Technically, perhaps the most trying issue with digital photography is achieving adequate sharpness in our pictures. This item is not a review of this big subject but a note about somethings you may wish to explore for yourselves.

Firstly, something for all cameras. I have Michael Frye’s book on using Lightroom in Landscape photography and I find him of good judgement about quality. The other day he blogged about a new piece of software (PICCURE+) for sharpening and it is worth looking at . You will notice that the results are worthwhile are not out-of-this-world, you will never, never be able to get detail which is simply not there in the first place – all you can do is improve the deception! Duncan Fawkes is trialling this software too and I’ll keep you up-dated on it. Meanwhile, a trial version is available free of charge.

Some of us are particularly interested in Fujifilm X processing and recently Ian McNab passed on an successful idea which came from Peter Bridgewood* about using the Detail slider in Lightroom to improve sharpness in X trans raw files. We are now moving on with this issue. Part of the problem is the interpretation of the raw file in the first place since Fuji X sensors have a less regular pattern of colour sensitivity (to overcome Moiré pattern problems)  and this seems to have defeated Adobe somewhat; Lightroom and Photoshop are not getting the very best out of the raw files. People recognise, however,  that Lr and Ps offer such advantages in every other aspect of processing that they are happy to continue using them as the backbone of their workflow. Ian has now been looking at using an alternative raw converter and has had a lot of success with Iridient Developer. There is a tendency for a rather “water colour effect” in the softer areas of Fuji files and Iridient seems noticeably better at dealing with this. Unfortuneately for we poor Windows folk Iridient is only available for Apple machines! There is other software on the market though – such as Capture One – and if you try any of these please let us know the outcome.

Peter Bridgewood has looked at Lightroom CC with regard to processing Fuji files and it seems there is nothing new on interpretation but there are a number of changes which definitely help (plus at least one piece of advice about noise control).

I am looking at image enlargement and re-sizing as a way to improve image appearance and will pass on my findings when I have some positive advice.

As I have said there is no substitute for lens quality but we can improve sharpness in many ways; I am thinking of avoiding camera shake, choosing lens aperture carefully, getting the exposure right, focussing correctly, things we can discuss during our meetings.

Perhaps the best advice is to not overdo the processing – over-sharpening is always easy to see, giving a harsh, unpleasant look with artefacts such as “haloes” round edges – all far worse than a soft image was in the first place! Some guidelines: Doug Chinnery recommends only taking the Clarity (not a sharpening tool but contributing to harshness if over-used) slider up to 20 on colour pictures, with the radius below 1.0 in the Detail panel. A good tip came from  Ian Whiston – apply sharpening, but at the slightest sign of an “effect”, back off. Remember too that selective sharpening may suit your image.

Peter Bridgewood has looked at Lightroom CC with regard to processing Fuji files and this new version offers a number of changes which definitely help.

*In case you missed it the advice was to turn the Detail slider up to 100, especially on high-ISO pictures. It works but don’t expect miracles!