Camera Raw sharpening tools: how to restore fine detail and keep noise at bay

Camera Raw sharpening tools: how to restore delicate detail and keep noise at bay

In our latest Raw Tuesday series post on editing raw format images we explain a simple technique for using the Adobe Camera Raw sharpening tools. Find out how to preserve fine detail in your raw files while banishing noise.

By shooting in your camera’s raw quality format you have much more tonal and colour information to work with, which enables you to produce better-looking results in your final image.

In our raw start image there are some very delicate midtone details such as the incense sticks and ash that we’d like to subtly sharpen, but this runs the risk of adding more noise to the shot’s soft bokeh. Fortunately, Adobe Camera Raw has some handy additional sliders that will help you to reveal midtone texture and detail while masking out the unwanted noise.

Here, we’ll also show you ways to preview which areas are being sharpened, so that you can get a balance between revealing detail and losing noise.

How to use the Adobe Camera Raw sharpening tools

How to use the Adobe Camera Raw sharpening tools: step 1

Zoom in
Go to File>Open and go to your start image. It will open in the Adobe Camera Raw editor. To sharpen, grab the Zoom tool and right click. Choose 100%. Much of the shot is deliberately soft due to a shallow depth of field. Use the Hand tool to view the foreground incense stick.

 

How to use the Adobe Camera Raw sharpening tools: step 2

Adjust Amount
Click on the Detail tab. Drop the sliders to 0 and drag Amount to 91 to increase the contrast around the edges. Increase the spread of the edge contrast change by setting Radius to 2.0. Click the Preview box to compare the before-and-after versions.

 

How to use the Adobe Camera Raw sharpening tools: step 3

Restore detail
The change is very subtle. To reveal more of the delicate texture on the ash and incense sticks, drag Detail to 45. If you Alt-click as you drag this slider you’ll see a greyscale preview. The darker areas will become sharper and the grey areas will remain unsharpened.

 

How to use the Adobe Camera Raw sharpening tools: step 4

Mask out noise
To prevent the soft background bokeh (and its picture noise) from being sharpened, Alt-click as you drag the Masking slider. Now only the lighter areas in the preview will become sharpened, leading to less noise. A value of 65 produces a good compromise.

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  • Timar

    91 seems a bit low to me. I prefer a value of 92.349876 for initial sharpening