magnification.

Section of image following application of Smart Sharpen, viewed at 100% magnification.
Section of image following application of Smart Sharpen, viewed at 100% magnification.

You may now be wondering why bother with Lightroom capture sharpening at all and simply apply Capture Sharpening in another tool. Well, I tried this and to my eyes at least, a small amount of Capture Sharpening in Lightroom seems to produce better results when sharpened a second time outside Lightroom.

But does all this pixel peeping matter? My answer to this question is yes and no.

If you are going to be displaying your image on the internet, then you will most likely be down sampling them. The act of down sampling will remove some of the “Wiggly Worm” effect and can even remove it completely depending on how much you reduce the image size. If you are going to be printing the image, the softening effect of printing will also remove the pattern. For these reasons, I say that it doesn’t matter.

Where this effect does cause a problem, is if you are submitting your images to others for inspection. A typical example might be when you submit images to a stock library for sale. Here they probably will pick up on the pattern and might well reject the images.

 

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Sharpening RAW files from Small Sensor Cameras

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France, somewhere near Nontes. Sony RX10, ISO125, f/5.0, 1/250"
France, somewhere near Nontes. Sony RX10, ISO125, f/5.0, 1/250″

If you shoot with a small sensor camera and use Lightroom for RAW conversion, then it’s a good idea to take care when sharpening. Noise can be a particular problem when at low ISO settings but there are steps you can take. This video demonstrates how to avoid the ugly sharpening artefacts that can result and which tend to become exaggerated in later processing.

I hope you find this useful.

Another Drought

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Low water in the reservoir. Sony RX10. See text for details.
Low water in the reservoir. Sony RX10. See text for details.

I had intended to get out yesterday for a long walk (about 20 miles) as I find it helps to clear my mind. In the end the 24 hours of torrential rain and quite severe thunder storms put an end to my hopes.

Today was much better though and despite not having the time for a 20 mile hike I did manage a drive over to the Peak district and a clocked up 12 miles over the hills.

The first thing that struck me when I arrived was how low the water level was in the reservoirs. Above is one of the images I shot with the Sony RX10 and it makes me wonder if we are heading for another drought with all the nice weather we have been having.

As a side note for those of you wondering about my use of the RX10, I have tended not to use it much as I don’t find the images anywhere near as crisp and sharp as my Micro 43 cameras. Despite that the camera has a lovely feel and is a joy to use.

For this particular image I didn’t use the usual Nik sharpening tools but opted for Focal Blade. This is an excellent although quite complex sharpening filter which I have been using on and off for a number of years. I don’t know why but it appears to achieve better results than Nik Sharpener Pro with the Sony images.

The other thing I did was apply Contrast Master which is a contrast adjustment tool from the same people who produce Focal Blade (PhotoWiz). I was reasoning that the images from the Sony seem to lack contrast and pop which is easily corrected in Contrast master. Having just printed this image at A3+, the detail is excellent. It also has a very nice quality to it, very much like film.

I just thought I should try adding some grain and making another print. I’m off to experiment…

New Book Launch

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Nik Sharpener 3 Book Cover
Nik Sharpener 3 Book Cover

I am very pleased (or relieved depending on how you look at it) to be able to share that my new eBook covering Nik Sharpener Pro 3 is out and can be purchased from Amazon.  It’s titled Nik Sharpener Pro 3: How to achieve razor sharp images. It’s priced as usual to be value for money at $3.99 (£2.51 in the UK). Here is the link to the book on Amazon.com. If you are in another country such as the UK, Amazon provide a helpful link over on the right hand side(see the green box) to switch to your own country where the book can be purchased.

If you are a member of my Lenscraft website you will shortly receive an email advising of a special introductory offer. If you’re not a member and would like to receive advanced notifications of future offers by email, add yourself to my mailing list by signing up as at www.lenscraft.co.uk. It’s completely free and I promise not to share your email address with others or bombard you with email (I hate it when people do that to me).

I hope that those of you who purchase the book enjoy it.