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Sharpening JPEGs for the Web

January 4, 2008

I use PhotoKit Sharpener whenever I print, mostly because it does a much better job than I can and, unlike me, is totally automatic. Ever since I started using it my prints have looked terrific, with more resolution than I thought my printer, an Epson R1800, was capable of.

But I never worried about sharpening JPEGs that I posted on the web, figuring that whatever generic sharpening I did in Lightroom was good enough. Nobody can see the difference in a JPEG, I thought.

But I thought wrong. The other day I tried using PK Sharpener (which has a web output option) on a JPEG, and the difference was very apparent, as you can see for yourself in this comparison:


These are two JPEGs placed next to each other on my Mac screen and then captured from the screen and exported as a JPEG for posting here.

Look carefully at the grass at the center of each image. Do you see that the grass on the left has more definition? That's the one that was done with PK Sharpener. The one on the right was sharpened in Lightroom. I suppose it's possible that someone better than I am could do as well in Lightroom, but I doubt it, since the Lightroom sharpening model is much less powerful than what's available in Photoshop.

Now my problem is that I've seen the difference so I want to run all my JPEGs through PK Sharpener, which means running them through Photoshop, which is where PK Sharpener works (it's a plug-in). My workflow has become more complicated: Instead of uploading JPEGs directly from Lightroom, I have to export them as PSDs, open them in Photoshop, run PK Sharpener twice (once for capture sharpening, and once for output sharpening), and then export the sharpened JPEG. For printing going into Photoshop is OK, since I print so few images and want to use Photoshop's soft proofing anyway, but for JPEGs it's a nuisance, even though I put together some actions to make the work in Photoshop automatic.

I did it anyway for the images in my new gallery (link at top), and the difference is readily apparent. There's a clarity and depth to the images that wasn't there before. (This doesn't affect any prints I make from the images in the gallery, because prints are made from the original raws—there's no intermediate JPEG involved.)

It's rumored that the Pixel Geniuses who make PK Sharpener are developing a plug-in for Lightroom, using some plug-in architecture that hasn't yet been released by Adobe. I sure hope so!

Blog Archives

Photography Articles

Raw Conversion: Better Never Than Late April 24, 2008

Scanning in India by Way of California With ScanCafe February 15, 2008

How To Back Up Your Personal Computer January 30, 2008

Every Camera I've Ever Owned January 25, 2008

Sharpening JPEGs for the Web January 4, 2008

Lessons Learned From My Memory Problem December 20, 2007

Hunting Down a Mac Hardware Problem December 20, 2007

Trimming GPS Tracks With GPSTrackViewer November 13, 2007

The World's Shortest Camera Buying Guide September 22, 2007

Transporting and Storing Portable Backup Drives August 26, 2007

"The Luminous Landscape" Teaches Me to Print August 4, 2007

Creating a Google Photo Map (Revised) June 26, 2007

Sony GPS-CS1: Not Good Enough for Geotagging Photos June 24, 2007

Epson P-3000/P-5000 Multimedia Storage Viewer March 10, 2007

Trying Out Infrared January 20, 2007

Stupid Designs Hold Digital Back April 1, 2006


Other, older articles



A small collection of my best photos (click the image). You can order prints, too.


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The 2004 2nd Edition, a so-called "update" of the 1985 book, which turned out, not surprisingly, to be a re-write. Covers Solaris, Linux, FreeBSD, and Darwin (Mac OS X).

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