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Sharpness Overrated?


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Sharpness Overrated?

25 Jun 2008 1:16PM   Views : 482 Unique : 385

A discussion on the forum* and an article in Naturfoto** made me think about the need to have your photographic subject pin sharp. Is that really necessary?

I'm beginning to think it isn't. You might think it is, because in the gallery you may usually expect an immediate reaction from members when you upload an image which is soft, blurred or in any way just not what people expect of it in terms of focus and sharpness. They often just don't like it.

You'll find very few photos with out of focus/unsharp subjects in the galleries. And some of the out of focus or unsharp ones were probably meant to be sharp by the photographer... Wink

But what's wrong with a bit of out of focus photography? It can be very atmospheric. Or dreamy. Arty. Romantic, even. Thinking about it, I have no problems with that.

In fact, I think in some cases it could even work better than the opposite. And still it's an underrated method of taking photos, in my humble opinion. Not just on ephotozine, but in general.

My wife bought a wonderful book on flower photography some years ago, written by Sue Bishop. Sue deals with different ways of shooting flowers, and one of the methods you'll come across when you read it, is to use either very limited depth of field, or to deliberately throw flowers out of focus. Sue Bishop really knows how to take an atmospheric flower shot, especially her abstracts work really well, but it doesn't look like it's a generally accepted thing.

So far I've not been brave or creative enough to adopt her methods myself, but my wife has, and she's come up with some wonderful compositions - which in my opinion, however, are somewhat underrated.

The article I read in Naturfoto was also on flower photography, and the author gave some very interesting and highly creative ideas, and illustrated the article with wonderful images. He sometimes even goes so far as to add a layer with an out of focus subject to the layer where the same subject is in focus! And I'm tempted to give some of his methods a go, maybe experimenting with some variations on his ideas.

So who knows - I may shock some of you with some out of focus images, so be prepared!

EDIT 30th JUNE 2008: I decided to post my own example. You can find it here.

* See the Focus Schmocus! thread.

** A German magazine: I found to my shock and surprise that they don't just publish boring photo mags over there, but also this rather excellent one - well, it had to be, since they had taste enough to publish a shot by our very own joolsb a few months ago.

Tags: Photography Unsharp Out of focus Blur Flowers Books Sue bishop Awards Naturfoto Focus schmocus!


Pete 19 18.8k 97 England
25 Jun 2008 2:03PM
I personally think there's a clear distinction between soft-focus and out of focus. Also some subjects suit blurred effects and some don't.
conrad 16 10.9k 116
25 Jun 2008 3:22PM
As I was away from my computer after posting this entry, and thinking about the point I made and the examples I gave, I also realised the examples were wrong. So - text adapted, note deleted, and examples removed. Quite right, Pete.
dianah 14 24.5k 4 United Kingdom
25 Jun 2008 8:41PM
Hi Conrad,
That was such an interesting blog..many thanks. I have just spent about half an hour reading it and looking at your various examples.

I am now going to spend more time looking at your wifes portfolio as you are right..with the quick few seconds I have given it, she is definitely underrated, some unique and interesting ideas and compositions.

As for jools..many congratulations to him and I really do rate his photography but haven't told him in case it makes his head swell..he pokes too many digs in my direction ! Smile

Many thanks again. I am here tonight because once again it is football but I am glad that I made this discovery !
Di Smile
conrad 16 10.9k 116
25 Jun 2008 8:44PM
Thanks, Di, glad you enjoyed it! Hopefully I'll soon have a few examples of my own to show you!
26 Jun 2008 8:32AM

Quote:to have your photographic subject pin sharp. Is that really necessary?

nope. what really surprises me though is that most people find that so hard to grasp.
conrad 16 10.9k 116
26 Jun 2008 8:56AM
They're just so used to thinking in terms of sharpness. Can't blame them. Doesn't seem normal or even desirable to them. But maybe we can convince the crowd with a few nice examples. We'll see...
fotodayz 12 179 1 United Kingdom
26 Jun 2008 12:38PM
I think the technique you were describing is the orton effect which is wonderful with flowers and vegetation. If you are talking about selective focusing I totally agree - I absolutely love it and it can give lovely effects and isolation. As to being pin sharp and perfect - most folk stand 5 foot away from a canvas and are looking at the whole, whereas on here being fellow togs folk are more experienced and critical.

When I was in the meadows the other day, there is an area with a bank in front with a slope behind and you could just stand there from out of focus and slowly move the focus forward and get wonderful differing effects from colour to grasses then to buttercups and I must have been there for an hour at least just playing.
conrad 16 10.9k 116
26 Jun 2008 1:56PM
Yes, that's basically what I mean. Only it can go further than selective focus - with selective focus there's still something in focus, but in some of the photos I saw in that magazine nothing was in focus, and that was deliberate! But having done what you describe above, I think you can imagine what that looks like.

And now I'm off to look at your portfolio... Smile
fotodayz 12 179 1 United Kingdom
26 Jun 2008 6:21PM
yes I've seen something similar with really misty b and w shots - thank you I shall also be investigating further too!

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