Sharpening is one of the most misunderstood topics in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and perhaps in all of digital photography. Part of the problem is that there are actually three different types of sharpening. It is also important to note that sharpening and Noise Reduction go hand-in-hand.
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The goal of Input Sharpening in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is to add emphasis to all of the meaningful edges in your original capture. The key is to enhance edge contrast where it matters without accidentally accentuating digital noise. When used properly, input sharpening and noise reduction balance each other out so that the resulting image appears as clean and as crisp as possible. This is a delicate balance and one that requires experimentation and a light touch.
I need to make it clear here that there are no magic numbers, or universally appropriate settings, for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom’s sharpening controls. Sharpening is subjective and no two images will look their best if you always rely on the exact same Lightroom settings. This is a visual game where only your eyes can tell you when the settings are perfect or when the image looks overdone.
The difference between sharpening and focus
I also need to make it clear that post-capture sharpening is not the same as focus. Sharpening adds contrast to a crisp edge after a digital image has been captured. Focus is what we do with the camera before the image is captured. No amount of sharpening can save an out of focus image. Proper focus is something that you have to get right when you take a photo, as there is simply no way to fix a blurry photo with post processing software.