Sharpening – in camera, in ACR or in Photoshop? (plus the benefit of RAW)

For a while now, I have been unhappy with the artifacts created by the sharpening algorithm in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw), so I thought I should do a comparison of the different places where sharpening can be done.

1. If you shoot JPG in-camera (or RAW+JPG), then some sharpening is applied in the JPG by the camera’s processor.

2. If you shoot RAW, then when you first open the image in Adobe’s ACR, there is a tab which allows you to apply sharpening.

3. Once opened in Photoshop, there are several Filters available for sharpening. My normal choice is Unsharp Mask.

To see the results of each, I set my camera to shoot both RAW and JPG at the same time (normally I only shoot RAW).

Sidenote: On this shot, one of the obvious benefits of shooting RAW is apparent: the sky in the JPG is totally blown out and cannot be recovered. However, with the RAW image, a quick tweak of the Highlights slider and a very subtle gradient and the clouds are rescued.

Firstly, the whole image, downsized to 1296 pixels wide (25% of the original).

a) In-camera

_MG_4811-In-Camera

b) ACR Sharpening

_MG_4811-ACR-Sharpening

c) Photoshop’s Unsharp Mask

_MG_4811-PS-UnsharpMask

And now for 100% centre crops to see any artifacts.

a) In-camera

_MG_4811-In-Camera-CENTRE

b) ACR Sharpening

_MG_4811-ACR-Sharpening-CENTRE

c) Photoshop’s Unsharp Mask

_MG_4811-PS-UnsharpMask-CENTRE

What do you think?

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3 thoughts on “Sharpening – in camera, in ACR or in Photoshop? (plus the benefit of RAW)

  1. Dina

    Thanks for this enlightening post! This is really very helpful to me, I’ll come back to this one. I’m new to RAW, I take only RAW now since a couple of weeks, but I still feel very uncertain about what to do, how do I convert and make the most of it etc.
    Greetings from Norway
    Dina

    Reply
    1. casafilms Post author

      Hi Dina, glad you found it helpful. Feel free to ask any specific questions, and I’ll try to help.

      Reply

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