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Using the Detail tab

Via the Sharpening sliders in the Detail tab, you can adjust the sharpness of your photo (a process called “capture” sharpening), and via the Noise Reduction sliders, you can reduce any unwanted color noise.

To sharpen a photo using the Detail tab:

  1. Click the Detail tab detail_button.jpg A and choose a zoom level of 100%. In the preview, drag to reveal an area of the photo that has some detail (hold down the Spacebar for a temporary Hand tool).


    A These are the Sharpening controls in the Detail tab.

    Note: If the words “Sharpening (Preview Only)” display at the top of the Detail tab, click the Open Preferences Dialog button crw_prefs_icon.jpg in the toolbox. In the Camera Raw Preferences dialog, choose Apply Sharpening To: All Images, then click OK.

  2. Under Sharpening, adjust the Amount value for the degree of edge definition. For subject matter that needs a lot of sharpening, such as hard-edged objects or buildings, try a value of 100; if less sharpening is needed, try a value of 50–60. (For a raw photo, the default Amount value is 25; for a JPEG photo, the default value is 0.)

    • To better evaluate the Amount value via a grayscale preview, Alt-drag/Option-drag the slider.
  3. Use the Radius slider to control how many pixels surrounding each sharpened edge are modified. We keep this value between 1 and 1.3.
  4. Alt-drag/Option-drag the Detail slider slightly to the right to emphasize edge details and textures.
  5. Alt-drag/Option-drag the Masking slider to around 50 to protect low-contrast areas with a black mask, and thereby sharpen only high-contrast areas.

All digital cameras produce some luminance (grayscale) noise and color artifacts (randomly colored pixels). Although budget cameras tend to produce the most noise, it can also be produced by a high-end camera if it’s used with a high ISO (light sensitivity) setting in a poorly lit scene. It’s a good practice to remove as much noise from your photos as possible in Camera Raw, because it can become accentuated by image editing in Photoshop.

As you follow these steps, you’ll discover that after you shift one slider, another slider will need adjusting.

To reduce luminance and color noise using the Detail tab:

  1. With a photo open in Camera Raw (A, next page), click the Detail tab detail_button.jpg and choose a zoom level of 200–300% for the preview.


    Click to view larger image

    A This is a close-up of a photo of a shop window (viewed at a zoom level of 300%), with the Noise Reduction: Luminance and Color sliders in the Detail tab set to 0 (no noise reduction applied). Grayscale noise is evident in the signage, and color artifacts are evident on the poorly lit interior surfaces behind the letters.

  2. To reduce grayscale noise (graininess), increase the Luminance value (B, next page). Try a value between 20 and 70.


    B To remove noise from the letters, we increased the Luminance value to 69, but this also diminished the edge definition.

  3. Increasing the Luminance can cause high-contrast edges in a photo to lose definition. To resharpen edges, raise the Luminance Detail value — but not so much that you reintroduce noise (C, next page).


    Click to view larger image

    C To resharpen the edges of the letters, we increased the Luminance Detail value to 65.

    • To move a different area of the photo into view, hold down the Spacebar and drag.
  4. Raise the Luminance Contrast value to restore some edge contrast. The effect of this slider is most noticeable in photos that contain a lot of noise.
  5. Color artifacts and random speckling tend to be most noticeable in solid-color areas of a photo (e.g., flat surfaces), especially in shadow areas. To reduce these defects in a raw photo, increase the Color value to around 40–50, depending on the subject matter (for a JPEG photo, which has a default Color value of 0, use a lower Color value).
  6. Raising the Color value may lower the intensity of colors in areas of the photo that were poorly lit. To restore some saturation and intensity to those areas, increase the Color Detail value from the default value of 50 to around 75, or just until the color saturation looks good (D, next page).


    Click to view larger image

    D To remove color artifacts from the dark areas, we increased the Color value to 40; this also had the effect of desaturating the colors. To revive the colors and produce the final version of the image (shown at left), we increased the Color Detail value to 60.

  7. To help reduce color mottling and artifacts in dark, low-contrast (low-frequency) areas of the photo, use the Color Smoothness slider.
  8. Lower the zoom level for the preview to judge the overall effect of the Detail settings.
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