Camera Raw 4.3.1 input sharpening

Posted By
Jan 6, 2008
I shoot raw, always, and have avoided using Camera Raw in my workflow until recently (4.3.1), because so much time and organization effort is now saved by including Camera Raw 4.3.1 in my workflow, where it wasn’t in previous versions.

My problem is that I had been trained in numerous Canon tutorials to always perform input sharpening as the first step in the workflow, using a radius of 0.3 and an amount of 300 in Photoshop CS2, in order to remove the effects of the camera sensor’s anti-alias filter.

This is only possible in Photoshop, since the Camera Raw controls limit those parameters to 0.5 and 150. My workflow is first forced into Photoshop proper followed by Camera Raw, if I am to follow Canon’s recommendation, which means I lose one of the principle benefits of using Camera Raw 4.3.1.

I have reviewed many posts and tutorials relating to sharpening in Lightroom, Camera Raw, and Photoshop, and none of these documents refer to input sharpening as part of the workflow, but to the use of sharpening as a creative tool in image manipulation or for optimizing for media, etc.

Thanks for any advice.

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Jan 6, 2008
My problem is that I had been trained in numerous Canon tutorials to always perform input sharpening as the first step in the workflow

hmm… wisdom around here (where i’ve learned about all i know of cameras and photoshop) is to never sharpen until the last step before save, and to never use any kind of on camera or pre-process sharpening.
Jan 6, 2008
It would be worth posting this in the Camera Raw forum as well.

Jan 7, 2008
Jeff Schewe and the late Bruce Fraser, both in their writings and through their company PixelGenius, have advocated three separate sharpening stages: capture sharpening (which corresponds to your "input sharpening" and deals with the blur inherent in the RAW demosaicing), creative sharpening (which sharpens things you want particularly sharp, such as eyes or foreground details), and output sharpening (which is always done at output resolution and addresses the limitations of the output media, such as inkjet).

I wouldn’t sweat the specific numbers for input sharpening. Do the best you can in ACR or LR at 100% zoom. There are some new controls in the latest iteration of ACR and LR that will allow you to have more control. Instead of 0.3/300%, try some other value for radius, but less than 1, and then try a variety of percentages. Also try different settings of the detail slider. You are looking for settings that will give you a just barely snappier, contrastier image at the pixel level without increasing sharpness on every skin pore or noise pixel. Also, the Clarity slider may give you some of the effect you want at the input stage.
Jan 7, 2008
After posting, I discovered Bruce Fraser’s discussion, and it is consistent with how I’ve learned to treat sharpening, and I agree with it from a the standpoint of what my goals are.

Perhaps I’m being a little anal about this, but I want input sharpening to be parametric, rather than subjective, so I can integrate it into my workflow without looking at it – hence my sweating. Input sharpening is what enables subsequent use of other tools, including creative sharpening. 0.3 radius and 300% in USM never produces anything other than what looks like demosaicing to my eye (there I go!).
Jan 7, 2008
I also use PhotoKit Sharpener, but I disagree with using it other than "subjective".

IMO, the input sharpening caters for blur introduced mostly by Bayer Matrix interpolation. This alone would indeed suggest a "parametric" approach, since it is always the same, but I nevertheless tend to tune this, based on image content.

Sometimes the highlight sharpening layer needs to be trimmed down somewhat, and the shadow layer’s opacity cranked up a bit.

Anyway, I always look at the screen, and use that as a feedback for manipulation. I don’t believe that numbers are universal.


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