Verdict: 3 stars Sharpener Pro’s output sharpening tools are a reminder that images need to be optimised to look their best on different printers, and at different sizes. However, its ‘capture sharpening’ tools feel like they’re just a little too late in the workflow, when most of us would apply sharpening during RAW processing, or in the ‘host’ application used to launch Sharpener Pro.
Almost all digital images need some degree of sharpening. This is partly because of the way colour images data is interpolated from the camera sensor's red-green-blue pixel array, partly because most cameras have anti-aliasing filters over the sensor to prevent moiré/interference effects with fine patterns, and partly because no lens is perfect and will deliver different levels of sharpness and different aperture/zoom settings.
But it's good to be clear about what kind of sharpening is applied and when. The kind of sharpening applied by default for in-camera JPEGs and most RAW processing software is 'capture sharpening', which addresses the types of image softness described above.
But there's also 'creative sharpening', which you can use to digitally blur backgrounds or intensify the sharpening on your main subject.
Finally, there's 'output sharpening', which is used to optimise the photo's detail rendition for different output devices. The type of sharpening you need for on-screen display is quite different to the settings needed for a large art print or publication in a magazine.
You can use capture sharpening and creative sharpening to enhance your pictures, but output sharpening is best kept for when you're preparing an image for a specific purpose.
Export sharpening is a setting that’s often overlooked when you generate images for online or on-screen viewing, but it makes a big difference to how sharp your pictures look. Every time you resample an image, you introduce a degree of blur because the software has to interpolate new pixel values – and this applies when […]
If you use Aperture or Lightroom, it’s so easy to export pictures at specific sizes for web use or emailing that you probably don’t give the settings a second thought. But in order to reduce your pictures to the required size, your software has to carry out a resampling process that can leave fine details […]
There is more than one type of sharpening. It’s a common mistake for photographers to look at an image, choose a sharpening setting that looks right and imagine that they’ve fixed it. They may have made it worse… In fact, there are three types of sharpening, and they do three different jobs. These are ‘capture […]