Lightroom Details: Sharpening and Noise Reduction

4/29/2014 0 Comments A+ a-

Post 21
Series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®

Sharper vs. Reducing the Noise

In the Develop Module, under Detail you will see Sharpening and Noise Reduction.

Excessively Sharp (Ouch!)

Sharp images are pleasant to look at. Many photographers sharpen their images in post-production applications. You’ll want to be careful to avoid problematic results. When sharpening too much, harsh lines and edges appear. Noise can increase, especially in images shot with high ISO levels. Over-sharpened images look excessively textured. Straight lines can become ragged and cubic.

How To
In Lightroom, with your image selected, press “D” on your keyboard for a short-cut to the Develop Module. View your image at 100% BEFORE making any sharpening adjustments. You can do this by left-clicking your image

This image was taken at sunset in low light without a flash. 
Add in that the subject was a wiggly toddler, 
and we were destined to have some blurry images. 

Sliiide to the Left, Sliiide to the Right

The sharpening tool sliders are Amount, Radius, Detail and Masking. 

Amount: The higher the number, the sharper the image. Watch your preview window to see what number is your sweet spot.

Radius: This is the size of the sharpening area around the edges. 3.0 is equivalent to three pixels wide. It is recommended to keep a default of 1.0 radius value, and not go over 1.5

Detail: This changes the sharpening around the details of your image. In my image, the hair and eyelashes are affected.

Masking: Use this to mask out areas of you image you do not want sharpened. This can be an incredible help to isolate subjects from a background. The softer the background, the more your subject stands out.

Making some adjustments

Turn Down That Noise!

Noise looks like tiny dots in an image. 

You’ll get noise from your camera sensor under a mix of conditions that usually include low light. If you’d like to better understand this subject, you will want to research “ISO”. Under the Noise Reduction section, you will see these sliders: Luminance, Detail, Contrast, Color, Detail, Smoothness. Luminance is the amount of noise reduction you want to use. Detail is the amount of the details you choose to preserve. Slide to the left and your image becomes soft. 40-60 is typically a good and recommended range. Experiment with all your options. It is amazing what Lightroom can do.

Go back and forth between Sharpness and Noise Reduction. Combine for perfect results.

Next post: Lightroom Lens Corrections
These posts are part of a series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®

Jennifer Apffel is a photographer with over a decade of experience in portrait, event, and product photography. She also does freelance graphic design and fine art. For more check out, or look for her on

"You can't be an artist. Artists don't make any money," ... a trusted adviser told me. So I studied something else. And I worked at other jobs. But, given a moment and I'd find a paintbrush and canvas, or I'd make food into art. I found a camera, and light and composition became my medium. I found a computer, and I became a Photoshop fanatic and graphic designer, and I taught myself to build websites. Anything to be able to create.

I am an artist, plain and simple, and I've come to understand that all these years later. Artists create beauty where there was none. Artists ask tough questions and challenge others. Artists communicate without words. Artists build and tear down. Artists bring joy, hope, understanding, empathy, growth, change and a myriad of things to others.

Involve and influence others. Impact and make a difference. Inspire, lift and make others' lives better. This is what I strive to do.

I share my creations and am glad to have made an imprint in this moment of your life.

That's what real artists do.