Lightroom Sharpening & Noise Reduction Tutorial

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Lightroom Sharpening & Noise Reduction Tutorial

How to properly apply sharpening & noise reduction to your photos!

Tired of not really knowing what all the different sliders in the sharpening panel in Lightroom do?

Learn how to use the sharpening & noise reduction tools inside Adobe Lightroom in this in depth tutorial.

Finally understand what the radius, detail, masking & smoothing slider do in Lightroom! The Lightroom sharpening & noise reduction tools aren’t just for beginners – We’re going to explain how to use the detail panel in Lightroom step by step. Learn 3 step sharpening and the best sharpening and noise reduction settings in Lightroom. This tutorial is for Lightroom 7, Lightroom CC, Lightroom CC Classic or Lightroom CC Mobile – The principals will apply to all of them.

In this Lightroom tutorial video, we’ll be covering:

1) The detail panel in Lightroom CC Classic (Same tools apply in Lightroom 4,5,6,7 and CC)

2) Every slider in the sharpening section. Amount, Radius, Detail, Masking

3) Every slider in the noise reduction section. Luminance Noise reduction, detail, contrast, color noise reduction etc.

4) 3 step sharpening in Lightroom – Master sharpen, targeted sharpening, and best sharpening settings for exporting.

We’ll go through everything step by step and in depth so you not only know HOW to apply sharpening to your photos in post production, but WHY to sharpen your photos and what sharpening settings are best.

Enjoy, and happy photo editing!

