If you use Aperture or Lightroom, it’s so easy to export pictures at specific sizes for web use or emailing that you probably don’t give the settings a second thought. But in order to reduce your pictures to the required size, your software has to carry out a resampling process that can leave fine details softer than they need to be. That’s why you need to be aware of any sharpen on export settings you can apply.

To test this out I’ve exported the same picture from Aperture and Lightroom using a variety of settings that have revealed bigger differences than even I was expecting. If you want your pictures to look their best online or when you share them with friends or clients, you may want to look at these results. I’ve used a TIFF image, by the way, to rule out any variations in the way these two programs render RAW files.

01 Aperture exports

Aperture and Lightroom export sharpening

Aperture does not apply any sharpening on export. Or, if it does, it’s buried somewhere in the resampling process, and there are no sharpening options in the Image Export dialog. You can choose the export dimensions, but that’s the extent of your control.

Aperture and Lightroom export sharpening

This is my sample image exported at a height of 1024 pixels – I’ll use this size for all the other exports in this comparison. I’ve blown up a section of the image so you can see the detail at 100% magnification (you can click on the image above and all the rest to see a full-size version). The fine detail looks all right, but maybe that’s because I don’t know what to expect and I’ve nothing to compare it with yet…

02 Lightroom exports

Aperture and Lightroom export sharpening

Lightroom’s Export panel does have a sharpening option, which I’ve circled in this screenshot. The options are confined to a simple drop-down menu, but the settings are at least (I assume) optimised for the final output size.

03 Lightroom no sharpening

Aperture and Lightroom export sharpening

Here’s my image exported from Lightroom with the sharpening option disabled. It doesn’t look too bad, but I think the Aperture version is very slightly sharper, so I’m sure there’s more to come.