Adobe Camera Raw sharpen?

Started Dec 2, 2011 | Discussions
jmatzick
jmatzick Contributing Member • Posts: 785
Adobe Camera Raw sharpen?

Hi I would like some advice on when I should sharpen when shooting raw. Should I use the ACR sharpen feature or should I wait until I convert the file into .psd. Thanks for the replies. John
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Alan_S
Alan_S Senior Member • Posts: 1,831
Re: Adobe Camera Raw sharpen?

You can find a very nice guide on using ACR here...

http://www.photoclubalpha.com/2011/11/29/free-download-pdf-guide-to-adobe-camera-raw/

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BertIverson Veteran Member • Posts: 3,842
Maybe post this in "The Digital Darkroom" forum...

A good question though. I am interested too.
Bert

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jaysdesk Forum Member • Posts: 66
The best resource....

A pair of excellent books by the late Bruce Fraser, and Jeff Schewe:

Real World Image Sharpening and Real World Camera Raw(with Adobe Photoshop) are must reads for any serious raw shooter.

Hofendis Regular Member • Posts: 322
Re: Adobe Camera Raw sharpen?

Everything I've ever read about sharpening suggests that it should be the LAST step of your PP process. Assuming that you're bringing into to PS to do some PP, it would follow that there is where you should sharpen.

That being said, there are a bunch of ways to sharpen (sharpen tools, high pass filter, plug-ins, etc).

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jaysdesk Forum Member • Posts: 66
Raw PP

There should be no ambiguity over whether an adjustment should be done in ACR or Photoshop.

Any task that can be accomplished equally well, in ACR or PS, (this includes sharpening and noise control) should be done in ACR before the image is rendered and the file compacted.

The sharpening function of ACR is fairly sophisticated, and easily matches or surpasses, anything that Photoshop USM does.

Unless you have a specific need to use Photoshop, you should be able to accomplish all, or most of the post processing with ACR.

In case of Lightroom, you can do all that and even format and sharpen-for-print,then print, a folder full of images, without opening a single file in Photoshop!

jmatzick
OP jmatzick Contributing Member • Posts: 785
Sharpen in ACR makes a lot of sense. Thx nt.
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Bruce Oudekerk
Bruce Oudekerk Veteran Member • Posts: 3,539
Sorry...can't agree

Admittedly, it does make sense, since ideally the ACR demosaicing step is the most critical and fundament transition from RAW into a true raster image. However, from a practical standpoint I disagree. The main reason is that we often don’t know the ultimate disposition of the image nor the steps necessary for that preparation.

My take is that I’m usually trying to demosaic in ACR for the purpose of creating a optimal ‘base file’ in PS. That base image should be suitable for just about everything that will come after in PP. For that reason I tend not to crop in ACR, or even my subsequent base image in PS, or do anything that I need to retreat or repeat. In a 6 and 8 MP camera era almost every image would need to be up sampled to optimize for print. At that point in time I would perform modest sharpening of the base file, save, and then up-sample and resharpen for print. Times change and usually I need no up-sampling for my 24MP a850 files for print so it tends to be a ‘one stop shop’ for the base file and then I down-sample for print with no more sharpening. That also tends to produce an over sharpened file for web, which I am aware of, but I’m mentally too lazy to change my methodology Anyone else reading this will do better.

There are two reasons that I don’t get a head start on that conservative base file sharpening in ACR. The first is that on modern high acuity sensors, in my opinion 0.5 radius is not optimal and too excessive. You mileage may vary but I find that on inherently very sharp images, 0.4 radius is preferable. With an appropriate threshold, this really minimizes the dreaded halos that we associate with over-sharpening. And speaking of over-sharpening, I personally believe that preparing for print requires fairly aggressive acutance or accentuating micro-edge contrast when viewed at 100%.

The second reason that I don’t sharpen in ACR is that subsequent preparation outside of ACR and in PS can be affected by previous sharpening. For that reason, sharpening is often one of the last things I do to my base file. Admittedly that can be problematic because in moderately higher ISOs where noise starts to rear it ugly head, we often want to use very modest noise reduction in ACR at this early stage… but noise reduction really goes hand in had with sharpening which makes this a ‘Catch 22’ situation. I often apply sharpening in ACR…adjust noise reduction appropriately…turn off that sharpening and demosaic. Many steps later I will sharpen in PS using whatever tool is appropriate. It works for me and until I get better methodology it will suffice.

