04 Lightroom with standard sharpening
And there certainly is. The sharpened version is visibly crisper, and shows the benefit of using sharpening targeted at the final image dimensions and the type of use the picture’s going to be put to.
05 OnOne Perfect Resize
But now for the joker in the pack. For this final example I’m using an external resizing plug-in – Perfect Resize, which comes as part of the OnOne Perfect Photo Suite. It’s not a sharpening tool as such, but it does use highly sophisticated image detail analysis algorithms to resize and optimise images much more effectively than regular resampling tools.
I think you’ll agree that the difference is spectacular. Some might feel this result is almost over-sharpened, but I’m not so sure. It certainly has striking clarity compared to the other examples.
06 When to sharpen
Sharpening is a more complicated subject than it might appear. There’s no ‘correct’ set of sharpening settings for an image because you need to apply a different kind of sharpening to an image resampled for on-screen use than you’d need for a full-bleed image printed in a magazine. That’s why sharpening experts divide sharpening into three categories:
1) Capture sharpening: you use this to overcome any intrinsic softness in the capture device.
2) Creative sharpening: this is to highlight and enhance key areas of the picture relative to the rest – you might use it to enhance a model’s eyes and lashes in a portrait shot, for example.
3) Output sharpening: this is used to compensate for any limitations in the output device, and you apply it only when you produce an image specifically for that device at a known output size.
It’s the output sharpening (or lack of it) that you need to be aware of when you export images from Aperture and Lightroom, and their relative lack of control (Aperture, especially) leaves a big gap for specialist plug-ins like Perfect Resize, which can often do the job a whole lot better.
The alternative is to open your images in an external editor like Elements or Photoshop and do the resampling and sharpening manually, but I think the results from Perfect Resize are both quicker and better.