preview image showing tram in snow

Adobe has been adding machine-learning and AI-powered features to Photoshop and Photoshop Lightroom. In March 2021, Adobe added “Super Resolution“—a way to enhance missing details in lower resolution files. Here’s how to use it.

What Does Super Resolution Do?

example of 4x increase in megapixels
Super Resolution works kind of like digital zoom. Harry Guinness

Super Resolution uses Adobe’s AI platform, Adobe Sensei, to double the horizontal and vertical resolution of an image. It quadruples the number of pixels so, in effect, it takes a 12-megapixel photo and turns it into a 48-megapixel photo.

Super Resolution is an evolution of Enhance Details, another machine learning filter that reduces image artifacts and enhances small details in your RAW photos—without changing the resolution.

In other words, Super Resolution makes the file big—and, if you’re using RAW files, Enhance Details makes sure it looks good. It still, however, works on other file types like JPEG, PNG, and TIFF.

Whatever file type you use, Super Resolution will convert it into a .DNG RAW file.

How to Use Adobe’s Super Resolution

Super Resolution isn’t a Photoshop feature: it’s an Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) feature.

Now, ACR is built into Photoshop and it’s what does all the image processing under the hood in Lightroom, but it’s technically separate which is why finding Super Resolution can be slightly tricky.

How to Open a Photo in Camera RAW

To use Super Resolution, you need to open the image in an ACR-powered editor. There are a few ways to do this:

  • If you use Lightroom, just open any image in your library in the Develop module.
  • If you use Photoshop and want to edit a RAW file, open the file as normal. ACR will open before the regular Photoshop editor.
  • If you use Photoshop and want to edit a non-RAW file, open Adobe Bridge and navigate to the file. Right-click and select “Open in Camera RAW”
Note: As of the time of publication, Lightroom hasn’t been updated to support Super Resolution, however, Adobe says it’s coming very shortly and it is available for Photoshop.

Using Adobe Bridge to open a photo in Adobe Camera RAW.

How to Apply Super Resolution

First, open the image you want to edit in an ACR editor.

An image open in ACR.

Right-click anywhere on the image and select “Enhance”.

Check “Super Resolution” and you can see the effect in the “Preview” box.

If you like it, click “Enhance” and let ACR do its thing. It’ll take a few moments.

Once it’s done, you will have a duplicate file called something like “FileName-Enhanced.dng (2 of 2)” open as well. It will have twice the vertical and horizontal resolution of the original. (Up to 500-megapixels.)

What Is Super Resolution Good For?

Super Resolution uses machine learning to quadruple the resolution of your images better than existing algorithms. You can see some more comparisons on Adobe’s blog post announcing the feature.

However, there are still only a limited number of situations where this is useful. If you’re just uploading images to Instagram and Facebook, for example, it’s unlikely to have any effect. Where Super Resolution shows the most promise is:

  • Up-sizing older images and tightly cropped photos so you can make better prints.
  • Enhancing details in images you need to crop really tightly.

Otherwise, Super Resolution is a cool and interesting application of machine learning—but it’s not something you need to do for every photo you take.

super resolution vs bicubic upsizing
An example Adobe uses to show how much better Super Resolution is. Adobe
Profile Photo for Harry Guinness Harry Guinness
Harry Guinness is a photography expert and writer with nearly a decade of experience. His work has been published in newspapers like The New York Times and on a variety of other websites, from Lifehacker to Popular Science and Medium's OneZero.
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