Bruce

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Dsnoir
Dsnoir Contributing Member • Posts: 838
getting back to the image you shot

I must admit to being a tad confused by how and when to sharpen. I have my acclaimed super sharp lens and a 24 million sensor, and sitting in between a piece of Corning glass designed to add a mosaic effect, so that the sensor can use the information. Like others I have in the past followed the 'normal' route of sharpening as a final process - assuming that I had turned off the slight sharpening that ACR applies automatically - click on the 'Detail' button in ACR to see 25-1-25, with a bit of colour noise reduction thrown in as well - this is referred to as 'capture sharpening'

I now us ACR to sharpen as the very first process, working on the theory that this is the image I, the lens and the sensor took, and that whereas before I was working on a defused image, I am now applying different manipulations to the origional scene.

I do not recall softening images in the dark room before manipulating them.

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John A Wake Regular Member • Posts: 379
Re: getting back to the image you shot

In ACR I have sharpening set to 50, this just gives a basic adjustment to the 16 bit tiff I output from the raw developement. I then batch process the 16 bit tiff files through an action I've created with a noise ninja profile for the iso I've shot at, the file is then reduced to 8 bit, these are then edited and saved as tiffs and jpegs, if I'm displaying on the web, then I'll batch process at either 800 or 1200 on the long side, pay site content or photobucket display. Now is the time for the final sharpening, high pass, at anywhere between 5 to 7 pixels, depending on where the image is going to be displayed or printed.

John

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(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 3,992
Re: Adobe Camera Raw sharpen?

Hofendis wrote:

Everything I've ever read about sharpening suggests that it should be the LAST step of your PP process. Assuming that you're bringing into to PS to do some PP, it would follow that there is where you should sharpen.

BINGO!

John A Wake Regular Member • Posts: 379
Re: Adobe Camera Raw sharpen?

johnbee wrote:

Hofendis wrote:

Everything I've ever read about sharpening suggests that it should be the LAST step of your PP process. Assuming that you're bringing into to PS to do some PP, it would follow that there is where you should sharpen.

BINGO!

Are you claiming a line? or the full house?

John

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NumberOne Veteran Member • Posts: 4,046
Re: Adobe Camera Raw sharpen?

jmatzick wrote:

Hi I would like some advice on when I should sharpen when shooting raw. Should I use the ACR sharpen feature or should I wait until I convert the file into .psd. Thanks for the replies. John
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If you are working with Lightroom/ACR, there are some advantages on processing it while at RAW:

First, LR offers since version 3.xx a very good sharpening tool (natively), and you aren't changing your original if you use/save your settings/adjustments on the sidecar file; with the "History" feature you also always know what settings/adjustments you used.

Second, LR will optimize the process placing it on the correct pipeline order, no matter when you do (or edit) your sharpening settings/values.

These two reason alone, IMO, are enough to favour this approach, even when there are specific tools, that marginally, can do a better/more effective (sharpening) job...

All this holds true for the initial/standard sharpening almost every digital photo needs; specific sharpening (for Printing, Web, etc.) should be done/fine-tuned later on the photo work flow process, IMO.

I also don't see any advantage in saving your files as "PSDs" - a proprietary format - when "TIFs" have roughly the same characteristics and size - and exactly the same IQ - while being a more open format...

Hope this helps.

Best regards,
Pedro

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Bruce Oudekerk
Bruce Oudekerk Veteran Member • Posts: 3,539
Re: Adobe Camera Raw sharpen?

NumberOne wrote:

If you are working with Lightroom/ACR, there are some advantages on processing it while at RAW:

First, LR offers since version 3.xx a very good sharpening tool (natively), and you aren't changing your original if you use/save your settings/adjustments on the sidecar file; with the "History" feature you also always know what settings/adjustments you used.

Second, LR will optimize the process placing it on the correct pipeline order, no matter when you do (or edit) your sharpening settings/values.

I don't work with LR so I find your comments very interesting.

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that if you open a RAW image in LR...the sharpening that is applied at that point is only applied late in the process of the final development...and there is really only one place to sharpen your images when in LR anyway?

In many ways, if this is true, it negates any statements I might have made earlier and speaks to a huge hole in the ACR/PS processing pipeline.

Bruce

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(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 3,992
Re: Adobe Camera Raw sharpen?

Bruce Oudekerk wrote:

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that if you open a RAW image in LR...the sharpening that is applied at that point is only applied late in the process of the final development...and there is really only one place to sharpen your images when in LR anyway?

