rob_cole_2221866's profile

4.5K Messages

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76.3K Points

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 9:03 AM

9

Lightroom/Camera Raw: Improve Sharpen Masking

I love everything about the new sharpener, except the masking artifacts.

There is a tell-tale artifact of the masking that I call "sparkling", which I've grown to dislike so much I rarely use the masking anymore.

Its sort-of reminiscent of the masking halo artifact left by brushing - the sharpening spills too much out of the edgy area and into the smooth areas, leaving a sharpening sparkle around the edges of things.

Its unfortunate, since the concept of masking is great, and the UI for it is awesome (alt key to see where it will apply).

Some way to "pull in the sharpening effect" around the edges, so to speak, (or something like that), to eliminate sparkling would by greatly appreciated.

PS - Reducing detail helps, but then of course you lose detail in sharpened areas...

Rob

Responses

4.5K Messages

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76.3K Points

10 y ago

Quoting Scott Mahn: "LR Detail is the devil..."

Scott - the more I think about this, the more I think you are right. The masking is OK once detail is set all the way to zero. But, I really do like the effects of detailing in some areas, especially at the lower radii, but presently, the radius is used for both hard edge sharpening and detail. Yet, I often want a larger radius for the hard edge sharpening, but a smaller radius for detail sharpening. So, it seems that one possible solution, would be to add some controls to the sharpener:

Instead of:

Amount
Radius
Detail
Masking

Have:

Hard Edge Amount
Hard Edge Radius
Hard Edge Masking

and:

Detail Amount
Detail Radius
Detail Masking

That way one could have coarser sharpening for firming up the bounding edges of things for overall sharpness / focus effect (by using a relatively large radius, and relatively small amount, and a hefty mask maybe - to confine sharpening to true hard edges), yet enhance detail more finely and sharply by using a smaller radius and relatively strong amount for the textural details, with a smaller mask to allow more liberal sharpening of the finer detail.

Then, maybe, as a compromise to having pins that can vary any of these items, just have the two: Hard Edge Amount + Detail Amount under local control, to possibly fit in better with existing design and/or for efficiency...

Am I on to something here?

Summary:
--------
The main problem with the present sharpener is that detail is too coarse and prevalent when cranking up the amount and/or radius, and ends up sparkling around the mask transition areas, and even if no masking is used, then there is just too much coarse detail sharpened in bokeh. The workaround being to lower detail, but then you can't have detail where you want it either.
Perhaps the solution is to separate textural detail sharpening from hard edge sharpening such that one could "deblur" according to degree of focus softness, and detail according to desired detail effect, separately.

Put another way:
----------------
I very much like the overall quality of Lightroom's sharpening algorithm - sharpens things up in a way that looks very natural. However, maybe detail sharpening needs to be handled separately from "de-blurring" (what I've called hard-edge sharpening), or something like that.

4.5K Messages

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76.3K Points

10 y ago

Example:
(Note: This simulates the difference the above-mentioned sharpening change would make)

No sharpening:

Note: Not a very sharp picture.

Sharpened with Amount=70, Radius=1.5, Detail=0, Masking=40

Note: Edges are nicely firmed up, but not much detail under wing.

Sharpened with Amount=70, Radius=1.5, Detail=30, Masking=40
(same settings as previous, except for detail)

Note: Although there is more detail, it looks harsh and unnatural, and there are significant edge artifacts - in this case, I'd say a lot of haloing, and only a little sparkling.

Double sharpened in Lightroom, first round same as original, namely:
Amount=70, Radius=1.5, Detail=0, Masking=40:
but then exported back to Lightroom for detailing:
Global Amount=0, Radius=.5, Detail=100, Masking=0 (extreme detail just to show that it can be cranked that high as long as radius is low)
Local sharpening Amount = 30 (brush opacity 100)

Note: Fine detail under wing - no edge artifacts.

Double sharpened again, but this time using global sharpening only - no locals, settings more like what I would actually choose in real life, namely:
Amount=70, Radius=1.5, Detail=0, Masking=40 (same as initial image)
but then exported back to Lightroom for detailing:
Global Amount=25, Radius=.7, Detail=50, Masking=30
(no local sharpening)

Note: This is perhaps more similar to the result that would be achieved if the above suggested changes were made to the sharpener: i.e. 2 different settings for hard-edge/de-blur sharpening vs. detail sharpening - accomplished with no locals. Although the global sharpening with detail also created some haloing and jaggies around the outside of the bird, it was far more confined due to the smaller radius and lesser amount - much nicer than anything I was able to accomplish with a single set of settings - not too shabby, eh?

PS - ISO: 400, Lum. NR: 5

175 Messages

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3.8K Points

10 y ago

I like where this is going.

I'm far from a sharpening expert so I fully expect Schewe to come and smack the ignorance out of me, but I still wonder if Detail is a necessary evil, or simply evil.

