Camera Raw, improve your photo dramatically

The Workflow

I really like Camera Raw; it brings loads of detailed and nondestructive adjustments to the table. This time I am going to talk about sharpening and noise reduction. It is a bit non intuitive, but Camera Raw works a bit in reverse, it is simply much easier working in direction shown below.

1) Set the zoom to 100% or more, if you don’t do this you cannot see the adjustments you make

2) Remove color noise as well as luminance noise.

3) Perform sharpening.

Do notice that I work from down up through the sections, but also within each of the section.

Noise removal

1) Color noise is the color flinging which you can see I box 1. We can get rid of that by changing the color slider until it’s visibly gone. The side effect is going to be a softening of the photo but we are going to deal with this under sharpening. You can choose to bring some of the color detail backin, but I usually find it to be ok without adjusting this setting.

2) Luminance noise is the grain you see in box 2. I prefer holding the ALT key down, while sliding my sliders, this will make a temporary “mask” over your photo, making it much easier to see when noise is taken away.

I am pleased with the final result


Even though it doesn’t matter that I am doing noise reduction before sharpening, I still like to do things in this order. The reason is that if I sharpen first and then remove noise it is going to be much harder to see what noise is actually introduced by sharpening and what comes from the picture.

Sharpening in Camera Raw works much the same way as Unsharp Mask in PS, only you have much more control.

I start out by using masking. Masking is really selecting what you want the sharpening effect to hit. Press the ALT key again while moving this slider, everything white is going to be affected and everything black is going to be left alone.

Now that I set my mask so it hits the exact areas that I want, I am going to move on with the detail slider. By setting Detail all the way to the right (a setting of 100), Camera Raw’s sharpening will be similar to Unsharp Mask, if not exactly the same, then very similar. Moving Detail to the left does a halo dampening on the sharpening. Moving it all the way to the left will almost completely pin the sharpening edge halo. I recommend holding the ALT key down while adjusting the detail slider. Crank it up just before luminosity noise starts to reintroduced.

Next is the radius which defines how many pixels on either side of an “edge” the sharpening will be applied.. it ranges from 0 to 3. By holding the ALT key again it makes it very visible when luminosity noise starts to be introduced. A clear sign of having set the radius to high is halos appearing.

Next we want to give the sharpening effect some punch, and we can be really drastic about it, because the previous settings we made secures that we only make adjustments to the areas intended.

The before and after effects is really noticeable

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