Correct sharpening is a key part of getting the very best from your images. Over the years I have spent a lot of time trying out new settings and experimenting. Each change of camera has required new settings to get the most out of it. My current #1 camera is a Canon 5DMk3 with a 7D as a backup. I don’t see this line up changing anytime soon. As a landscape ‘tog the 5DMk3 is an ideal too complimented by some “L” glass. Before moving back to Canon I used a Leica M9 with Summarit glass. This set up was as sharp as you are likely to see without any special attention to sharpening, the Canon glass, even their “L” lenses do not quite match up but with correct sharpening they can. So what settings do I use?
Initially I started out using the same settings as for the 7D, which I bought before the 5D and while still using the Leica. I found a good set of settings for different ISO values on David Gold’s website here http://www.phototestcenter.com/html/canon_7d__raw_settings.html. They were not the best settings for the full frame 5D however. More experimenting and testing has led me to the settings below but before actually looking at those remember that clarity is also very important. For those who are not familiar with the difference let me explain that sharpening deals with definition at edges whilst clarity deals with contrast at edges. Some clarity is a good thing and correctly used it really can add extra “pop” to your images, use too high a setting, particularly if the shot is at a high ISO, and the result will be noise caused by the clarity setting trying to magnify contrast between adjoining pixels where none should exist. This can be particularly noticed in shadow areas and blue areas such as the sky.
I use three basic settings; the first is my default import setting for all images from this camera regardless of iso. I rarely shoot at other than 100 or 200 ISO but using these settings am quite happy to shoot at iso 6400 if necessary and the resulting files are accepted by the Stock Photo Libraries I supply so that means they are really clean, noise and artefact free, files!
The following pictures explain the settings I use and the image of barley, which features prominently, I chose because it perfectly illustrates how detail is brought out but the clear blue-sky areas are noise free. If you want to increase clarity in any image I suggest you do as I do and apply it by brush only to the selected areas that need it.
Try these settings out for yourself and if you like them set them up as Lightroom presets and please let me have some feedback!