[powerkit_collapsible title=”VIDEO TRANSCRIPT”]
hey guys Ryan here at signature edits
and in today’s tutorial we are going to
dive into the detail panel inside of
so that’s sharpening radius detail
masking luminance noise reduction color
noise reduction what are all of these
settings what do all the sliders do and
how do I know how to use them we’re
going to go into that whether using
Lightroom Lightroom seven six five four
CC CC classics CC mobile or any of the
other million Lightroom versions that
Adobe has decided to confuse us with
this tutorial is going to show you the
principles behind good sharpening and
what you should do when you’re
sharpening to get the best possible edit
so without further ado let’s get into it
all right so if you don’t know where the
detail panel is inside of Lightroom when
you open up Lightroom you need to go to
the develop module that’s where you edit
your photos you’re going to scroll down
here to where it says detail is the
fourth panel down and if it’s collapsed
you can just open it by hitting this
little triangle now fun fact if you
don’t want to do all of this scrolling I
personally just hold alt and then click
on this little triangle and what it’s
going to do is it’s going to collapse
every other tool except for the tool
you’re working on so if I open up split
toning it’ll collapse detail if I open
up detail it’ll collapse split toning it
just sort of capitalizes on real estate
and so you’re not scrolling all over
trying to find tools anyways let’s go to
the detail panel because that’s what we
are working on so the first tool inside
our detail panel is sharpening now
sharpening is exactly what it sounds
like it takes your image and it makes it
sharper but what’s going on when this
happens well Lightroom is actually
looking at your image and searching for
details in it which is basically lines
of contrast and what is doing when you
take this amount and you enhance it by
taking it up to 150 or you take it down
all the way to zero it’s going to adjust
the amount of contrast enhancement
around the edges that it detects so for
instance you can see at 150 versus zero
we’re taking all these fine details in
her hair and subtly enhancing the
contrast now what does that mean it’s
going to actually look at individual
pixels so if we zoom way in here and
it’s going to enhance kind of the edges
around them so for instance right here
on the edge of her hair you can see that
we’ve got some white and then some gray
and then some darker gray and then some
brown but it all kind of smudges
together well if we have our sharpening
off we have much more of a blend and
then we take our sharpening up you can
see it’s making the edge appear more
defined by darkening the darker pixels
and brightening the brighter pixels that
creates a crisp edge between the light
and dark portions of the image which
gives it more contrast makes it appear
sharper so that’s what’s happening when
we adjust the amount slider how much
Lightroom is going to enhance the
contrast of the edges in this image so
these other tools radius detail and
masking are going to fine-tune that
adjustment so the radius is the size of
the sharpening area around the edges so
what this means is our amount slider
controls the amount of contrast that’s
being adjusted on that edge well the
radius is going to basically determine
thik that adjustment is going to be so
the default value of one means that
Lightroom is going to apply sharpening
over just one pixel around the edge but
if you increase that radius to a maximum
of three now your sharpening is going to
be spread out over three pixels around
the edge which allows Lightroom to make
your contrast that much more prominent
so understanding this takes kind of
seeing it in action let me show you by
zooming in here eight-to-one on his
shirt and tattoo so this was sharpening
off if I take the amount up Lightroom is
enhancing the contrast it’s making the
brights brighter the darks darker and
kind of creating this dividing line but
the radius is 0.5 pixels so it’s not
very obvious well if I take my radius up
you’re going to see that my lines get
clearer and clearer and clearer because
Lightroom is now working with the radius
of three pixels is going to enhance this
line so it actually looks like our dark
shadow is getting smaller but what’s
really happening is that Lightroom is
taking this bright area of his skin and
it’s enhancing the contrast by making it
brighter for longer instead of this slow
gradient from you know skin color to
slightly darker slightly darker until
black it’s making it much more
pronounced and making that line more
obvious which the end result being it
seems more sharp same with his tattoos
we can see that our lines are getting
more obvious and it appears more sharp
here’s before sharpening here’s after
sharpening here’s the radius off and
here’s the radius on so that’s our
radius tool so what’s the best setting
for your radius well it’s really going
to pinned from image to image you just
have to adjust it and see how it looks I
will say that it used to be with older
versions of Lightroom than having the
radius up too high
would make your image look really really
strange and so you would generally leave
it closer to say 1 or 2 or in extreme
cases where you had a really soft image
you could go higher however since I’ve
upgraded to Lightroom cc classic they’ve
done a great job in their software that
even having the radius at 3 I don’t
really notice it as being too obviously
sharpened and that’s the thing you want
to avoid when you’re applying sharpening
on your images generally we don’t want
our images to look way too over edited
this is a mistake I made when I was
first starting out and some of my photos
are downright cringe-worthy because I
just went way too hard on the contrast
and the clarity and the saturation and
the sharpening so it just looks totally
unnatural remember when you’re doing an
edit on a photo you want to enhance it
you don’t want it to make it look very
obviously edited that doesn’t mean that
you can’t change things and make things
dramatically better it just means that
if things look like they were taken on a
whole different planet well you’ve
probably gone too far make sense so
let’s go to the detail panel now and
talk about the next two areas here the
detail and the masking sliders I’m going