In many ways, if this is true, it negates any statements I might have made earlier and speaks to a huge hole in the ACR/PS processing pipeline.

Actually I think your post was quite accurate until the last part about high ISO and noise. Which I didn't quite get. Whatever the case, I think LR differs from ACR an other RAW developers(ie. RPP, Raw therapee, etc) in the sense that its used as a development solution(w/plugins etc) as well as a RAW developer and so there are those characteristics to consider. However, in cases where we slipstream RAW negatives into Photoshop then the legacy rule applies. And that is where all of the emphasis goes toward image grain quality in preparation for post processing. Which also goes for high ISO images(which I think you mentioned). At which point, I agree with your statement regarding the effects of sharpening affecting image noise. Whereas, it is far better to process image detail in NR from a passive grain than an altered one.

Anyways... all this being said, it looks as though the fundamental rule stands.
Or does it...?

Recently I've been working on an advanced NR project involving demosaic technology that may revolutionize RAW processing as we know it. And one example is with that of an ISO3200 A77 file that ends-up looking like an ISO800 file before any NR is ever applied. However, what's most interesting about this is that there is sharpening involved

Anyways, I didn't mean to side track the thread but this recent discovery has really got me thinking on how the way we view things can someone come at the detriment of development.

Bruce Oudekerk
Bruce Oudekerk Veteran Member • Posts: 3,539
Re: Adobe Camera Raw sharpen?

johnbee wrote:

Recently I've been working on an advanced NR project involving demosaic technology that may revolutionize RAW processing as we know it. And one example is with that of an ISO3200 A77 file that ends-up looking like an ISO800 file before any NR is ever applied. However, what's most interesting about this is that there is sharpening involved

You can't leave us hanging on that one:) When do you think you will be able to share some info on this?

Bruce
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NumberOne Veteran Member • Posts: 4,046
Re: Adobe Camera Raw sharpen?

Bruce Oudekerk wrote:

NumberOne wrote:

If you are working with Lightroom/ACR, there are some advantages on processing it while at RAW:

First, LR offers since version 3.xx a very good sharpening tool (natively), and you aren't changing your original if you use/save your settings/adjustments on the sidecar file; with the "History" feature you also always know what settings/adjustments you used.

Second, LR will optimize the process placing it on the correct pipeline order, no matter when you do (or edit) your sharpening settings/values.

I don't work with LR so I find your comments very interesting.

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that if you open a RAW image in LR...the sharpening that is applied at that point is only applied late in the process of the final development...and there is really only one place to sharpen your images when in LR anyway?

Yes.

LR has, internally, a pre-installed order/pipeline to execute (all) your commands/settings (as a whole).

This means that the order you entered your fine-tuning to the image - from Basic to Camera Calibration - doesn't really matter, because LR is "memorizing" all this commands and will execute them (at the end) in its pre-defined (correct) order; in practical terms, just to give an example, if the first thing you done (wrongly) was sharpening and Exposure and Fill Light corrections after, LR will stil apply (correctly) sharpening at the end of the (whole) process... (I don't know the exact process order of everything, but I do know that it is more or less the order of its Develop Commands form top to bottom of the screen; AFAIK, PS is not so "clever", in other words, it will execute the commands - one by one - in the order you entered them... From my experience, most (LR and PS) users don't know about this... :))

The other unique feature when compared to all the other RAW Processors/Programs (AFAIK), is that LR doesn't really touch your (original) file - It just saves your changes somewhere inside the original file - or better yet - saves them on the 'xmp' file; if you delete/rename/move the 'xmp', Adobe LR and PS will only see your untouched/unprocessed (original) file... (This means also that if you want other applications besides LT and PS to see your changes, you will have to disable the 'xmp' feature...)
Hope I made myself clear...

In many ways, if this is true, it negates any statements I might have made earlier and speaks to a huge hole in the ACR/PS processing pipeline.

Sorry, but I really don't follow you here - Please clarify your statement.

Understand also, that while using the same "ACR engine" and sharing many common functions, LR and PS differ a lot in many things, and are in fact, aimed to different uses: PS is (more of) an image/photo editor, while LR basically can be called as a photo (work flow) database "processor"...

Bruce

Best regards,
Pedro

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Bruce Oudekerk
Bruce Oudekerk Veteran Member • Posts: 3,539
Re: Adobe Camera Raw sharpen?

