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Lightroom > Develop Module >

11 - Detail Panel:

Sharpening & Noise Reduction

We're now going to look at the Detail panel in the Develop module.

There are two sections:

• Sharpening

• Noise reduction

Before discussing sharpening and noise reduction, we'll look at three steps to do first.


Detail Panel

3 Steps

1:1 Magnification

In the Navigator panel, in the upper-left corner of your screen, click the 1:1 icon.


1:1 Magnification Icon

Sharpening is best seen at the 1:1 magnification.

1:1 is the same as 100% magnification.

Noise reduction effects used to have to be viewed at 1:1, but no longer.

Preview Window

Use the preview window to evaluate the settings you apply.

If the view in the preview window isn't 1:1, a warning icon is seen in the upper-left corner of the section.

Click the icon to go to a 1:1 magnification.

There are two ways to move the image in the preview window.

Method #1

Click, hold, and drag, the image in the preview window.

Method #2

1) Click the preview-window icon in the upper-left corner of the panel.


Preview Window Icon

2) Move the cursor on your photograph—in the work area—not on the small image in the preview window.

3) Click when you've found a good area for judging sharpening or noise reduction.

Make a Virtual Copy

Make a virtual copy.

Press Ctrl + '.

You can add sharpening or noise reduction to the virtual copy.

Sharpening Section


Sharpening Section


Beginners—come back later!

If you're a beginner, you may want to use the sharpening presets when you're exporting or printing.

Sharpening is complex.

More Advanced Lightroom Users

As you know, your photograph is "built" from tiny square blocks—pixels.

If the world was made from . . .

• Blocks

• Composed of vertical and horizontal lines

. . . sharpening would not be needed.

Rectangle on the Left

Below, the rectangle on the left is displayed appropriately.

It's sharp.

The vertical and horizontal lines of the rectangle—match up with—the vertical and horizontal lines of the pixels.

You can see a sharp rectangle because the building blocks—the pixels—are like the subject—the rectangle.

Rectangle on the Right

The rectangle on the right doesn't have vertical and horizontal lines.

It's not sharp.

The non-vertical and non-horizontal lines of the rectangle—don't match up with—the vertical and horizontal lines of the pixels.



Most of the time, you're photographing subjects that are not vertical and horizontal.

The world is more about curves than it is about verticals and horizontals.

Yet, you're recording and displaying this curvy world using vertical-and-horizontal pixels.

That's the problem that sharpening fixes.

How Do We Make Curves Look Sharp?

Sharpening uses an optical illusion to make subjects without vertical and horizontal lines, look sharper.

The trick is accomplished by increasing the contrast along edges.

An edge is where there's a change in tone, like the image below.

The image below doesn't look sharp.


Sharpening Section

The contrast along the edge below was increased with sharpening.

Your web browser may make the difference less evident.


Sharpening Section

How do you do the above with a photograph?


There are two sharpening presets in the Presets panel on the left side of your screen.

The presets will help you to get a feel for sharpening values.

Open the Presets panel, and click Lightroom Presets.

Scroll down to near the bottom of the presets list.


Sharpening Presets

Click on the first one, the Scenic preset.

Note how the sharpening slider values change in the Sharpening section on the right side of your screen.

Click on the Faces preset.

The values change.

Landscapes require more Detail; portraits, less.

Trees and rocks look better with more Detail; cheeks and noses, with less.


Scenic Preset Values


Faces Preset Values


Remember, sharpening is done where there's an edge in your photograph.

An edge is where there's a change in tone or color.

A foggy landscape has few edges.

A dilapidated barn has lots of edges.

What sharpening does to an edge is to increase the contrast on both side of the edge.

What Values Do You Enter?

The values are determined largely by the edges and the output medium.


The nature of the edges in a photograph help determine the sharpening values that you enter.

A foggy landscape has few edges.

A dilapidated barn has lots of edges.

They require different sharpening values.

Output Medium

The sharpening values that you set vary depending on the output media.

If you're editing a photograph for a website, what you see on your monitor is what you need.

If you're printing, experiment.

A glowing monitor is very different medium than a piece of paper.

Generally, enter stronger sharpening values for printing.

Often, glossy papers require less sharpening than matte paper.


As mentioned, sharpening is complex.

Sharpening Robot?

Let's imagine there's a sharpening robot, Edgie.

Edgie boots up when you go to the Detail panel.

Edgie searches your photograph.

When you're setting the values below, Edgie:

• Looks for the edges in your photograph.

• Makes changes to the edges according to your instructions.

What are Amount, Radius, Detail, and Masking?


When you change the Amount value, Edgie changes the amount of contrast along the edges.

Zero is no sharpening.

150 is maximum sharpening.

Use lower values for photographs with less need for sharpening, such as a portrait of a baby.

Use higher values where there's a need for more sharpening, such as the tattoo on the baby's mothers arm.

Raw Files Have Never Been Sharpened, JPEG Files Have

When sharpening a raw file, Amount defaults to 25.

Whereas, a JPEG files starts off with an Amount value of zero.

Amount starts off at 25 for raw files because they haven't been sharpened by the camera, as are a JPEG files.

Amount Visual Aid

Press and hold Alt when changing the Amount value.

The possibly distracting color is removed.


When you change the Radius value, Edgie changes the width of the contrast increase.

The values range from .5 to 3.

Use lower values for photographs with fine edges, such as a wicker chair.

Use higher values where the edges are wider, such as a portrait.

Radius Visual Aid

Sharpening can be hard to see.

Press and hold Alt when changing the Radius value.

The edges being sharpened are white.


Edgie uses Detail to reduce the halos that may appear along edges.


• A value of zero suppresses the halos the most.

• A value of 100 does no halo suppression.

Detail Visual Aid

Press and hold Alt when changing the Detail value.

The Halos may be easier to see.


Masking varies where sharpening is done.

When at zero, Edgie sharpens the entire photograph.

As you increase the Masking value, Edgie restricts sharpening to more pronounced edges.

Masking appears to be similar to Threshold in Photoshop Elements.

Masking Visual Aid

Press and hold Alt when changing the masking value.

White areas are being sharpened.

Black areas are not being sharpened.

They're masked.

Compare View

Use the before-and-after view of your photograph as you're using the above controls.

Press y.

Local Sharpening

You can use the Adjustment Brush tool to apply sharpening to parts of a photograph.

For example, you could make the eyes more prominent on a portrait by sharpening them.

Noise Reduction Section


Noise Reduction Section

After you press the shutter release, the photons that landed on your camera's sensor are converted into electrons.

The electrons are then amplified.

When you increase the ISO setting, you're turning up the volume.

At high ISO settings—high volumes—noise becomes more evident.

Noise appears in your photograph as:

• Graininess, black-and-white specs that shouldn't be there.

This is called luminance noise in Lightroom.

• Pink and green specs that shouldn't be there.

This is called color noise in Lightroom.

Noise is most visible in shadows and in even toned/colored areas.

To reduce noise, do the following.

1) Move the image in the preview window to display an area with noise.

Luminance Noise

2) Move the Luminance slider to the right to reduce graininess.

3) Use the Detail slider to manage the luminance noise threshold.

You have to balance detail and noise.

Higher Value

More detail

More noise

Lower Value

Less detail

Less noise

4) The Contrast slider adjusts luminance contrast.

Use for very noisy photos.

You have to balance contrast and smoothness.

Higher Value

More contrast


Lower Value

Less contrast


Color Noise

5) Move the Color slider to reduce color noise.

6) Use the Detail slider to manage the color noise threshold.

Higher Value

Preserves thin colored areas

More color speckles

Lower Value

More color bleeding

Fewer color speckles