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Sharpening #1
Tim H's picture
by Tim H
March 13, 2011 - 5:40pm

What are some tips on how to manage sharpening in Aperture as well as plugins like Nik Sharpener Pro? What are some good settings to set up in Aperture so it isn't over sharpened?

PhotoJoseph's picture
by PhotoJoseph
March 13, 2011 - 5:42pm

Tim,

Sharpening is my weakest area. Other than to say “don’t over-sharpen”, I don’t have any tips. I don’t sharpen for any web output, and for print, I don’t print myself so I let my printer handle it.

Let’s put this one to the community… anyone out there with any great sharpening advice?

-Joseph @ApertureExpert

@PhotoJoseph
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Butch Miller's picture
by Butch Miller
April 9, 2012 - 2:55pm

Sharpening is a very diverse topic. There will likely never be an across the board consensus on the topic as much of the “evaluation” is perception based from pixel peeping and will be as varied as there are eyes that assess the results.

Much of my understanding of digital image sharpening stems from the works of the late Bruce Fraser. If there is a more comprehensive study on image sharpening available, I am all ears (and eyes) to learn more.

Fraser broke down image sharpening to three levels: 1) Capture sharpening for RAW files (this is akin to sharpening applied in-camera to jpegs to compensate for the loss of sharpness due to the de-mosaicing process) 2) Creative sharpening to enhance all or a portion of an image based upon the actual image content to achieve specific artistic goals. 3) Export or print sharpening based upon the actual size and resolution of the image output and the resolving capabilities to the chosen medium to present the finished image.

While I am enjoying learning more about Aperture this is one aspect where I would have to give at least a slight edge to Lr when it comes to Export Sharpening … as Lr uses algorithms based upon Fraser’s (and the several other digital gurus that make up Pixel Genius) PhotoKit Sharpener plugin for Photoshop which takes into account image size, end use medium and resolution when it applies export sharpening. Though, I do wish there were more control over how this is applied as there are no user options to fine tune the export like there are when using PK Sharpener in Ps. The sharpening control in the Develop Module in Lr really is only adjusting the Capture Sharpening … and unfortunately, the only Creative Sharpening adjustment in Lr is by using the Adjustment Brush and a point where Aperture steps ahead offering a bit more in this regard … again, not quite the same control I would prefer in Lr.

To further explain … an image destined for print at 4”x6” on standard glossy photo paper has different sharpening criteria than the same image would require for a 16”x24” canvas wrap … and yet even a different sharpening strategy for the same image to be printed on CMYK glossy magazine stock … in fact, when applied properly, images I prepare for CMYK on standard newsprint really look quite garish on my monitor … but they look quite nice in the finished product … If I were to base my sharping choices upon how the results look to the naked eye on the monitor, I would obviously reduce the sharpening to the point where the images would look far less than desirable in the finished product … so comparing RAW image sharpening in Lr to a TIFF image rendered by DPP for Aperture … is really not a fair or equal comparison … certainly not proof positive of superiority of one app over the other … that is until you compare the sharpening in the actual end use medium. This is where I have a few doubts as to what, if anything, Aperture is taking into consideration when I am choosing to output a file for a specific medium.

Not picking on one app over the other here, simply pointing out the differences as I see them … and that there is much more to consider than comparing web resolution images posted in a forum to be accepted as proof positive of typical results. There are many more factors involved.

Bob Rockefeller's picture
by Bob Rockefeller
April 9, 2012 - 8:30pm

It would seem that Fraser’s algorithms might be able to be applied using Aperture’s print sharpening options of amount and radius. Do we know those algorithms (in a form that couple be used)?

Bob

Bob
----------
Bob Rockefeller
Midway, GA
www.bobrockefeller.com

gfsymon's picture
by gfsymon
April 9, 2012 - 8:44pm

I don’t think Fraser made any break throughs in sharpening, but he did write about it. Unsharp masking goes way back to the early part of the 20th century. It became defacto as a repro technique (long pre-digital) but was taken to another level by David Malin. English astronomer. From there it came into digital photography via PS (and others before … Scitex, Crossfield etc.)

Pretty much the entire community of digital imaging in the early days (I started in the late 80s) was doing pretty much what Fraser talked about in his writings. He made no break throughs other than perhaps blogging a bit. :) The concept of ‘sharing’ was less guarded then and everyone felt like a pioneer.

When you think about what a pixel is, then it all makes sense. Sharpening for one size of output (print) is not appropriate for another. On-screen viewing is changing with the arrival of Retina Displays … but the OS can do ‘on-the-fly’ sharpening anyway.

