Sharpening in Real Estate Photography Workflow

November 1st, 2007

Recently a reader asked me if every image needed sharpening. The answer is yes when you are downsizing images for web use like real estate photographers do all the time, sharpening is necessary for every image.

About the same time I was reading an excellent article in Photoshop User Magazine called Pro Sharpening Workflow in Lightroom 1.1, by Chris Orwig. Chris went into all the great sharpening features that Lightroom 1.1 has. At the the end of the article it dawned on me that since I’d started using Lightroom heavily and and carefully keeping all my images in Lightroom that I’d quit using the Photoshop Smart Sharpen filter like I always use to do. Lightroom sharpening has always looked a little weak to me compared to PS smart sharpen.

At first, I thought that Lightroom was downsizing after the sharpening but after more consideration I don’t think that’s the case. As with all output from Lightroom fixing the image data as a pixel image is the last step. I think the sharpening algorithms in Lightroom are not quite as aggressive as Photoshop Smart Sharpen.

So what I’m going to start doing is doing my sharpening as a last step in Photoshop Smart Sharpen.

In summary,

  • When you downsize an image always sharpen AFTER the downsizing as a last step in the workflow.
  • Sharpening and then downsizing is NOT the same and downsizing and then sharpening.
  • If you have Photoshop CS3 you might check out the Smart Sharpen filter… it is the best sharpening filter I’ve seen.

Update note: on 11/2/07 I updated this post. When I first made the post I jumped to the conclusion that because Lightroom sharpening was a little weak that it was downsizing before applying sharpening. Matt Stec pointed out this is unlikely.

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4 Responses to “Sharpening in Real Estate Photography Workflow”

  • Larry, did you come across any documentation of Lightroom saying that resizing images is applied as the last in the process of export. I would have thought that someone in Adobe thought of that to make sharpening the last command after reducing pixel size of the image, otherwise quite good implementation of sharpening tool in LR 1.1 is useless if it needs to be redone after exporting image. After all the only way to get an image processed by Lightroom whether it is being resized or not is to export it to whatever format you want.

    Matt Stec Photography –

  • Matt,
    I think you are right… Martin Evening’s book on pg 8 suggests that “fixing the image data as a pixel image” happens last. This must be the same for exporting.

    Thanks for keeping me straight.

    However, I’ve always been a little disappointed with Lightroom sharpening. Chris Orwig that wrote the Photoshop User article I referred to and does the videos agrees that “Photosho Sharpening is best”.

  • Matt Kloskowsky at photoshop professionals and Lightroom killer tips praises the Lightroom’s sharpening not to mention resampling of images claiming it’s superiority to PS’s algoritms, so I guess it’s like in parliament… 10 people, 15 opinions…

    Matt Stec Photography –

  • I get the feeling that, like sharpening, de-noising (Noise Ninja & co) should be a process best applied after final downsizing. I always thought that de-noising had a smoothing effect which required subsequent sharpening, but Noise Ninja (a recent purchase for me) seems to smooth and sharpen in one go (softens hands AND piney fresh!). AT least, it has the apparent effect of sharpening. I haven’t compared NN and UM side be side on copies of the same image.

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