Jul 112012

lightroom-output-sharpening-2In this third article of a three-part series on sharpening in Lightroom, I explain output sharpening.  Here are the other two articles:


Part 1: Overview of the Three Step Sharpening workflow, and Capture Sharpening in Depth

Part 2: Creative Sharpening – Sharpening Eyes and Other Local Elements

To summarize the first two steps in the sharpening workflow, the first step, capture sharpening, is performed on your full size image in the Develop module, and is designed to cut through the haze that a digital capture produces, and make edges in your photos look crisper.

Creative sharpening is then sometimes done to enhance or  bring focus to local elements in your photo.

Output Sharpening — What It’s For

When you then go to resize and output photos, they can lose sharpness. Output sharpening is generally designed to restore what is otherwise lost in output.  For example, when you print to matte / uncoated papers, the ink soaks in, and some sharpness is lost. A smaller amount is lost even when printing to glossy or coated papers, because the translation simply isn’t perfect. In addition, when you output your photos, either to print, or to jpegs to be shared on screen, you are almost always upsizing or downsizing the photo. This interpolation process results in a loss of sharpness as well (the more interpolation, particularly upsizing, the more sharpening is needed to compensate.)

You will find output sharpening settings in the Export dialog, the Print module, and the Web module. You will also find them in the Book module if you have chosen to output to PDF or JPEG. If instead you are outputting to Blurb, the output sharpening is done automatically.

How to Do Output Sharpening

The settings are simple — you choose the output medium and the amount:


These limited number of settings, particularly compared to the Develop module sharpening settings, may give the impression that this is not sophisticated sharpening. In fact it is — Jeff Schewe partnered with Adobe to build it, and it is based on Pixel Genius’ Photo Kit Pro sharpener. In addition to your choices on these settings, the algorithm looks at output resolution and how much upsizing or downsizing is being done.

For output medium, choose Glossy for any coated paper, and Matte for any uncoated paper. Choose Screen when your audience will view your output on a monitor, mobile device or other screen.

There are three choices for Amount for two reasons. The primary reason is that within a particular medium — for example, matte papers —  some papers are better at holding detail and maintaining sharpness than others. For example, Hahnemuhle Photo Rag paper holds the detail better than Epson Enhanced Matte does, and therefore will need less sharpening.

The other reason is that there is no “correct” amount of sharpening — some people prefer more or less than others.

Standard almost always works well for me.  I would encourage you, though, to do your own tests — make prints of a photo at all 3 settings (and for comparison, also with no output sharpening).

Beware of creating “halos” — bright or dark lines — along edges in your photo. (See an example of this and other signs of oversharpening in my Part One article.)  Look at your prints from your expected viewing distance. If you are outputting jpegs rather then prints, if they are for screen, look at them full size. If you’re sending out the jpegs to be printed, before you send them, evaluate the sharpening on-screen (I prefer to zoom in to 1:2 / 50%, rather than 1:1 / 100% to judge output sharpening.)

Should you always do output sharpening?

I would recommend that if you are exporting files to send off to a printing service, that you check with them to see if they automatically apply output sharpening. If so, I would not apply it in Lightroom.

Output sharpening is just one of many critical output concepts I discuss in depth in my new video series, Lightroom 4: Producing Great Output. In almost 12 hours of training in 55 videos, learn how to use the Book, Slideshow, Print and Web modules, plus all the output concepts required to get great output every time — size and resolution, color management, monitor profiling, soft-proofing, printing with profiles, jpeg quality, and much more!



Jul 052012

In this video, I develop a photo, using many of Lightroom’s Develop module tools. This video is part of my Lightroom 4 Fundamentals & Beyond series, and is intended as an introduction to, or overview of, developing. In it, I use the crop tool; Basic, HSL, Effects, and Detail panels; and the adjustment brush.

If you have a good internet connection, once you start the video, click on the sprocket wheel in the bottom left to increase the quality to 720p. (Even then, the quality isn’t up to my standards, but it is the best I can do with YouTube.)