Butch Miller's picture
by Butch Miller
April 9, 2012 - 9:24pm

gfsymon,

Never said Fraser made any “break throughs” or that he “pioneered” anything … only referenced his works in sharing the concept and application of digital image sharpening and the complete ramifications of same. He was the first, to my knowledge, that parsed it down so that even I could grasp the basic concepts … for that, I will always have a deep appreciation for his efforts. The results of applying his concepts speak for themselves. Regardless if he didn’t uncover anything new.

gfsymon's picture
by gfsymon
April 9, 2012 - 9:45pm

Quite right Butch.

I’m not belittling Fraser’s efforts. I was just pointing out, that everyone else in the digital imaging universe (late 90s) was doing the same, at the same time, and in my experience, well before Fraser wrote about it. The only thing was that they weren’t writing articles about it. He spread the word. Good on him.

günther pichler's picture
by günther pichler
April 4, 2012 - 7:18am

hi!
yesterday evening i did a quick test developing the same raw in aperture 3 and lightroom 4. i have to add that i had to convert the 5D Mk III raw to TIFF16 as first step since aperture isn’t 5D III fit yet (conversion with DPP).

i was very surprised about the scarce sharpening abilities aperture has got, or the other way round: the sharpening tool in LR4 is unreachable for aperture…

i’ll post some 100% crops - maybe this evening if i find the time to do it.

günther

John Waugh's picture
by John Waugh
April 4, 2012 - 4:05pm

Aperture has 4 different tools for sharpening in the adjustment inspector.
Understanding the combination will improve your sharpening for various outputs and situations.
1. Raw Fine Tuning/ Sharpening is a slight global sharpening adjustment to compensate for sensor softness
2.Enhance/ Definition will sharpen your mid tone edges with very pleasing effect.
3. Edge Sharpen brick is a strong global sharpening adjustment with adjustable fall off
4. Quick Brushes/ Sharpen under the Adjustment button allows you to selectively sharpen with a brush in the shadows, mid tones, highlight or all three and then adjust the effect with the slider added to the adjustment set.
Multiple applications of this tool can be applied to different areas.
I know of no other single application that offers this range of sharpening.
John

John Waugh, Photographic Images • Apple Certified Trainer• Sport Action Lifestyle Photography

PhotoJoseph's picture
by PhotoJoseph
April 4, 2012 - 7:04pm

Günther,

Check out the sharpening Live Training video I did recently; Session 016.

@PhotoJoseph
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Patrick Vijgeboom's picture
by Patrick Vijgeboom
April 4, 2012 - 7:16pm

@günther,

Looking forward to see the difference between Aperture and Lr4. Aperture rocks on that feature :-)

günther pichler's picture
by günther pichler
April 5, 2012 - 8:16am

hey folks!
here are 2 100% crops of the same part of the image. don’t judge the color, just the sharpness :)

sharpening test

@john: unfortunately aperture is not able to read 5D III raws, so the first raw fine tuning was not applied since i had to go through DPP to get an Aperture readable document (tiff16). i didn’t do any changes on DPP, just exported it as it was.

best regards,
günther

gfsymon's picture
by gfsymon
April 5, 2012 - 9:45am

When Lr3 shipped I did some *extensive* comparisons with Aperture3 on Nikon files (RAF). Aperture3 was noticeably better on subtle micro-detail than Lr3, which tended to have haloing when getting to the same levels of sharpness (but actually, Aperture was not just better on sharpening micro-detail, but actually better at resolving it too … which is really down to sharpening. A good test is repetitive, random patterns, like trees or gravel paths, which is what I used). However, I found both Lr and Aperture to be very good indeed overall. Unless Adobe have done something radical with Lr4, I don’t think your test is accurate.

I also compared several other RAW apps at the same time and Lr and Aperture were the best at various aspects of RAW conversion of Nikon files. Aperture won overall in high ISO images and Lr had the edge on low ISO. Raw Developer was good on many aspects but fell down on some images. Lr and Aperture were the only ones that were good everywhere. I didn’t include CaptureOne in the tests. PS has the best image-size reduction sharpening, which is good for web, but also very good for small prints (10x8 and under).

günther pichler's picture
by günther pichler
April 5, 2012 - 10:03am

hey! i know this test is not very significant, i just wanted to share my experience with you: i couldn’t find a way to get more detail out of the converted tiff. hopefully it’ll be better once aperture supports 5D III raws…

hope dies last :)

PhotoJoseph's picture
by PhotoJoseph
April 5, 2012 - 10:31pm

Günther,

I’d love to see your test again now that Aperture added the 5D Mk III support. If you’re going to do the test, I’d say you need four images to compare:

1. LR default settings (just as it is decoded, no additional sharpening added)
2. Aperture default settings
3. LR tweaked as much as you can
4. Aperture tweaked as much as you can

-Joseph

@PhotoJoseph
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günther pichler's picture
by günther pichler
April 7, 2012 - 7:29pm

Hi Joseph!
I did as you requested. Here’s the sample (both developed raw in LR4 and AP3). Without going the TIFF path Aperture gives better result than Lightroom if no sharpening is applied:

raws without sharpening

Tweaking sharpness on LR4 gives slightly more detail - but it’s not fair comparing a new software to a 2 years old one :)

i’m happy again with aperture!

happy easter from south tyrol,
günther

PhotoJoseph's picture
by PhotoJoseph
April 7, 2012 - 9:02pm

Günther, thanks for sharing that… awesome!

