Nik Software Sharpener Pro Tips

Tips on Nik Software Sharpener Pro 3

Hello Raw shooters,

In June we had lots of fun selecting the right template, colors, contents, and photos for our new website. Believe me, all those choices were not easy! Thanks for all the help and suggestions that we received from our customers. I am very excited to see the new website and will let you know as soon as it goes live.  We look forward to having you check it out and let us know what you think about our new home!

I taught two workshops in June, as well.  I always enjoy these hands-on photography classes. Here are some photos from our outdoor Flash workshop. It was a very sunny, bright day. The fun part started when we made the bright day look dark by overpowering the ambient light with our flashes. It was enjoyable learning for everyone.

For the past few months I’ve been discussing different Nik Software plug-ins, covering the most popular ones. This month I am going to show you another very useful plug-in which has not received enough reviews about its importance.


Nik Software Sharpener Pro 3 review:

I know many photographers would say Photoshop can do sharpening with different tools including “Unsharp Mask” for free, so why spend money for a sharpening plug-in? Let’s look at some reasons why you should consider using this powerful plug-in.

Being a perfectionist, I always want to get the best possible results for my clients. When it comes to sharpening I had to do the math for Radius and Threshold to get the right setting in Photoshop’s Sharpening Filter, and the setting varies from image to image, from printer to printer, and even from the display used and print copy. So you can imagine how time consuming it can be. When I started to use Sharpen Pro 3, it was just a heaven sent plug-in for me. I can achieve the best sharpening in no time and be 100% sure of the final results.

First let me introduce this nice filter to you:

Nik Software Sharpener Pro 3.0 is the most advanced and powerful sharpening solution for photographers. Sharpener Pro 3.0 eliminates the guesswork typically required for achieving superior printed results while providing the most control possible.


Sharpener Pro 3.0 is a new generation of digital sharpening tools for photographers, featuring on-image editing with U Point® powered control points, creative sharpening tools, as well as the most advanced algorithms designed specifically for sharpening digital photographs.

Nik Software Sharpener Pro 3.0 is designed to provide the most advanced and intuitive sharpening solutions for digital photographs. Sharpener Pro 3.0 offers two filters to enhance and sharpen your images quickly, easily, and with high quality, repeatable results: the RAW Pre-sharpener filter and the Output Sharpener filter.

RAW Pre-sharpener

RAW pre-sharpening is the first step of a two-step sharpening process that some photographers have found can provide better quality in some images than a typical single-step sharpening process. When working in a two-step sharpening process, some small amount of sharpening is applied immediately after converting a RAW file, while a second, more aggressive amount of sharpening is applied directly before output. If you plan to utilize only a single sharpening step, only apply the Output Sharpener to your images.

The RAW Pre-sharpener filter should be used immediately after processing a RAW file and after any noise reduction has been applied. When using the RAW Pre-sharpener filter, ensure that sharpening has been turned off in your RAW conversion tool.

Output Sharpener

The Sharpener Pro 3.0 Output Sharpener filter is designed to sharpen based on the loss of detail caused through different output methods, eliminating guesswork normally associated with sharpening for output. The highest quality sharpening and the power to selectively apply the sharpening with the use of U Point powered control points or color ranges make the Out- put Sharpener filter the professional’s choice for sharpening their images for output.

In addition to the U Point powered control points, the Output Sharpener filter also offers new controls for creatively sharpening images to enhance fine details and textures.

The Output Sharpener filter should be used as the very last step in the workflow, after any cropping or resizing. Use the Output Sharpener filter to prepare your file for the output device of your choice.

Selection Control Points in RAW Pre-sharpener

The U Point powered control points in the RAW Pre-sharpener allow you to selectively apply or remove the sharpening effects from objects and areas in your photographs without any complicated selections or layers masks.

For more information about Selection Control Points in the RAW Pre-sharpener filter, please see the Sharpener Pro 3.0 User Guide.

Add Control Point

Click this button to change the mouse cursor and enable you to add a control point to the image. After selecting this button, click on the object or area in the image to adjust using a control point. After placing the control point on the image, you may control the sharpening or apply creative sharpening to the object or area selected using the controls provided.