Other videos from the Lightroom 4 Fundamentals & Beyond series (all of these tutorials below also happen to apply to Lightroom 3):

Importing Photos

Searching for Your Photos

Using the HSL Panel to Control Individual Colors

Jul 012012

Sometimes the sliders move too fast in Lightroom, so it can be hard to get the precise value you want. Here are a few handy tips:

  • Holding the Shift-key down as you slide a slider will slow it down.
  • Below are other ways to get more precision. First, click on the number:

lightroom slider number

    • You can type in a precise value.
    • Up-arrow or down-arrow on your keyboard will increase or decrease the value in small increments.
    • Shift-up-arrow and shift-down-arrow will increase or decrease the value in larger increments.
  • Update: Here’s another from Roger d.L.H.:
    • Widening the right hand panel (in any module) spreads out the slider range, effectively slowing down the movement. Click and drag to the left on the left edge of the panel:

lightroom expand panel

Thank you to Will D. for this blog post idea. If you have ideas for blog posts, do leave a comment on this page, or contact me.

Jun 262012


creative-cloud-adobeLightroom 4 is now officially part of the Creative Cloud, which is Adobe’s bundled software subscription service. If you are a Cloud member, you can download it at no additional charge.

The Cloud gives you access to all of Creative Suite 6 (including Photoshop CS6), as well as additional services, such as cloud storage. Read more about the Cloud, and on weighing  Cloud subscription versus stand-alone purchase options, in this related post.


Jun 172012

“How large can I print my photo?” is a question I get from Lightroom users all the time. The ultimate answer of course is - it depends. In the end you will need to do your own tests and find out what you are satisfied with. Below is some information that should help you with that process. It applies whether you do your own printing, or send your photos out to be printed.

Your photo has a limited number of pixels, or squares of information, in it, based on what your camera captured or what you cropped your photo down to.  For example, a capture from an old 6 megapixel camera is 3,000 pixels wide x 2,000 pixels high.  (There are various ways to display this information for a photo in Lightroom — try typing “I” once or twice in Library or Develop. Type I again to turn off the information display.)


When you decide on a print size, those available pixels get spread out to fit that print size. Here are some examples from that 6 MP camera:

4″x6″ print:  2,000 pixels / 4″ = 3000 / 6″ = 500 pixels per inch (ppi)

8″x12″ print: 2,000 pixels / 8″ = 250 ppi

16″x24″ print: 2,000 pixels /16″ = 125 ppi

This ppi is called the native resolution of your photo, at the given print size. It is what is inherently, or natively, available to you at the size you plan to print.

But guess what — your printer (or Shutterfly’s or Costco’s or anyone’s) doesn’t print at your photo’s native resolution!! It prints at what it likes to print at — i.e. at its own native resolution. Generally this is 360 ppi for Epson printers, and 300 ppi for HP, Canon and other printers. Continue reading »

Jun 082012

When you click in a photo in the Book Module, a Zoom slider appears, which shows you how far, in percent, you are zoomed in on the photo, and allows you to zoom in more or less.  This slider is for enlarging the photo in the cell on your Book page, not for zooming in to evaluate detail in the photo. (The latter is done with the Preview panel.)

If you zoom in too far, you’ll get an exclamation point in the top right corner:

Book Module Photo Zoom

If you click on one of these exclamation points, you’ll get this warning, indicating that you have enlarged the photo too much and may not have enough pixels per inch (ppi) to get a good quality print:

Lightroom Book Exclamation Point Resolution Warning

Note that this warning and ppi information will only display if in the Book Settings panel you have chosen to make a Blurb book, not for PDFs or JPEGs. In addition, of course, it only displays once you get down to under 200 ppi.

So how do you get Lightroom to display ppi for PDF’s, JPEGs, and for your Blurb book photos over 200 ppi?  Here’s the secret:

  • Click in the photo, so that the zoom slider appears.
  • Hold down the Alt/Opt key — this changes zoom % to ppi!

Lightroom Book Module: Displaying Photo PPI


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