to talk about both of these in
conjunction because they’re kind of
related so what we would do when we’re
applying sharpening suite adjust our
amount maybe we’d put our radius in here
how we like it
now the detail now the detail slider is
going to actually determine how much
Lightroom tries to enhance the fine
details of the image so it’s going to
look for details as I drag this slider
up and you can see that it’s actually
applying charming to pretty much
everywhere in this image by the time I
get up to a hundred now I can play with
my radius and take that down it’ll make
that effect less obvious but you can see
that as we’re adjusting our detail is
going to bring out more detail in her
hair and kind of the fine lines inside
of this image whereas if I have my
detail all the way down it’s only going
to adjust sharpening around the more
obvious lines in the image and you’re
not really going to see much of anything
at all with our radius down like that
too so we’ll take our radius up here
take our detail up and what I normally
like to do and I found works pretty well
is you can take your detail slider take
it up to somewhere that looks pretty
good but isn’t making it obviously noisy
in the background so kind of a tolerable
threshold maybe around there and then
take your radius up from here that’s
kind of the best way I’ve found to tune
it where you like it in this image
because it’s pretty soft to begin with
I’ll leave it like this and you can see
here is before sharpening and after so
now let’s talk about the masking slider
which is basically going to undo all the
damage we did by creating this noise in
the image here so you can see that that
is a pretty extreme we can take our
masking slider and actually drag it up
here and it’s going to look for areas
the image that don’t really have any
details to enhance and it’s going to
remove the sharpening effect from that
area except for our edges so we can see
as we adjust the masking it’s going to
get rid of the areas that are obviously
not in need of sharpening until we drag
it all the way up here and it’s going to
get rid of pretty much everything that’s
not a very obvious edge like the border
between his hair and the background here
so you can play with your masking you
don’t make it too obvious because then
it looks a little silly as you take it
up but what’s interesting is that
masking in detail are kind
related to each other masking is working
on how much of the details get sharpened
detail is how much the details get
enhanced and I know it sounds confusing
because it is and even if you go to the
Adobe website which I did you can see
here that their description is the
masking slider allows you to control
where the sharpening effect is applied
and the masking slider and the details
ladder have pretty much the same
description so the slider detail
controls the amount of sharpening
applied to details in your photo so
pretty related that’s how I like to
adjust it I hope that’s helpful for you
now let’s talk about noise reduction
what is noise reduction well you can see
that we created this stuff by adding
sharpening that’s kind of noise now we
can actually drag our luminance slider
up here and it will remove that noise
that nasty grain from our image but be
careful because as you drag it up it’s
going to make our image lose detail so
you can see how it almost looks like a
painting at this point so I want to drag
my luminance back to a point where it
looks more natural and I’m not losing
all of that detail now the detail slider
is going to allow me to fine-tune it
whether I want it to not really care
about the fine details or try and leave
those details as much as possible and
what’s really going on here is whether
noise reduction is happening around the
edges of the image or not so if we have
it all the way off in the detail section
it’s going to apply noise reduction to
everything in the image if I take my
detail slider up Lightroom is going to
apply noise reduction to the rest of the
image but not to the obvious edges of
the image so you can see with my
luminance and my detail up versus with
the detail off will zoom out a little
bit here here’s with detail off oh
that’s charming here’s with detail off
and here’s with detail on great so let’s
drag this down so it’s not quite so
obvious here and I like to normally
leave the detail slider up you can play
with it from there
now the contrast slider is pretty
similar to the detail slider the detail
slider is determining whether noise
reduction is applied to the edges of the
image whereas the contrast slider is
determining whether nose reduction is
going to get rid of contrast in the
image so if we take our detail slider
down and our contrast up it’s very very
subtle I’m actually going to switch to a
different image because I found it was
easier to see in this one if we zoom
away in here
to this area where we’ve got some
obvious contrast in the shadows and I
apply my noise-reduction you’ll see that
I’m losing some contrast in the shadows
as I do it okay now if I take my
contrast slider up you’ll see that that
contrast is put back some of it in the
image so that’s what it does but it’s
very subtle and you don’t even see it on
a lot of photos so I wouldn’t pretty
much go with the detail in the luminance
slider and then you can play with the
contrast to see if you get a better
result but I’ve noticed it’s a very
subtle tool unless you’re using this
particular tool for photos that are
maybe taken at night it might be more
obvious and you can try it there all
so luminance that basically affects the
amount of noise reduction going on here
just in general so as we scroll out here
you can see all this pixelated nonsense
is noise that’s called luminance noise
because it’s just general noise caused
by the differences in the whites and the
darks of the image however color noise
reduction is going to be the actual
color noise we have in the image and if
i zoom in here and I take my color
reduction off you’ll see we have these
weird patches of purple and blue going
on here now as we take our color noise
reduction on it’s going to reduce the
amount of that and kind of blend the
colors together so you don’t see that
strange effect now detail is going to
the do the exact same thing as our
luminance detail it’s going to determine
whether that color noise reduction is
happening around the edges of the image