I'm gonna post some screen shots here. It's a snippet of a well exposed portrait (RAW capture, Exposure and Brightness at LR defaults) shot on an Canon 5DII at ASA 100. It's largely grain free.

As in my other examples in the other thread, I'm not trying to finesse the image, I'm using gross settings. In all examples the radius is set at 0.5 simply because that's the lowest Lr3 goes, and picking up where you left off, I'm considering the effect of Detail at "low" Radius. Similarly, in each instance Amount is maxed out, not because its the best setting, but just to give us the most heightened look at that radius.

Click on images to enlarge:

First image is Amount 150, Radius 0.5, Detail 0
IMO, not sharp enough, but clean.


Next, Amount 150, Radius 0.5, Detail 100
Of course this is too much Detail at this amount, but look at what Detail creates. And this at it's finest particle size (0.5).


Naturally we need to scale back. By cutting Detail in half (Amount 150, Radius 0.5, Detail 50) we see the effect is largely the same, it's simply applied at a lower opacity. But is the effect really heightening the details of the clothing in a usable fashion?



Maybe relative to the first shot at Amount 150 and no Detail. But what if we had more Amount? This last shot was exported to PS without Lr sharpening, then USM was applied at Amount 500, Radius 0.5, Threshold 0. The details in the clothing is enhanced, giving a sense of sharpness, but without the nightmarish artifacting of Lr Detail.



Greater detail enhancement could be had in PS with another dose of USM or Smart Sharpen, but higher Radius or Amount (if available) in LR would only increases the appearance of the Detail artifacts.

Let me say again, I fully acknowledge these are not ideal settings, I merely picked up the small radius idea Rob was using and amplified it in Amount and Detail to get a strong look at what Detail creates and overlays upon your image. It's opacity can be reduced, but that is the minimum size of it's grain - a grain I'm not convinced is native to the capture.

I've decided it's contribution is rarely a worthwhile trade-off in my images, though I could envision some where it might be useful. But I think better effect can be had outside of LR.

175 Messages

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3.8K Points

10 y ago

Rob, my summary.

I think multiple user selected radii and masking is needed, but I'm not convinced Detail is needed when they are available. I have a feeling it's a kludge to compensate for the inability to do multiple radii.

Even increased Amount (as demonstrated in the PS image) is a step in the right direction.

User control over Small, Medium, Large radii (like Topaz Adjust, and Aperture's stacking adjustments ) with stronger Amount would be a fantastic addition.

4.5K Messages

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76.3K Points

10 y ago

Hey Scott - thanks for posting the samples. Helps to see pictures to go with words...

I'm still not sure about the devil being the detail exactly - the quality of detail enhancement clearly deteriorates rapidly with the sharpen amount. It also can become too coarse with increasing radius. But typical sharpen amount for me is 35-50 (60-70 is about as high as I ever go, except under unusual circumstances) - in that range, lr-detail can be quite pleasant (at lower radii). My problem is more that I tend to like higher radii for sharpening photos that aren't very sharp to begin with, and that's when the trouble begins for me, detail-wise, because I end up with coarse grain in the bokeh, or if I mask it, then I get the sparkling. And if I turn detail off as a counter-measure, I lose all textural detail sharpening.

You, on the other hand, tend to use very high amount, and lr-detail sucks when amount is high, regardless of radius.

I don't know whether 'Detail', as we know it, is no longer required once multiple radii and independent masking are supported, or whether detail is a kludge since only one radius is supported (from a user perspective), but what I do know is that deblur type sharpening and detail refinement seem to be at odds with one another, as currently implemented.

175 Messages

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3.8K Points

10 y ago

I agree that I'm overstating the case and not using the controls to their best effect in my examples. Used appropriately, Detail can be helpful. I wouldn't lose it, and I wouldn't be surprised if the pendulum swings again and I find myself using it again for "normal" subjects.

You're approach of giving it it's own Amount/Radius/Masking controls is probably the right way to go.

In either case, I need more robust Amount though, and I not the only commercial shooter who thinks so.

4.5K Messages

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76.3K Points

10 y ago

Maybe:

Capture Enhancement (alias global/un-masked sharpening/nr)

  • Sharpening

    • global controls

    • NR

      • Color controls
      • Lum. controls



      • Focus Enhancement (alias masked edge sharpening + inverse-masked NR)

        • Threshold (same as masking amount now)
        • Sharpening (hard edge sharpening - applied to edgy areas)

          • edge sharpening controls

        • NR (applied to non-edgy areas)

          • nr controls (lum)

          • Edge Detail (inverse of "Sparkle Suppression")


          • Detail Enhancement.
            • detail controls


            The idea being that "Capture Enhancement" allows one to lay down a "base coat" of noise reduction and sharpening.

