Lightroom Enhance Details – it’s the latest “big upgrade” announcement from Adobe. Have you read about it?

Adobe announced Lightroom’s Enhance Details on February 12. Their announcement said:

“Applying Enhance Details to your photos can greatly improve fine detail rendering, improve the reproduction of fine colors….”

Sounds nice, right. But y’all, installing this upgrade and running this edit has been a big waste of time. I hope this article saves you the bother.

Lightroom Enhance Details – What Is It?

Enhance Details is a new demosaicing process for Raw photos. To oversimplify a bit, demosaicing is the process of converting red, green, and blue pixels into a photo that looks similar to the subject of the photo. Techno-geeks can read more here.

Adobe says that Enhance Details

takes a brand new approach to demosaicing raw photos. Demosaicing is an integral process to raw processing and works at the pixel level, converting the information captured by a camera into something that looks like the photos we all expect to see.”

As you read above, Enhance Details only works on Raw photos, so, if you shoot JPG only, don’t bother!

Curious about why this upgrade annoyed me so much?

Lightroom Enhance Details – Install the Upgrade

First off, this upgrade to Lightroom requires macOS High Sierra (version 10.13) or later. High Sierra came out in late 2017. I avoid upgrading my OS for as long as I can because my computer is older and OS upgrades tend to slow down old hardware.

For PCs, you have to be running the Windows 10 October 2018 update. 

What this means is that if you want to upgrade Lightroom at any point in the future, your OS needs to be pretty new.

So after updating my OS, which was a 30-minute process, I updated Lightroom. Using the Creative Cloud interface, updating Lightroom was quick and easy using Adobe’s Creative Cloud.

Lightroom Enhance Details: How to Use

If it were only the OS upgrade that was a pain, I would have been annoyed and then forgotten about it pretty quickly.

But in order to use Enhance Details, first you have to find it, and then you have to be patient.

Enhance Details lives in the Photo menu.

lightroom enhance details

The Photo menu?! When was the last time you used a menu in Lightroom? The beauty of Lightroom is that you can reach any edit you need on the Develop panel. That’s one reason why editing in Lightroom is more elegant and efficient than editing in Photoshop.

Next, after you find the Enhance Details, you’ll see something like this:

lightroom enhance details

You can click on the preview window to toggle the edit off and on, so that you can see the before and after effect.

Which I did, several times, and struggled to see a difference.

I clicked the Enhance button to see if maybe the difference would be more visible if I let the entire image process. And this is what I saw.

lightroom enhance details3 minutes 58 seconds later (which is better than 8 minutes!) Lightroom gave me a new file. Enhance Details creates a new DNG that sits next to your original Raw photo. So you are doubling the storage space required for this photo.

And still, I couldn’t see a difference between the two versions of the photo. I opened them in Photoshop and had to zoom into the pixel level to find a difference. Here’s a GIF showing you the same areas with and without the edits:

lightroom enhance details

The area under the circle does look better in the Enhanced version. It seems that Enhance Details takes the edges of objects and darkens or saturates them so that the edges blend in better with the body. That’s my best guess anyway.

But look under the arrow where the photo is showing dark blue chromatic aberration. It’s worse in the Enhanced version. It’s worse, probably, because Lightroom is reading the chromatic aberration as a detail of the photo that should be there and should be enhanced?

I haven’t seen Adobe offer guidance yet at which point in the workflow to run this edit. Presumably, you should run it after you remove chromatic aberration, but what about sharpening, dehaze, or clarity? I just don’t know.

I used Enhance Details on several different types of photos and had the same results. There were spots where you could see an improvement by zooming in, but none where Enhance Details made any improvements significant enough to see at a regular zoom level.

Well, I had the same results except on the photos that crashed Lightroom when I tried to enhance their details. 🙄 As I said, my computer is older. But there is nothing else that doesn’t run well and quickly on it – I use Photoshop all the time and edit videos without a problem. If any of you have Lightroom on a newer system, I’d love to hear about your experience with this edit – processing times, system crashes, etc.

Personally, I’m done with Enhance Details. The minor improvement is not worth the crashes, the file duplication, and the processing delays. Not for my photos, anyway. I can only assume that Adobe doesn’t intend for users to run this edit on every photo – they gave us the newest technology in its toddlerhood and I feel sure it will work better eventually!

One thing I am thrilled about is that Adobe didn’t choose to put this technology in its behind-the-scenes demosaicing process. It’s processing time would be prohibitive if it were applied as we imported photos.

Who will Enhance Details help?

Enhance Details could possibly be helpful for people who regularly enlarge their photos to 24×36. Or maybe billboard size? I think it would work best on landscape or architecture photos – photos taken outside with a range of lighting from bright brights to dark shadows. And photos that have edges that need to be as clear as possible.

Also, Adobe says that this new processing option could “resolve issues that some customers reported with their Fujifilm X-Trans based cameras.” If you have one of those cameras, it might be worth it to upgrade Lightroom. If you don’t, don’t go through the hoops necessary to use this edit.

Lightroom Enhance Details – What a Pain!