so if I go over here you can see with my
detail off versus on with it all the way
on you’re seeing that the noise
reduction really isn’t happening around
this edge whereas with it off it is
happening and lastly smoothness is going
to try and blend the colors so it’s
going to take the gradients of our
colors you can see right here for
example we have kind of some blue and
some purple and some gray whereas if we
take the smoothness up if I could
remember how to talk it’s going to make
that image kind of blue and get rid of
the purple and just make it more
consistent so this can be very helpful
and kind of smoothing the color tones
out and making it less strange so you
can play with that from there and that’s
basically the entire detail panel
explained now this gives you a little
preview of where your sharpening is
being applied so you don’t have to zoom
in constantly on your image I personally
find it’s better to have it in a huge
view and easier to
make adjustments and see what’s going on
this way than it is on this tiny little
panel but you can change the area that
you’re actually sampling just by
clicking this little guy right here and
then selecting the area you want to look
at or you can zoom in by using these
tools here this is one to one so you see
the photo in full size four to one would
be four times full size and then you can
select over here on the right whether
you want to see it even eleven to one
zoom way in and look at this ear and all
its perfection and we can play with that
until it looks natural so the reason
you’d maybe want to do this is if you’re
printing a huge print you want to make
sure that once it’s actually blown up it
won’t look strange so we just kind of
dial back our settings here until they
look nice like that
okay so zooming out here’s our before
we’ll go to one to one
or maybe full screen that’s before and
that’s after
let’s go to film before and after you
can see the sharpening panel is
absolutely incredible inside of
Lightroom and there is so much that you
can do inside of it now that we’ve got
this image sharpened with the detail
panel I’m going to go through something
called three step sharpening so the
first step obviously is going through
and applying sharpening to our entire
image and we did that by going through
our detail panel the amount the radius
the detail then with our noise reduction
and so we’ve got this image overall much
sharper than it was before so here’s
before and here is after nice crisp
looking great but three step sharpening
takes it two steps further so the first
thing is we’re going to do localized
sharpening we can do this with our
adjustment brush tool with a radial
filter or with a graduated filter
whatever you want and then we’re going
to apply some sharpening on the export
depending on what we’re using this image
for whether it’s for print for web for
Facebook all of these things have
different settings and different amounts
of sharpness you can apply to maximize
kind of the visual of this image and how
well it’s going to translate whether
it’s on a website or it’s being printed
so first things first we’ve done our
detail panel two main adjustments now
we’re going to do local adjustments to
do that I’m going to go to my adjustment
brush and then I’m going to go to
effects I’ve got a preset here called
add texture now this preset all these
brushes actually come with our preset
packs so if you decide you want to buy
the preset packs you’ll get these
brushes otherwise you can just copy my
settings or do something similar it’s
totally up to you whatever works so
we’ve got a little bit of contrast
like bump in the highlights and lowering
in the shadows that’s going to enhance
the contrast a little bit a little bit
of clarity maybe a little saturation in
this case I’m going to take that off
then some sharpness and some noise and
soirée okay so we’re going to go down
here we’re going to zoom in and I just
want to bring out a little bit of
texture still in our hair so I’m going
to brush on here if you want to see what
you’re doing while you’re brushing you
can just hit oh and I will actually show
you exactly where you were brushing I
just want to get all of these hairs
because I think that they look really
cool perfect so you can see here’s
before and here’s after nice now I can
go down here and I actually love his
tattoos but I want to make them pop a
little bit more so I’m going to do the
same thing I’m going to make a new brush
with the same settings the reason being
I want to be able to control this
independently of the settings I just had
on her hair I’m going to do the same
thing and just paint on top of his
tattoo now if you’re wondering I’ve got
my flow set to 100 feather at 73 and my
size at 17 but you can just eyeball it
get it the way that you like and you can
change the size of your brush just using
your mouse whether you have a cursor
wheel or if you’re on a trackpad like me
you can scroll up or down and that will
make your brush larger or smaller so I’m
going to do that then I’m going to paint
a little bit more on his clothing just
bring out a little bit more texture in
that so all of this is just enhancing
the contrast very slightly very subtly
it’s going to make this particular
portion of the image pop just a little
bit more so we’re gonna go over here
this is where you can get creative it
all depends on what you want to do with
the image and we’ll probably do the same
thing with her shorts as well especially
just to enhance that rip so you see as I
go over there it just brings out a
little bit more sharpness a little more
clarity great it looks good let’s go
back to fit so we can see without and
with really just makes it pop a little
bit more now one last thing that you can
do and this is something that fun fact
you can use noise to your advantage or
at least denoise to your advantage we
can go down here we’re going to go to
our retouching skin softening so I’ve
just reduced the clarity and reduce the
sharpness and added some D noise and
what that’s going to do is it’s going to
go onto this skin
as I painted onto her leg for example
it’s just going to smooth out if she had
any blemishes she doesn’t in this case
but it’ll just smooth out the skin that
much more we don’t need the skin to be
sharp so we might as well paint on top
of it great I could do the same with him