Sharpening Control Point Controls

Each sharpening control point has five sliders:

• The top slider, Size, adjusts the control point’s size or reach.

• The second slider, Output Sharpening Strength, adjusts the strength of the output sharpening effect of the object or area.

•The Structure, Local Contrast, and Focus sliders will apply creative sharpening to the selected object or area.

Structure — Controls the fine details and textures within the image. Increasing this slider emphasizes fine details throughout the image while decreasing this slider reduces the appearance of fine details for smoother surfaces.

Local Contrast — Controls local contrast throughout the entire image. Increasing this slider will increase the edges of small objects throughout the image while decreasing this slider will lower the contrast of edges, applying a diffusing effect.

Focus — Controls the adaptive sharpening of fine image details and large areas of the image. Increasing this slider will increase the overall strength of the adaptive sharpening and decreasing this slider will decrease the adaptive sharpening, applying a slight blurring effect to the image.

By tweaking these sliders you can control the effect of your sharpening in a relatively powerful but still easy to use way.

Sharpener Pro 3.0 Sharpening Workflow

Select the filter to apply to the image from the Filter menu or the Selective Tool.

1. Adjust the filter controls.

2. Use U Point powered control points, to selectively apply or control the sharpening effect if desired.

Review the image in the Loupe.

Apply the filter.


Now let’s take a closer look at Sharpener Pro 3


After editing an image, we will often resize it for printing at a particular size. At this stage many people print their images without considering the optimum sharpness of the print. However, printing is a process that inherently loses image detail. This varies with printing technology and paper types.

By applying sharpening to an image you are trying to give the greatest-impression-of sharpness and detail.

The amount (and type) of sharpening required depends on many factors, such as the size of the print, the type of image, the particular printer, and your personal taste.  Sharpening can even vary across different areas of a print.


In this part I just focus on output sharpening. In the right hand side panel you can find the presets for all common outputs. The unique algorithm of Nik Software takes care of the sharpening so you don’t have to do the math. I found the default setting usually works very well for me but you can change the setting and save it for future use.  Here is a description of each of them.



– Sharpens for display devices such as monitors and projectors.

And here is the close up of before and after for this powerful tool.


Continuous Tone

– Sharpens for continuous tone printers such as prints found at photographic labs using silver-halide based papers and dye-sublimation printers.

And here is the before and after for this setting.


– Sharpens for halftone printers such as large web or sheet-fed presses.

Before and after effects for halftone:


– Sharpens for inkjet printers such as Canon, Epson, and HP.

A closer look at before and after for inkjet sharpening:

Hybrid Device

– Sharpens for printers that use a hybrid of inkjet and halftone screening techniques.

The close-up examples for a hybrid device:

In most cases the default setting works just fine for me.  I can send the images to the printer and rest assured that the final output is sharp and nice.But there are times when I want to change the look of the photo. Here comes the power of U Point. In this example my camera created a very sharp image, I have a nice controlled depth of field and good contrast. Now I want to change the look of the photo by just using Sharpener Pro 3.

Printing with Sharpener Pro 3

Printing with Sharpening Pro 3 is very easy and usually the default setting works very well for me. In this example I prepared a photo to be printed on Canvas and I am going to use a Canon printer.

First step is selecting your printer, which in this case is Inkjet, next I selected the paper type (Canvas), and then the printer Resolution. I always keep the viewing distance on Auto.


And here is the file ready to be printed. But I want to modify the image a little more. So I added two Control points in the image and reduced the Structure to create a sharper look to select areas of my photo.

That’s all! The job is done in no time and there is no need for guess work. I am sure my photo has its optimum sharpness and I won’t have to reprint it. Now if I want to use the same image on a website all I have to do is open the original image and set output to display, and the sharpness will enhance my print for screen viewing.

You can even brush the sharpening onto your images, which is very useful in many different types of photography.

I could keep going on and on about this great plug-in, but I think you know enough to give it a closer look and try it for yourselves. As always, if you have questions, just send us an email and we’ll be happy to answer your inquiries.

Have a great month of July and we’ll see you back here in August.

Ted and Omnilargess Team


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