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Author Topic: What's the deal with adding sharpness to photos??  (Read 4484 times)

Cannon Man

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What's the deal with adding sharpness to photos??
« on: August 10, 2013, 06:54:23 AM »
My understanding is that if you have a RAW file and the sharpening is set to ZERO you get the best image quality because you have not changed the original raw data and that should be exactly the same sharpness that the sensor reads through the lens.

Then if you add any sharpening at all you change the original sharpness by sharpening it more than was originally captured and thus you lose image quality.

Whenever i edit photos i immediately notice it even if the sharpness setting is set to 1 and quickly change it to zero. I do shoot with a 1DX and mostly with 85mm 1.2L II & TS-E24mm 3.5 L II That are both very sharp lenses and don't need to be sharper.

So why do most people sharpen their photos??? Most editing software has the default settings at a whole lot of sharpening and the image quality just looks awful to me if sharpening is used.

Then there is software made specifically for sharpening.. Who needs it so much?? Does it only exist to make bad lenses look sharp?

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What's the deal with adding sharpness to photos??
« on: August 10, 2013, 06:54:23 AM »

mrsfotografie

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Re: What's the deal with adding sharpness to photos??
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2013, 07:01:30 AM »
My understanding is that if you have a RAW file and the sharpening is set to ZERO you get the best image quality because you have not changed the original raw data and that should be exactly the same sharpness that the sensor reads through the lens.

Then if you add any sharpening at all you change the original sharpness by sharpening it more than was originally captured and thus you lose image quality.

Whenever i edit photos i immediately notice it even if the sharpness setting is set to 1 and quickly change it to zero. I do shoot with a 1DX and mostly with 85mm 1.2L II & TS-E24mm 3.5 L II That are both very sharp lenses and don't need to be sharper.

So why do most people sharpen their photos??? Most editing software has the default settings at a whole lot of sharpening and the image quality just looks awful to me if sharpening is used.

Then there is software made specifically for sharpening.. Who needs it so much?? Does it only exist to make bad lenses look sharp?

In general I guess we find a 'sharp' picture more pleasant to look at than one which is much less so. Possibly because our eyes do their best to get the sharpest image possible and therefore a sharp(enend) picture can be more comfortable to look at.
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Aaron78

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Re: What's the deal with adding sharpness to photos??
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2013, 08:02:39 AM »
My understanding is that if you have a RAW file and the sharpening is set to ZERO you get the best image quality because you have not changed the original raw data and that should be exactly the same sharpness that the sensor reads through the lens.

Then if you add any sharpening at all you change the original sharpness by sharpening it more than was originally captured and thus you lose image quality.

Whenever i edit photos i immediately notice it even if the sharpness setting is set to 1 and quickly change it to zero. I do shoot with a 1DX and mostly with 85mm 1.2L II & TS-E24mm 3.5 L II That are both very sharp lenses and don't need to be sharper.


So why do most people sharpen their photos??? Most editing software has the default settings at a whole lot of sharpening and the image quality just looks awful to me if sharpening is used.

Then there is software made specifically for sharpening.. Who needs it so much?? Does it only exist to make bad lenses look sharp?

In my opinion, your camera and gear lead me to believe that you have many pixels on your subject, and that for the most part, your subject occupies a good portion of your frame. In that case, you would likely nail focus on every shot. When i shoot small birds with my 7D/70-200 2.8II/1.4XIII, many times if i can't get close enough to them they won't appear razor sharp, especially if i have to crop the photo at all. In my case, sometimes, sharpening the photo will add benefit to the image. I don't believe that everyone needs to sharpen every photo. Many of my photos that i can fill the frame with the subject in, do not need any extra sharpening.

Zv

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Re: What's the deal with adding sharpness to photos??
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2013, 08:20:23 AM »
It depends on the lens. If I shoot with the 135L a lot of the time I don't add any sharpening other than the default LR setting of 25. However the 17-40 or any other wide angle lens for that matter can always benefit from a little sharpening. Just makes the image pop. And you have to selectively sharpen not just all over to get the best results. I disagree with the getting the best image quality at zero. Then why stop there why do any post at all? All digital images are processed one way or another. As soon as you put that RAW file into LR it is converting the data into a visible image.

Also for portraits of women if you don't process the image correctly you might get some angry customers! Some lenses are a bit too sharp so in that case would you leave it as is? Wrinkles and spots all crisp and detailed? Or would you soften it by reducing the sharpness?

