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How to Sharpen Photos in Lightroom

Getting your photos razor sharp doesn't always require external tools - did you know you can do it from within Lightroom? Here's how.

Do you want to know how to use Lightroom to sharpen your blurry photos?

There are many reasons why a photo may be blurry.

One of the main reasons is that your image has a soft focus due to the quality of the lens or the lighting conditions.

This type of photo is very easy to sharpen in Lightroom.

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Another common issue is that you placed the focal point in the wrong place or that the depth of field isn’t deep enough.

When this happens, the sharpest part of the picture isn’t necessarily the main subject.

It may be that’s only part of your subject that’s sharp but the rest is blurry.

Another problem you can improve by sharpening an image is if the shutter speed isn’t fast enough.

This will capture your motion if you’re shooting handheld or the subject’s movement.

As a result, the image looks blurry. While the sharpening won’t totally solve the problem, you’ll definitely get a clearer picture.

So, if you’re facing any of these issues and you want to fix them in Lightroom, here’s how to do it.

How to Sharpen Photos in Lightroom


Adobe Lightroom has a powerful sharpening tool that can help you remove or diminish blur on your images.

It also has additional sharpening tools that may be useful in your post-processing process.

These tools are available in Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC.

Remember that Lightroom CC is available on desktop, web, and mobile.

You can use the sharpening controls in the free version of Lightroom mobile too.

Step 1

To sharpen blurry images in Lightroom, you should start with the Sharpening tool.

That’s because you’ll have more control over the sharpening effect. This is because there are four sliders in this tool – here’s what they do.

Amount slider / Sharpening slider – This is the only slider that has different names in Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC.

In LRc it’s called Amount, and in LR is called Sharpening.

It does, however, do the same thing regardless of the name. The Amount slider controls the amount of sharpening applied to the image.

Radius slider – As you know, to sharpen an image, Lightroom increases the contrast on the edges.

The Radius slider controls how thick or thin is the edge.

Detail slider – The Detail slider controls the sharpening amount applied to the details of the photo.

Masking slider – All the other sliders work on the entire image.

If this causes over-sharpening on a specific area, the Masking slider helps you to remove the sharpening effect from those areas while the main subject remains sharp.

So, start by moving the Sharpness slider to the right. You’ll see an automatic sharpening effect.

Sometimes, this is all you need to sharpen images. That’s why in Lightroom CC is the only one you see immediately.

If it’s not perfect, you can use the Radius and Detail sliders to fine-tune the effect.

Next, use the Masking slider to bring back the smoothness in the areas where you don’t need sharpening.

Step 2

If you’re not yet satisfied with the sharpening, Clarity is another tool that gives a sharpening effect.

The Clarity slider works on the contrast of the mid-tones of your photo.

So, if you need to sharpen images where there aren’t many dark and light tones – using Clarity can be helpful.

Simply drag the slider to the right.

You can find the Clarity tool in the Presence section of the Edit panel on the Develop Module in Lightroom Classic.

If you work in Lightroom CC, the Clarity slider is in the Effects section of the Edit panel.

Step 3

One of the reasons for sharpening images is to highlight or enhance a texture. If this is your goal, you should also use the Texture slider.

Texture is used to enhance the mid-size details of your image resulting in a sharpened image. It will preserve the small details of the original photo.

You’ll find the Texture feature in the same section as Clarity.

Step 4

Sometimes the original image has soft focus because there was haze or because there’s glare. In these situations, the Dehaze slider can be useful to improve the sharpening.

Just like the others, you simply have to drag the slider to the right.

Step 5

Sharp images are great, but overly sharp images are not. It’s very easy to go overboard with the sharpening settings in Lightroom.

You know that you’ve gone too far if you have too much noise even in the light and smooth areas of the picture.

Also, if the straight lines become zigzag lines and circular shapes might get cubic transitions.

There are a few things you can do to prevent and fix these artifacts.

Denoise – to deal with the extra noise produced by sharpening you can use the Denoise tool.

Of course, this will blur your image again, so be careful. To find the right balance, I find it useful to drag it to the maximum value and then slowly turn it back.

Zoom – another check you should do is to see your image at 100%. This is because you might not notice the extra sharpening in the large details of the normal view.

Once you zoom in, you’ll likely see if there are any over-sharpening issues. You can use the Navigator panel to move around.

Sharpening Mask – Lastly, you can press the Alt key on Windows or the Option key in Mac when you move the Radius, Detail, and Masking sliders. This enables the Sharpening Mask so that you can appreciate better the effect.

Step 6

If you want to export your image, you’ll find the option Output Sharpening in the Export window. If you’re exporting at the original size, you don’t have to tick this box.

Instead, if you’re exporting a smaller size, it’s recommended to enable this option. You can set it to ‘Sharpen for Screen / Amount Standard.’

How To Do Selective Sharpening in Lightroom?


The Masking slider is an automatic way to protect certain areas when you apply sharpening.

If you want to have more control and decide where you want to sharpen your photos, you need to use the Masking tool.

Once you click on the Masking tool, you’ll be able to create a New Mask using any of the selection tools available.

The smart options let you select the subject, sky, background, or objects with just one click. Otherwise, you can use the brush or the gradients.

In the Mask, everything that’s selected will appear with a red overlay by default.

You can disable the overlay if you want, but I find it useful.

Now, you can use any of the tools to sharpen your image and the result will only be visible in the areas inside the selection.

You can further refine the area you’re sharpening by overlapping multiple masks.

Where is the Sharpen tool in Lightroom?

Let’s see where you can find the Sharpening tool in the different versions of Lightroom.

Lightroom Classic

Once you’ve imported your photos into the Lightroom Library, move on to the Develop Module by clicking on its tab.

On the right side of the screen, you’ll find the editing panels. Find the Detail panel and click on the small arrow next to it to display its tools.

The first thing you’ll find in the Detail panel is the Sharpening section. Here, you’ll find the four sharpening controls  – Amount, Radius, Detail, and Masking.

Lightroom CC

When you open an image on Lightroom CC, you have a toolbar on the right side of the screen. Click on the second icon which looks like a set of sliders to open the Edit panel.

Now, click on the arrow to the left of the word Detail to open the Detail panel. Here, you’ll see three sliders – the first one is Sharpening.

The Sharpening slider controls the intensity of the sharpening effect. Simply drag the slider to the right to eliminate the blur. If it’s too much sharpening, simply drag it back to the left.

If you want to access the additional sharpening controls, click on the arrow on the right of the slider. This will reveal the other three sliders – Radius, Detail, and Masking.

If you haven’t moved the Sharpening slider yet, the additional sliders will be disabled (greyed out). Once you move the Sharpening slider to the right, the other sliders will be enabled.

Lightroom Mobile

Open the blurry photo on the Lightroom app on your phone. It doesn’t matter if you only have the free version, these tools aren’t blocked.

So, once you launch Lightroom, it will open the catalog of All photos. Here, tap the photo you want and it will open in the Edit workspace.

At the bottom of the screen, there’s a menu bar – scroll it until you find Detail. It has a triangle icon. When you tap on it, the sliders pop up.

Here, you have the Sharpening slider on top, the Radius, Detail, and Masking slider. Afterwards, there’s the Noise Reduction tool.

Remember that Lightroom mobile is a version of Lightroom CC. So, everything works in the same way as it does in the web and desktop versions.

Shotkit Writer & Camera Gear Reviewer

Ana Mireles is a Mexican researcher that specializes in photography and communications for the arts and culture sector.

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