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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre General Photography Talk 
Thread started 30 Jul 2012 (Monday) 03:52
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Sharpness: overrated?

 
armis
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Jul 30, 2012 03:52 |  #1

My education on photography has been mostly through books and online photo critique. In both places, the first and main reaction to any blurry photo is going to be to point out that it's blurry. Whether it's a case of out of focus or slow shutter speed, there's no redemption for that picture, and so I've taken the habit of deleting in the camera, before I even get home, all the blurry shots.

I took a pictures during a trip last month, and when you zoom in it looks sharp enough. Maybe not tack-sharp, which that particular lens is capable of, but still very much not botched. When you zoom out though, strangely, it looks a little less sharp - I'm not sure why. There are a lot of things to comment on in that picture, from color juxtaposition to framing to the contrast between the subject and the background, and I'm sure there are a lot of things I could/should have done better. Why, then, are all the comments only about the sharpness? (not on PotN, by the way)

As I try to educate myself by taking in the work of others, I'm starting to wonder if sharpness really is all that. I bought a book recently by a famous photographer; I knew his signature shots, the ones that made the cover of NatGeo and Time and what-not, and those, of course, are sharp. But then, in that rather thick book, there are also a bunch of pictures that are clearly our of focus. Not always by a lot, and to be fair some of those are from quite a while ago when we didn't have all the focus assists that we have now, but still.

A recent exhibition of Elliot Erwitt's work struck me in that most of his pictures fail to respect some of the basic tenets of what I learnt. Rule of thirds? Meh. Sharpness? Meh. He couldn't even be bothered to level his horizons. Yet he's still one of the greats. I could go on with Cartier-Bresson or Robert Capa and, I'm sure, a bunch of others I haven't got to yet.

The point is: the great photographers seem to have plenty of keeper shots that are not sharp - some even outright out of focus. I'm no great photographer, but is it wrong then that the first thing I do after taking a picture is to zoom in and delete if it's not sharp enough on the screen? In other words, in this modern world we live in where it is, perhaps, comparatively easy to get focus and shutter speed right, can a picture with slight misfocus or involuntary motion blur still be a good photo?


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skygod44
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Jul 30, 2012 04:36 |  #2

armis wrote in post #14789103 (external link)
My education on photography has been mostly through books and online photo critique. In both places, the first and main reaction to any blurry photo is going to be to point out that it's blurry. Whether it's a case of out of focus or slow shutter speed, there's no redemption for that picture, and so I've taken the habit of deleting in the camera, before I even get home, all the blurry shots.

I took a pictures during a trip last month, and when you zoom in it looks sharp enough. Maybe not tack-sharp, which that particular lens is capable of, but still very much not botched. When you zoom out though, strangely, it looks a little less sharp - I'm not sure why. There are a lot of things to comment on in that picture, from color juxtaposition to framing to the contrast between the subject and the background, and I'm sure there are a lot of things I could/should have done better. Why, then, are all the comments only about the sharpness? (not on PotN, by the way)

As I try to educate myself by taking in the work of others, I'm starting to wonder if sharpness really is all that. I bought a book recently by a famous photographer; I knew his signature shots, the ones that made the cover of NatGeo and Time and what-not, and those, of course, are sharp. But then, in that rather thick book, there are also a bunch of pictures that are clearly our of focus. Not always by a lot, and to be fair some of those are from quite a while ago when we didn't have all the focus assists that we have now, but still.

A recent exhibition of Elliot Erwitt's work struck me in that most of his pictures fail to respect some of the basic tenets of what I learnt. Rule of thirds? Meh. Sharpness? Meh. He couldn't even be bothered to level his horizons. Yet he's still one of the greats. I could go on with Cartier-Bresson or Robert Capa and, I'm sure, a bunch of others I haven't got to yet.

The point is: the great photographers seem to have plenty of keeper shots that are not sharp - some even outright out of focus. I'm no great photographer, but is it wrong then that the first thing I do after taking a picture is to zoom in and delete if it's not sharp enough on the screen? In other words, in this modern world we live in where it is, perhaps, comparatively easy to get focus and shutter speed right, can a picture with slight misfocus or involuntary motion blur still be a good photo?

I've enhanced the really important part!

YES! It's WRONG, WRONG, WRONG to delete shots that seem OOF on screen.

Now, the "why".

1) Storage is cheap - dump those shots all together if you like into an "OOF bucket".

2) Sharpness matters very little if the subject is super-captivating. I can think of dozens of spontaneous, real-world photos of famous people which are OOF, and yet show the character of the person, 1000%!

3) What you see on a computer screen doesn't necessarily match what you'll see if you print!

4) Learn what makes a photo captivating to as many people as possible and you won't need to stress about little details such as sharpness, as much as those who churn out easily replicable dross.