In the end it's all about what style you're going for but there's nothing wrong with adding or reducing sharpness. That's the beauty of RAW - we can do what we like!
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neuroanatomist

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Re: What's the deal with adding sharpness to photos??
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2013, 08:31:03 AM »
I trust that you realize your sensor is designed to blur your images, right?  The AA filter reduces moiré by reducing sharpness.

Also...I wonder...do you view/present all your images at 100%?  You must have some pretty high-res display equipment. I guess everyone you share images with has such equipment as well.  I'm sure you're also aware that downsampling reduces sharpness.

BTW, how do you define 'best image quality'? 
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rs

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Re: What's the deal with adding sharpness to photos??
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2013, 08:33:16 AM »
It's all down to the subject, your personal preference and your intended output as to how sharp you want the end result, but if you start off with a soft lens, a body with a strong AA filter and a large dose of NR is needed, then you'll typically need much more sharpness to attempt (no doubt unsuccessfully) to get similar levels of detail as a 1D X and 24 TSE can give with zero sharpness added.

Having said that, turning up the sharpness can result in ugly white halos around edges rather than recover what great gear would have got for you in the first place. Compacts typically have it cranked right up into the ugly zone.
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Re: What's the deal with adding sharpness to photos??
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2013, 08:43:54 AM »
"So why do most people sharpen their photos???"

Maybe because "most people" don't have a 1DX and super sharp $2K+ lenses   :P
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Re: What's the deal with adding sharpness to photos??
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2013, 08:43:54 AM »

drmikeinpdx

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Re: What's the deal with adding sharpness to photos??
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2013, 09:13:44 AM »
I was just thinking about sharpness yesterday when I was processing some studio portrait shots of a woman in her 40's taken with the 5D3.  LR has default sharpening set to 25 and I was thinking that I needed to do some retouching on this lady.  Then I just moved the sharpness slider to zero and she looked fine! 

Sometimes I miss my old 5D classic for portrait work.  Sure, the autofocus was all over the place, but it did made skin look great.

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Re: What's the deal with adding sharpness to photos??
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2013, 09:34:00 AM »
I trust that you realize your sensor is designed to blur your images, right?  The AA filter reduces moiré by reducing sharpness.

Also...I wonder...do you view/present all your images at 100%?  You must have some pretty high-res display equipment. I guess everyone you share images with has such equipment as well.  I'm sure you're also aware that downsampling reduces sharpness.

BTW, how do you define 'best image quality'?

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Re: What's the deal with adding sharpness to photos??
« Reply #9 on: August 10, 2013, 09:48:09 AM »
Can't stand the soft photos that come out of the pure RAW file from any camera... 7D, 5D3, etc... Regardless of how amazing the lens may be (85L, 135L, 70-200 II, 24-70 II, etc...)

Like somebody said above, there are filters in front of the image sensor that blur the image to reduce moire. So naturally your image is softened before it even reaches the sensor. It reduces the resolution. You have to sharpen to bring back how sharp it should have been!  ;D

I always sharpen and do minimal NR.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2013, 09:49:46 AM by Invertalon »

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Re: What's the deal with adding sharpness to photos??
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2013, 10:04:16 AM »
The default sharpness setting is designed to approximate the sharpening that is automatically applied with a JPG capture.

If you don't care for the look, you can always change the default setting. It's just another slider in Adobe Camera RAW or Lightroom.

Like other factors with RAW capture, the advantage over JPG is that Camera Raw/Lightroom allow you to fine tune the image sharpening so that you can obtain exactly the effect you want.

As Neuro pointed out, some sharpening is generally considered to be necessary because of the way in which images are captured on the sensor (particularly with an anti-aliasing filter in place).

Sharpening is just one of the many adjustments available in image processing. It really doesn't have much if anything to do with the quality of your lenses or camera body. It's really more to do with your particular preference and "look" you may be after.

Finally, remember that most sharpening tools are really just sophisticated formulas to adjust contrast so that an image appears sharper to the human eye. You aren't adding or subtracting any resolving power from the lens or sensor. Just as a lens with higher contrast appears to produce a sharper image than a lens that lacks contrast.

