Knowing how to sharpen your drone photos is a key weapon in your ninja arsenal. We just don’t have as much detail and information that you would have in a professional camera. So we have to know how to extract all that precious data from your images, without making them look mushy washy or just over sharpened.
You can download the JPG sharpened with Photoshop and Lightroom Photoshop and Lightroom final images.
In the video, I’m showing you two techniques, how to do it properly in Lightroom and how to do it like a pro in Photoshop. If you can’t be bothered to watch it (can’t blame you really, with that thick French accent), here is the low-down:
Sharpening in Lightroom couldn’t be simpler:
‘Amount’ is how much sharpening you apply, ‘radius’ is the size of the sharpening area around the edges.
I always start with amount, which with drone images, need to be quite high. Usually between 80 and 120, sometimes even all the way!
Then on to Radius. Again I normally go as far right as possible until it starts looking bad, then come back slowly to where it looks right. Always be on the look ut for noise and halo, specially on separation mountain / sky. In the below photo, you can start seeing the line between the two getting far too thick.
A good way to see if you are overdoing it is to press and hold alt / option while you move the cursor.
You want to be able to see the lines, but just about. This is ok:
This is not ok, the lines are far too thick and it means you are over sharpening.
In this example, I went to a radius of 1.5 to get the line under control.
Then on to detail.
Do the same technique holding alt. This is ok, you can see some fine details, it’s ok if it looks a bit too much, we’ll deal with it later.
But this is much too far, we are introducing too much noise to the image, which won’t look good.
I ended up using 10 in for detail. (this is the one where you can really go wrong really quickly here, never go over 20).
Then the most important part. Masking! Masking means you can only apply the sharpening to the edges of the photo. For example, you don’t want to apply sharpening on the sky or the mountain in the background. There is nothing to sharpen there, and all it will do is create some noise.
So still holding Alt, lets see what happens:
At about 20, the sharpening is not applied to the sky (the black part), but everywhere else.
At 40, it isn’t applied to the sky, mountain, and some part of the houses.
At 60, it’s starting to look perfect, it’s not applied to the sky, mountains, and not as much on the trees, which will make it look much more natural.
And this is it. Each picture is different and will require different settings, but by following this method, holding Alt, you should be able to quickly see how much sharpening you get away with, without oversharpening it.
Here’s the before / after, it’s quite shocking how blury the orginal looks compared to the sharpened one.
But sharpening in Lightroom is quickly limited. I wish I could apply more sharpening to the central part of the image without getting that halo effect on the mountain but can’t have one without the other.
There is another option in Photoshop that makes sharpening much more powerful and equally easy. It’s the Smart Sharpen filter, which can be found here:
It will open a new window with some new parameters, similar to Lightroom.
Now the first thing you want to do is to extend that small box until it covers the entire screen.
Now you can start applying the sharpening. It’s a pretty heavy plug in and requires a lot of processor, so you have to wait a bit each time you move things around. Unfortunately, there is no way to see the black and white version like in Lightroom but the beauty of this box is that every time you click and hold on the picture, you see the before. Release and you see it with the sharpening applied to it, which makes it really easy to use.
Now don’t be afraid to go quite high. As we said, drone images don’t have as much details in them as normal cameras, so you need to really push the sharpenin sometimes.
In this example, I ended up with ‘amount’ at 350 and radius at 3.8. I don’t generally add too much noise reduction within this box.
The image is perfectly sharpened, the trees look great, and most importantly, there is no halo on the mountain. If we wanted we could just apply the sharpening to the houses in the centre of the image by applying a layer mask, but I think it works well in this case. If you think this is too much, just reduce the opacity of the layer.
So there you have it, this is how I sharpen my images. Lightroom is great for quick sharpening, but for most landscape photography, I will use Photoshop smart sharpen because it’s so much more powerful and you have more control on to where and how much you apply to your image.
Please let me know your thoughts and don’t hesitate if you have any questions.