right here perfect that looks pretty
good to me
now lastly before I go and export with
the third step of my sharpening process
I’m just going to do something here and
grab a contrast brush and for me I find
one way to make the subject pop is to
make them slightly brighter an easy way
to do that is just to lower the contrast
exactly where they are maybe increase
the brightness just a little bit I’m
going to take my feather way up and you
can press o again to see exactly where
the mask is working perfect oh good
maybe a little bit less in reducing the
contrast just like that if you want you
can make the mask a little smaller I
kind of liked it where it was great so
here’s without and here’s with so we’re
just adding a little bit more focus onto
them now of course I haven’t done
anything else with this image but I can
just go in here and maybe add a little
bit of contrast warm it up slightly and
that’s one of the reasons I normally
take away contrast on them to brighten
them because I’ve already added contrast
in the image and skin tones tend to even
out and look nicer if you reduce the
contrast on them so just fun fact for
you well raise the whites just a little
bit let’s pretend that that was perfect
for me okay
now the last step in this sharpening
process is on export so when you export
I just hit it with shift command E or
you can go to file export you can set a
a certain amount of sharpening on your
image down here in the output sharpening
section now there are no independent
controls I have some presets assigned so
whether I’m doing a print export web
Facebook or Instagram
I have different amounts of sharpening
being applied however you can either
copy these make your own presets these
also come with our preset packs or you
can just kind of copy them and work from
there so what we’re going to do is let’s
pretend I’m exporting for Facebook I’m
going to go down here to my output
sharpening set it to screen because I’m
going to be displaying it digitally on a
screen and then I’m going to set my
sharpening to low standard or high and
what should you set this to well it
really depends you kind of got to mix
and match and see so if you want I’m
gonna go through here I’m going to
export three copies one with low one
with medium and we’ll just use a unique
name here and one with high perfect so
now I’ll just show you them back-to-back
here’s our images and we’ll just go full
screen here so you can see that the
differences are subtle this one probably
has the most sharpening this has a
little bit less and this has the least
but not a big difference you can just
explore and see if you prefer one over
the other
in this particular case I think for web
I would probably go with this one and
the reason being yes maybe it’s a little
bit sharp on her hair maybe that’s been
overdone a little but once it gets
uploaded to Facebook Facebook tends to
compress the image and crush it and it
will lose some of its sharpness so I’ll
just upload a sharp image to begin with
and we will fight the power that is
Facebook alright so that is how I would
go through that three step sharpening
process I can show you some sharpening
settings for a couple different images
really quickly if you like let’s go over
to this one will reset everything in
here go down to detail we’ll start by
putting my sharpening way up and in
general I have found that having a
sharpening at 150 with Lightroom classic
CC seems to look just fine doesn’t look
like it’s been overdone at all then I
can go with my radius and play with that
I kind of like it right around there
detail let’s just see what’s happening
so you can see that we’ve got some
serious artifacts and issues happening
once my detail is all the way up because
Lightroom is looking at this photo and
saying so much sand so much detail what
do I do
so we can basically go through our mask
and get rid of some of that if we want
or we can lower our detail slider down a
little bit maybe we’ll do a little bit
of both you can
we’ve still got some weirdness going on
here that’s just from the details so I
could take that down if I wanted to
maybe here then we’ll go through and do
a little bit of color reduction we’ve
already got on so we’ll add a little bit
more in case there’s any necessary looks
pretty good little normal noise
reduction and that’s going to smooth out
some of this noise perfect preserve our
details and obviously when I’m zoomed in
four to one this is not looking super
great but once we zoom out or even look
at it one to one this image looks
so I can show you before and after just
makes the image pop it’s that much more
crisp I would go over to my second stage
of sharpening we go down here to add
texture and obviously I want to have
this guy walking a little bit sharper
then I’m going to zoom out here and I
also want to play some emphasis I think
that the sand is really cool we’ve got
some leading lines towards him so we’ll
emphasize that just a bit and then these
footprints are awesome perfect and I’m
gonna take the saturation down because
that’s looking a little weird a little
bit less contrast
I might even remove a little saturation
perfect so here’s without and here’s
with just makes him pop a little bit
more now we’ll make him slightly
brighter than the rest of the scene
perfect just like that
so here’s a image before all sharpening
and after we’ll get there there we go
and if you’re wondering the reason I’m
not using the backslash key for
before/after is for some reason it
doesn’t work on my computer when I am
doing screencast recordings so I do know
that shortcut key and you can use it
it’s backslash but for me for whatever
reason while I’m doing screencast I just
have to hit the reset button so there
all right and lastly I would go up to my
export shift command II and go down here
to my sharpening I’m going to pretend
I’m posting it on Instagram so we’ll go
screen and either standard or high
perfect export and we’re done so there
you have it everything you want to know
about the detail panel inside of
Lightroom and possibly even a little bit
more so that’s how all of this works is
sharpening the noise reduction the color
if this was helpful for you please hit
that like button leave a comment for me
below and don’t forget to subscribe for
more great content and tutorials I’ll
see you in the next one peace

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