Sharpening is an essential step in the photo-editing process, particularly when working with raw files, which are usually softer than JPEGs – due to JPEGs being sharpened in-camera.
Sharpening your raw files
There are two types of sharpening: Capture and Output. In Adobe Camera Raw, we apply initial Capture sharpening to fix an inherent softness in most digital images. Output sharpening is usually done at the end, before making a print or presenting on-screen, so it’s best carried out in Photoshop.
Sharpening works by increasing contrast around edges where lighter tones meet darker tones. At the edge, the light tones will be lightened, and the shadow tones will be darkened. To the eye, this makes the edge crisper. But push it too far and you begin to see edge halos.
Most images will benefit from a certain amount of sharpening. But how much?
In general, images with fine detail such as landscapes require less sharpening than images with soft detail, such as portraits. So for portraits, a typical setting would be Amount 35, Radius 1.2, Detail 20, Masking 70.
For landscapes, try Amount 40, Radius 0.8, Detail 50, Masking 0. Of course, these settings are just a starting point. The level of sharpening required will depend on your subject matter and the camera resolution.