Sharpening is probably the method most photographers use to make detail more visible in their image. And while we often think of this as something to do in the post-processing stage, sharpening can also be applied in-camera. So how do you decide between in-camera sharpening vs post-processing?
Like everything, there are pros and cons to in-camera sharpening and post-processing sharpening techniques.
If speed is your goal, in-camera sharpening is far easier than using photo editing software on your computer for the simple reason that your camera takes on all of the work.
All you need to do is navigate to the feature in your camera’s menu system and decide how much in-camera sharpening to apply before you take the shot.
How do you know how much in-camera sharpening to apply?
Typically, cameras will offer in-camera sharpening settings at high, medium and low levels.
Medium is normally the default standard, and this is what we’d recommend for your everyday photography.
However, the high setting can be very useful when there are lots of fine details in a scene that you want to enhance. For instance, elaborate stone façade on a medieval cathedra, or the patterns and textures in a feather.
Watch out for areas or edges of high contrast, though. When these areas are sharpened there is a fine line before they start to look over-sharpened and develop halos.
Why sharpening on the computer is better
While in-camera is easier, we find that post-capture sharpening is the better option overall because you have more control.
And with more control you can fine tune and adjust the sharpening to better suit each subject in your images.
For the best results, apply sharpening selectively to the areas in an image where it’s needed. You won’t want to apply sharpening to even-tone areas, such as the sky, because you’ll begin to introduce artefacts and distortion.
Don’t be daunted, though, if you’re not a Photoshop wiz. There are plenty of software packages out there specifically designed to apply sharpening selectively.
But if you don’t want to go down that niche route, selective sharpening can be done with any image editing software that supports layers.