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Best (if any) workflow to achieve the optimal sharpness

As I try to improve my photographic eye and technique (still a long road to go ;)), I'm looking for the best way get the best results with the post production of my photos. While many aspects seem to be clear now, I still have many doubts about the correct workflow I should use to get the right sharpness for my pictures (here, I don't refer to the sharpness for printing, since I keep my photos on my laptop for the moment).

I usually edit my original RAWs mainly with Lightroom (4), using Photoshop just if I should remove some objects from the scene or make any local editing using levels. And I was used to apply the sharpness just in the details panel of LR.
But after I started to look at some tutorials and read different articles, I found out that there are many possibilities to apply the sharpness:

LR only
PS only
other plugins...

And the possibilities multiply even more since in PS you can use different methods and different filters (for example, duplicate the level, apply the high pass filter and use the overlay blending mode). That's a great confusion!!!

So...is there any "best" workflow to follow about the sharpness? I know that's it depends upon our personal tastes, the use you'll make of the picture, its resolution etc, but Id' like to have just a "safe" way which is always good, or at least not degrading the quality of the picture (for example, maybe applying a sharpness in LR and then a filter in PS is wrong)
Nikon D7000 Nikkor 70-300mm 4.5-5.6 G VR II Nikkor 35mm 1.8 G
Posted: 08/22/2013, 16:06:45 PM

It very much depend on the lens you use. Quality lens does not require much sharpening, cheap lenses do. In my case, when I use my 17-85mm kit lens, then I always sharpen in ACR and later in PS (smart sharpening, usually strength 90-120, 0.3, and value 2 in the last cell...or was it .2.. ). When I use 100mm L lens, then in most case I only apply sharpening in ACR.

Last year I experimented quite much with ACR sharpening and noise reduction settings and finally found some good setting I like. Usually I use same sharpening settings in ACR for all pictures. So, when working with a set of similar images, it's quick and simple to load setting from previous images. Saves much time.
If you're interested, then usually my sharpening setting in ACR are (from top) 38-42(depends on iso strength and NR settings), 1-1.2, 45, 10-20(dep. iso and NR strength). Then NR section first setting always depend on iso, 20 for iso's up to 200, then 30 for iso 320, 40 for 400, and 50 for iso500-1600.

When I do need to add sharpening in PS, then I usually use selective sharpening, by selecting only areas that need sharpening. This avoids creating oversharpening or noise into areas that are already ok.

I have tried some other sharpening methods too, i.e. high pass filter or other methods you mentioned, but I am not so 'home' with these and therefore they require lot of time. So, I don't use them.
My tired eyes.
Posted: 08/23/2013, 17:24:27 PM
Sharpening in Adobe CS is the last level's work.
But all depends by the photo's theme.
In food photography sharpening is a good choice for details and texture, in landscape photos maybe you should use less sharpening and more DOF
I use Photoshop and a sharp level about 20% after I have seen image on 100% in my monitor.
Microstock rewievers don't like sharpening :-) and relative noise on jpeg format !

LR is a good choice but you can't paint selective sharpening as in Phototoshop.

It's a good choice for editorial photos because it's fast and in editorial photos the noise is less important than in other photos.
Nikon D3s 24-70 2.8 ; 80-200 AFS 2.8 ; 300 2.8
Posted: 08/26/2013, 14:11:38 PM

Originally posted by Frinz:
Quoted Message: LR is a good choice but you can`t paint selective sharpening as in Phototoshop.

You can paint 'sharpening' in via the adjustment brush. Not nearly as flexible as Photoshop, but useful to keep skies noise free while sharpening some details... Personally I am looking to minimize time spent on an image, and spend very little time sharpening.
ZD 50mm Macro f/2...
Posted: 08/26/2013, 19:10:21 PM

Originally posted by Bradcalkins:
Quoted Message: Personally I am looking to minimize time spent on an image, and spend very little time sharpening.

...A good idea ! I should also like this, but, especially in food photos, I spent large time in PP.
I have seen your children's images in swimming pool !
My child too swimming every day and I well known the family organizer about it !
Swim is their love and it's a good training for real life: hard work to improve your targets !

About the sharpening:
is a little tutorial about the sharpening in digital ph.
bye ! :-)
Nikon D3s 24-70 2.8 ; 80-200 AFS 2.8 ; 300 2.8
Posted: 08/27/2013, 03:26:55 AM
Ladiras81 I sharpen my RAW files only in ACR for uploading to stock photos.

If thats not enough I would say its probably not good enough for stock so I dont need to waist time on other techniques, high pass, etc.

As Frinz said Microstock reviewers dont like much sharpening, so you just need to do what is enough for the image to look sharp, but not "tack sharp" if you know what I mean. There is a reason for that, those images will be used many times by designers who will sharpen the image for printing so they shouldnt be too sharp at the first place.

When things are complicated I usually downsample in ACR and it looks fine, say, instead of 21Mpixels, downsample to 8Mpixels and you get an unuseful image into a useful image. This helps too for noisy images, say, ISO 1600 or more.
f/4L Canon EF 70-300mm IS/USM f/4-5.6 Canon 100mm f/2.8 USM/Macro ...
Posted: 08/28/2013, 07:03:17 AM
Both sharpening and blurring (for DoF) are kinda destructive effects. So they decrease the usabilty of an image. They are both very easy to apply and depends on the possible usage of the photo. I generally sharpen my images in ACR and do no apply sharpening later. As mentioned above, lens have a great effect on sharpness.

I mostly use these values on ACR: 150-180, 1.5 radius, 80 masking, 20 noise reduction.

150 may look like a killer to you, but 80 masking masks out almost all of the image and the results are pretty fine. You should change the values for every image. Large detailed image need bigge radius, small details need smaller radius.

There are high-pass techniques which use multiple layers. I tried both of them and the results are pretty nice too but I don't think it is worth the effort and time spent. Maybe if you think that you are working on a state of the art photo and you want to put everything you have in it :)

Stepping down the aperture to the middle of range (on a f2.8 - f22 lens, f8 - f11 will be probably be sharpest) will add a lot of quality to the final image, too.
Nikkor 35mm f2.8 - Nikkor 50mm f1.4 - Nikkor 50mm f1.8 - Tam...
Posted: 09/04/2013, 11:30:14 AM