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Chapter 3. Using Camera Raw > The Detail tab

The Detail tab

The Detail tab contains three controls, Sharpness, Luminance Smoothing, and Color Noise Reduction—see Figure 3-40. Their effect is only visible when you zoom in to 100% view or higher, but it's usually useful to zoom to a higher percentage when working the Luminance Smoothing and Color Noise Reduction controls to really see what's happening.

  • Sharpness. The Sharpness slider lets you apply sharpening either to the preview image only or to both the preview and the converted image—see “Preferences,” earlier in this chapter.

    I usually apply sharpening to the preview image only—it's easier to make decisions about contrast on a reasonably sharp image than on a very soft one, so I set the Sharpness slider to a default of 25 and incorporate that in my Camera Default settings (see “Saving Settings,” later in this chapter). The value isn't set in stone—you may want to choose a higher or lower value based on your camera, your display type andresolution, and your personal taste. The goal is simply to make the preview image reasonably sharp to aid editing decisions. Then I apply more controllable sharpening to the converted image in Photoshop.

    However, if I'm converting a large number of images to JPEGs for review or transmission, and time is of the essence, I'll temporarily switch my Camera Raw Preferences to apply sharpening to the converted image.

  • Luminance Smoothing. Luminance noise shows up as random speckled variations in tone that are usually more prominent at higher ISO speeds than at lower ones. The noise tends to be concentrated in the darker tones; it's much easier to see if you apply some sharpening to the preview image using the Sharpness slider and zoom in as far as you can go.

    If you see luminance noise, simply raise the value of the Luminance Smoothing slider until it goes away. (Unlike many aspects of Camera Raw, this one isn't complicated!) Luminance smoothing does soften the image somewhat, so don't apply more than you need. The default value is zero, but depending on your camera and your shooting style, you may want to increase this value slightly (6-10) and save it as a new camera default if you don't want to check each individual image. Higher ISO speeds, long exposures, or underexposing to hold highlights all tend to increase the luminance noise, so it's worth spending some time analyzing your images to determine a good default value for the Luminance Smoothing slider.

  • Color Noise Reduction. Color noise usually shows up as random magenta and green splotches in dark areas, but with some cameras it can also manifest itself as colored speckles around highlights.

    As with luminance noise, raise the Color Noise Reduction slider value until the color noise disappears—see Figure 3-41. The order in which you apply Luminance Smoothing and Color Noise Reduction isn't critical—I tend to fix the worse of the two problems first. Color Noise Reduction has much less impact on image sharpness than does Luminance Smoothing, so it's fairly safe to leave it at the default value of 25 if you don't want to check each individual image.

    Figure 3-41. Color Noise Reduction

    To check for color noise, zoom all the way into a dark area of the image.

    At 400% view, with the Color Noise Reduction slider set zero, the color noise is clearly visible.

    Increase the value of the Color Noise Reduction slider until the color noise is no longer visible.


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