You can certainly elect not to apply any sharpening in RAW, but in doing so, you are making a decision about  image processing. Like any of those decisions, hard and fast rules such as "I never apply any sharpening" or "I always leave the sharpening at the default setting" just limit your options.
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Pi

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Re: What's the deal with adding sharpness to photos??
« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2013, 11:00:00 AM »
First, zero sharpening in your favorite converter may not have the same effect as zero in my favorite converter. It is more or less a random value. The image you see is computed, and different computations yield different looking images.

Demosaicing aside (think about the B&W Leica), well done sharpening may compensate to some extent for the blurring effect of your vision. There are some publications on that, actually.

Finally, the AA filter softens the image for proper sampling but it starts to blur it well before the Nyquist frequency. Sharpening could restore some of those high frequencies in some selective way. It is based on some a priori assumptions what most images would contain (sharp edges due to physical objects with well defined boundaries), and what most viewers want to see. Think about it as art, not science.

Do the following experiment: take a "perfect" image, and downsize it considerably with some reasonable settings (say, bicubic). The effect of the optics is mostly gone, and since you started with a "perfect" image, it is even sharper now, light? Now, sharpen it a bit. It looks "better". Most people would say that.

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Re: What's the deal with adding sharpness to photos??
« Reply #12 on: August 10, 2013, 11:12:59 AM »
My understanding is that if you have a RAW file and the sharpening is set to ZERO you get the best image quality because you have not changed the original raw data and that should be exactly the same sharpness that the sensor reads through the lens.

Then if you add any sharpening at all you change the original sharpness by sharpening it more than was originally captured and thus you lose image quality.

My understanding is different.  If your lens has an MTF of 1 all the way to the corners (theoretically perfect) it will cast onto the sensor an image that is as "sharp" as the scene being photographed.  If you have a real lens it will make an image that is less "sharp" and therefore of lower image quality.  Also, as neuro points out, the sensor and its AA filter reduce the image quality more by taking away even more "sharpness."

The mathematical sharpening algorithm tries to improve the image quality by correcting these flaws introduced by the optical and electronic systems.  As with any such post processing correction it can be over or under done.  But even for L glass lenses some amount of correction seems to help.

Of course, if you prefer a slightly unsharp soft focus kind of look, you will like the loss of sharpness caused by the camera and not like the corrected look.  But that does not seem to be the prevailing preference.

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Re: What's the deal with adding sharpness to photos??
« Reply #12 on: August 10, 2013, 11:12:59 AM »

Dylan777

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Re: What's the deal with adding sharpness to photos??
« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2013, 11:14:06 AM »
I like to add additional sharpness + clarity in my landscape shots. Portrait, I like add little softness for dreammy looks.

You might like black coffee and I like hot tea - but we both enjoy photography. It's personal taste of course. Unless, there is a rule out there say you can't add sharpness to your photos.
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Re: What's the deal with adding sharpness to photos??
« Reply #14 on: August 10, 2013, 11:15:07 AM »
My understanding is that if you have a RAW file and the sharpening is set to ZERO you get the best image quality because you have not changed the original raw data and that should be exactly the same sharpness that the sensor reads through the lens.

Then if you add any sharpening at all you change the original sharpness by sharpening it more than was originally captured and thus you lose image quality.

Whenever i edit photos i immediately notice it even if the sharpness setting is set to 1 and quickly change it to zero. I do shoot with a 1DX and mostly with 85mm 1.2L II & TS-E24mm 3.5 L II That are both very sharp lenses and don't need to be sharper.

So why do most people sharpen their photos??? Most editing software has the default settings at a whole lot of sharpening and the image quality just looks awful to me if sharpening is used.

Then there is software made specifically for sharpening.. Who needs it so much?? Does it only exist to make bad lenses look sharp?

I don't agree with your premise.  Jpeg images are always sharpened and enhanced by the firmware in the camera.  Its baked in and isn't easy to change later.
 
Raw files contain raw sensor data.  The processing software turns those files into a image, and different software produces slightly but noticeably different images according to what the software authors thought looked good or matched Canon DPP.  You are not looking at raw data, but someone's interpretation of what the scene looked like based on analysis of thousands of raw files there may be some sharpening or there may be none basd on the software.  Most of the software is pretty good, but not always accurate.  The advantage of raw is that the image is much easier to fixe without introducing artifacts.    You can and should adjust brightness, contrast, sharpness to match what you want.

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Re: What's the deal with adding sharpness to photos??
« Reply #14 on: August 10, 2013, 11:15:07 AM »