NumberOne wrote:

Bruce Oudekerk wrote:

In many ways, if this is true, it negates any statements I might have made earlier and speaks to a huge hole in the ACR/PS processing pipeline.

Sorry, but I really don't follow you here - Please clarify your statement.

'earlier' referred to an earlier post that I made in this thread regarding the processing of our RAW files. PS really treats ACR as a separate entity and 'RAW development' is a first-process and is not integrated seamlessly into the entire pipeline as it appears to be in LR. At this point in time I am unconvinced that true sharpening is even affected by the ACR sliders but rather those sliders provide a variant on acutance enhancement (micro contrast). Thus when we 'sharpen' in ACR it is, by its nature, performed early in the image creation process and not at an appropriate point near the end. That’s one of the reasons I don't sharpen in ACR but that appears not be a valid criticism of LR.

Bruce

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jaysdesk Forum Member • Posts: 66
Optimal Sharprning

Correct capture-sharpening is the key to successful noise control . The controls in the detail panel of ACR(and LR), allow selective sharpening of the edges, and important details.

This application of selective sharpening, protects the non-edge areas of the image(such as the sky)from sharpening artifacts and increased noise. Now a round of noise reduction, restores the edges to an acceptable sharpness level, while greatly reducing the noise everywhere else.

Duplicating these things in Photoshop is devilishly difficult, that involves, construction of edge masks and a complicated layer structure, and application of different filters.

Who doesn't want to start with a clean and sharp image, in the image editing application?

Jeff Schewe Regular Member • Posts: 425
Re: Adobe Camera Raw sharpen?

Bruce Oudekerk wrote:

Thus when we 'sharpen' in ACR it is, by its nature, performed early in the image creation process and not at an appropriate point near the end. That’s one of the reasons I don't sharpen in ACR but that appears not be a valid criticism of LR.

Oh, you are sharpening in ACR/LR and similar to USM depending on the settings. If you increase the Detail slider you move more towards a deconvolution kernel sharpening.

As for the processing pipeline, it's wrong to think of the pipeline as "linear", it's not. Some stuff such as demosiacing and camera colr adjustment is done early in the pipeline. But depending on which tools you use, some stuff is done on luminance data only (such as sharpening) and some on HSL data (the HSL sliders). The actual processing pipeline is very complicated and exotic. But believe me when I tell you the sharpening is done at the optimal stage for sharpening to be done as determined by Thomas Knoll, who knows a thing or two about optimal anything relating to image processing.

You'll note that the sharpening and noise reduction is in the same panel and there's a reason for that–you need to optimize the settings for BOTH sharpening and noise reduction in ACR/LR. Sharpening and noise reduction are the opposite side of the same coin. If you don't use both sharpening and noise reduction you are leaving potential image quality on the table.

The sharpening in ACR/LR (note they both use the same algorithms and pipeline) are based on the thoughts of the late Bruce Fraser regarding a sharpening workflow. The initial round of sharpening if considered "capture sharpening" needed to restore the sharpness lost in the digital capture being turned into pixels (particularly needed if you camera uses and aliasing filter such as most DSLY cameras). The ideal approach is to set the sharpening and noise reduction to look "good" in ACR/LR. Creative sharpening is done usually on a local basis to emphasize certain areas. The final sharpening step is output sharpening which is done based on the final output resolution and the media type and printer type. You can read more about Bruce's ideas here http://www.creativepro.com/article/out-of-gamut-thoughts-on-a-sharpening-workflow

Just so you know, I worked with Adobe on developing the capture sharpening in ACR/LR. I took over a contract Adobe had with Bruce to do the consulting. Unfortunately Bruce passed away before it was incorporated into ACR/LR. I was also involved with the incorporation of PhotoKit Sharpener's output sharpening into Lightroom's Print module and also in ACR's batch save.

ACR/LR already cover the capture and output sharpening very, very well. The weak point in the sharpening workflow is really the creative sharpening. Hopefully more work will be done in that area.

I'll end by saying that if you don't take advantage of the optimized detail you can get from ACR/LR's sharpening and noise reduction, then you'll be making you life harder in Photoshop and prolly give up some potential image quality. While the luminance noise reduction is zero by default, any image can benefit from some luminance noise reduction, even low ISO well exposed images. Adding the right amount of luminance noise reduction work to allows you to optimize the sharpening (and visa versa).

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Regards,
Jeff Schewe

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