-Joseph

@PhotoJoseph
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Bob Rockefeller's picture
by Bob Rockefeller
April 15, 2012 - 1:35pm

Reading Fraser/Schewe again in real World Print Sharpening, their work suggests something for output sharpening that we may be able to use in Aperture’s print sharpening dialog.

They believe that 0.01” sharpening halos should be the largest used for “small” inkjet prints. At 360 pip (I print with Epson printers), that would suggest a radius setting of no more than 3.6 pixels.

Now the question is amount. I’ve been using the default 1.0 for glossy/luster inkjet papers and I think it looks fine.

Have others done more extensive testing on other paper stocks or at other print sizes?

Bob

Bob
----------
Bob Rockefeller
Midway, GA
www.bobrockefeller.com

Graham Parker's picture
by Graham Parker
February 26, 2013 - 12:38am

Hi Joseph
You mentioned in first post.
“I don’t sharpen for any web output, and for print, I don’t print myself so I let my printer handle it.”
I am creating 3 or 4 books in A3 and will be getting them printed soon.
I was wondering before I read all of above if there was a rule of thumb to sharpen before getting the books printed.
So now I am wondering if any sharpening will be done by the book printer.

Thank you

Graham

Butch Miller's picture
by Butch Miller
February 26, 2013 - 3:32am

I don’t want to speak for Joseph … but I’ll offer this … you’ll have to ask your printer … jobs can be handled differently based upon the style and mediums you are printing.

For example, the labs and print houses I work with do not do any sharpening of the files I send them … many consumer printers apply sharpening and even some tone adjustment and color correction arbitrarily … You’ll have to investigate as to what your specific printer requires or expects you to do … or not do in advance.

Russell's picture
by Russell
February 26, 2013 - 9:27am

Moving back to sharpening in Aperture & away from printing books for a moment…

As I’ve said before, I use both LR4 & Aperture 3.4.3 - both have their foibles, both are a bit flaky (hangs, freezes, spinning beachballs of doom, etc) & both do an overlapping but different 75% of what I want for DAM. But I prefer the sharpening process in Aperture to Lightroom & here’s why -

I can fine tune my raw import which saves so much time later on.

What I do is have the Raw Fine Tuning brick & the Edge Sharpening brick in my default Adjustment brick list. I make sure the Edge Sharpening brick is ticked & at its default values. Then I play with the raw fine tuning sliders until the image looks as sharp as I would like. Then I drag back the raw sharpening slider a touch to give me some space for creative sharpening or to tweak the Edge Sharpening brick or to round trip to an external editor.

Then I save that Raw Fine Tuning brick as the default for that camera.

For info (YMMV obviously), typically, for my NEFs (D700 & D3s), I drag Boost down to 0.50, put Hue Boost at 0.80, Sharpening at 0.80, Detail at 0.25 & put the Moire, Radius & De-noise sliders at zero. They only get tweaked during post if needed. My settings are slightly different for my old D800 NEFs (my D800 has been replaced by the D3s) & very different for my Panny G2 RW2s which need more on the Detail & De-noise sliders amongst other things.

I find this gives me the tones and detail I want as a starting point & with a greater degree of control than I get in LR4. The Raw Fine Tuning brick can still be tweaked a bit more too, say for a De-noising a high ISO shot or smoothing skin in a portrait.

The drag-back on the raw brick Sharpening slider gives me some space to play - creative local sharpening is easy with Aperture’s brushes; the Definition slider can do its thing; and I can round trip to an external editor if I want to high-pass sharpen or use unsharp mask as a final step before export.

Output/export sharpening on the other hand is a dark art with it being dependent on a witch’s brew of screen resolution, paper, image size, image detail, printer brand, ink, colo(u)r profile, ICC paper profile, intended viewing distance, quality of viewing lighting & probably plenty of other things I can’t think of. I just stick to the rules for this & choose output sharpening as per others’ recommendations & often software/plug-in defaults. Whilst it’s important, I think that output sharpening has the least effect overall on the final image.

BTW, I know I can set camera-specific & ISO-specific raw import defaults for sharpening in LR4 along with local adjustments & round tripping but IMO, I get that little bit of extra control in Aperture. Plus I prefer the “look” of my NEFs in Aperture over Lightroom.

Now if only Aperture would stop bloody hanging.

Russell

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