            "Focus Enhancement" - The goal of this section being to deblur without inducing noise in the bokeh. Note: sharpener cooperates with NR, instead of fighting with it - i.e. allows one to not try and sharpen areas being noise reduced, and conversely, not try to noise reduce areas being sharpened more. The "Edge Detail" is a fine-tuning control which dictates NR/Sharpening bias around mask transition zones: 0 -- like now, -ve values -- favor NR to control edge artifacts at the expense of losing sharpness around edgy areas. +ve values: favor sharpness over NR in transition zone...

            Detail Enhancement - an all new section aimed at enhancing textural details (reminiscent of topaz detail...)

            Summary:
            ------------
            Allows one to have both global nr+sharpening, and nr+sharpening tied to a common mask. The latter features sparkle suppression for those who've become hyper-sensitive to this phenomenon (like me). Focus enhancement geared toward restoring focus lost due to lens sharpness etc, without inducing noise nor detail artifacts. New detail section aimed at enhancing the appearance of various details - now independent of the focus-oriented sharpening...

            Any seeds of good idea here?

            Review: the problems I'm trying to solve:
            - I generally don't want to sharpen and noise reduce (lum.) the same areas, except maybe minimally.
            - Sparkling (sharpening of detail in mask transition zones).
            - The needs of focus enhancement settings and detail are presently at odds with one another: Larger amounts/radius (to bring into focus more) causes unwanted detail effects.

          4.5K Messages

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          76.3K Points

          10 y ago

          PS - Hot tip:

          One can crank up sharpening amount using relatively high radius sharpening, and still include some detail (albeit overly coarse) by cleaning up the sparkly hard edges using a brush, e.g.:

          100 clarity (replaces sharpening around bounding edges)
          -50 sharpening (removes detail sharpening artifacts - sparkling)
          Optional: -5 brightness and/or -0.1 exposure - removes haloing and further darkens bounding edges- be careful to confine painting to halo region feathering into darker regions around edges.
          Recommend 2:1 - 11:1 zoom. Note: Do not use brush mask unless you've discovered the magic secret - I haven't.

          I haven't tried this everywhere, but works wonders for relatively dark birds against a light background, like sky.

          4.5K Messages

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          76.3K Points

          10 y ago

          Perhaps a better title for this FR/Idea would be:

          "Improve Sharpen Detail"

          The problem being:

          1. Detail is unnatural at higher sharpen amounts.
          2. Detail is too coarse at higher radii.
          3. Unwanted detail emerges in the bokeh, and around bounding edges of things - extending too far into the bokeh, when using sharpen masking.

          One can lower detail, to zero if necessary - but then there is no way to enhance detail in regions where it is desired, since local sharpen tool shares global detail value.

          One can leave detail on, and instead: turn masking off, and/or turn the global amount way down, then sharpen locally, but detail may still be too coarse (esp. larger radii), and its very time consuming. One can lower the radius so the detail is not so coarse, but then one loses the focusing power of the larger radius.

          Final thoughts:
          -------------------
          None of this matters if the picture is taken at low ISO, and is already pretty sharp to begin with. And, I realize when a picture isn't very sharp to begin with, there *isnt* much real fine detail to sharpen. Likewise, at high-ISO, the distinction between noise and true detail gets pretty iffy. Still, some improvement in Lightroom to better handle this problem would be welcome. Another trick I've found is to apply grain locally using NX2. That way one can crank up the NR a little more, and let those details smoothen in the interest of a less-noisy photo, then introduce the illusion of detail/texture (via grain) in areas that warrant it. Some might say this is tacky but it can be quite effective - *all* of sharpening is in some way "the art of illusion"...

          4.5K Messages

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          76.3K Points

          10 y ago

          I'd go further to say: "You are better off decreasing luminance noise reduction to preserve detail, than increasing sharpening detail" (after exhausting detail recovery via lum. NR detail slider, that is).

          Put another way: Never increase sharpening detail beyond zero unless luminance noise reduction is already zero.

          (Actually this would not always be the case if masking is employed, since with masking, one would not always be trying to sharpen detail in masked areas that have NR applied, but then there's the sparkling...)

          i.e. other than very minimal noise reduction, maybe, there is no point in trying to apply noise reduction and detail sharpening to the same region - given Lightroom's present detail sharpening and lum. nr algorithms. This is why I would like to see the ability to apply noise reduction to the inverse of the sharpen mask (or at least the "detail" sharpening mask if it were separated from the "focus sharpening") - less sharpening required to overcome noise reduction, and less noise reduction required to overcome detail sharpening - less artifacts for the same net amount of sharpening.

          Or something like that...

          Now that I think about it, since lum. NR is dang near the inverse of detail sharpening, simply controlling sparkling when masking is used may serve the same purpose...