Cheers for now,

Simon
:D


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Phrasikleia
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Jul 30, 2012 04:48 |  #3

It really depends on the photo. Sometimes a photo has the kind of contrast that gives the image enough 'pop,' making less demands on the focus/sharpness. Some photos really need sharpness in a particular place, if the eye is guided to that place very strongly, and if the eye can't lock onto enough detail there, the photo will usually disappoint. Otherwise, a photo can sometimes get away with being a little soft--especially if the forms presented in the photo are soft by nature (e.g. foggy/misty scenes).


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tipidsale
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Jul 30, 2012 04:56 |  #4

@skygod
Number 2 point is spot on,,,, I will keep this in mind myself!




  
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tzalman
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Jul 30, 2012 05:56 |  #5

A 5D2 image at 100% zoom is 56 inches wide. If you make 37 x 56 inch prints and everybody views them at 16 inches distance, you should definitely delete any that aren't perfect.

Edit: The first place Google found making 40x60 prints wanted $90 apiece. So how many do you make each week?


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MikeFairbanks
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Jul 30, 2012 07:01 |  #6

If I dress in nice clothing people say I look sharp.


But, yeah, sharpness is overrated. It really depends on what you shoot. If it's an ad for a watch then yes, it's extremely important. For macro it's essential; same with shooting the moon.


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armis
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Jul 30, 2012 07:11 |  #7

tzalman wrote in post #14789250 (external link)
A 5D2 image at 100% zoom is 56 inches wide. If you make 37 x 56 inch prints and everybody views them at 16 inches distance, you should definitely delete any that aren't perfect.

Well, in my defense when I said "zoom in", it's on the low-ish quality 5D2 backscreen :p. If it looks blurry there, I'm pretty sure it'll be worse on my computer.


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birderman
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Jul 30, 2012 07:54 |  #8

I think the screens on back of cameras are not necessarily the best place for checking quality of an image, they generally tend to be lower resolution and lower colour gamut and not specifically calibrated to show final image quality, they are only a quick and dirty checking device therefore any image disposal should be done with a computer monitor not in camera. I only delete shots in camera that are obviously going to be discarded such as those where the shuttere was pressed accidentally while pointing the camera in some obscure direction like the floor...or shots where the subject was totally missed....


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Jul 30, 2012 08:06 |  #9

armis wrote in post #14789103 (external link)
... the first and main reaction to any blurry photo is going to be to point out that it's blurry. Whether it's a case of out of focus or slow shutter speed, there's no redemption for that picture, ...

Man, you are wrong :] Sure, in most cases sharpness is important, but you should not generalize this aspect. I had plenty photos, that are "bad", if judged by sharpness of some details. But it depends totally on a picture in question. I never had a critique about bluriness, when it was not important or necessary.

Sometimes people critique sharpness only because they want to critique and are very happy, that they saw "oh, that's not sharp enough" thing.


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Jul 30, 2012 09:01 as a reply to  @ olafs osh's post |  #10

Is sharpness overrated? It can be, but not always the case. It depends on the genre, requirements of the end product, etc.

I shoot weddings. My end product is usually either an album or 8-10MP JPEG. As such, while sharpness is important, blood inducing sharpness isn't. If it's sharp enough, well, it's sharp enough.

I agree that capturing the moment should be the priority, however I try not to use that as an excuse for blurry photos.




  
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number ­ six
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Jul 30, 2012 14:45 |  #11

armis wrote in post #14789103 (external link)
I'm no great photographer, but is it wrong then that the first thing I do after taking a picture is to zoom in and delete if it's not sharp enough on the screen?

Check out this post: https://photography-on-the.net …hp?p=14787750&p​ostcount=1

-js


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Jul 30, 2012 22:45 |  #12

Sharpness is just one of the tools we use. Blur is another. I'm guessing that you're going to hate these? ;)

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skygod44
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Jul 31, 2012 01:03 |  #13

Wow.
Speechless.

And this shows exactly why supreme care is needed before deleting from the rear screen, just because a shot seems imperfect!


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Jul 31, 2012 14:36 |  #14

In addition to the many excellent replies above, I wanted to throw my two cents in. You might be amazed at how much sharpness you can add just by running the image through Photoshop and adding a high pass filter adjustment layer (see here http://nyfalls.com …high-pass-sharpening.html (external link) for an example). It won't save a badly out-of-focus or motion blurred image, but it can really help with one that's right on the edge between being marginally sharp and very sharp.


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HappySnapper90
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Jul 31, 2012 20:15 |  #15

Sharpness is way over rated in digital. When people were taking photos with film cameras, 95% of the camera users (non pros) were seeing their photographs by 4" x 6" prints. At that size, slightly out of focus and even slightly blurry photos would look fine. but the extreme enlargement that people put a digital photo through with a 100% pixel view on a computer screen is way over the top for enjoying photos.

The best computer screens only can show 3MP or so at one time so that is how most people should judge focus quality of a photo - viewing the entire image on the screen at one time. In my view, viewing a digital photo any larger than the size of the image sensor (24mm x 36mm for a 35mm (full frame) camera) is an enlargement. Pixels on a computer screen are so much larger than the pixels on the image sensor so it's not really fair to be viewing with such large pixels.




  
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Sharpness: overrated?
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