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Letting go of sharpness - Does it trouble you?

Discussion in 'People' started by ednaz, Jul 9, 2005.

  1. I've always been a nut about critical sharpness, and crisp images. A part of my shooting style has always been about images that mimic the F64 school, not only in focus but framed for maximum depth of field. But recently I've been bugged by how a lot of times, that doesn't capture the character of the subject, kind of like shooting a racecar at 1/4000 of a second. Is it a racecar, or just a model car parked?

    Here are four examples from a project I'm shooting for a not for profit, where what they want me to capture is a spirit of joy and celebration, while still capturing the character of the subjects. Here's where I think a perfectly sharp, still image would be worse, not better.

    Your opinions welcome, as I'm wrestling with this...I'm very good at panning, which gives me a big advantage in this kind of shot.

    First shot: indoors, horrible flourescent lights, iso 400, but couldn't get a shutter speed over 1/20th at f4. But when mom started playing "superbaby" with her little girl, I just started shooting, tracking the face on each toss and praying that I got one sharp one. 20 frames. I got one sharp one, and only the baby's laughing face and eyes are sharp. Does it work or not?


    Outdoors, two little boys who were bundles of mad energy. Same theme, same "capture the character." iso 200, slow shutter speeds, panning with the subject with a flash late in the shot. Does it work or not?




    The parents went crazy for them (they're NOT the client) and the agency is over the moon and asking me to re-shoot some other photog's work. But I'm sitting here going "but it's not critically sharp..."

    AAAARRRGGH! Please, your advice. Am I growing up a bit, or straying from the path?
  2. eng45ine


    May 11, 2005
    Chicago, IL

    When a shooter sets out to capture whatever the subject is, the shooter has a pre-conceived idea of what the end result should look like. If your intention was to use a slower shutter speed to capitalize on the depiction of motion, then the images that you posted would work out just fine. The first image works fine with me if you wanted to show the motion of the infant going up and down...her face is clear which I would think was your intention. The remaining three images might look out of focus to a non-photographer and I am unsure if they would appreciate the out of focus subjects. None of the remaining three were bad...the beauty of each image is in the eyes of the shooter...
  3. PGB


    Jan 25, 2005
    Someone once said "Give the people what they want!"

    If this is what they like go for it. I read an article in a photo mag last month about keeper blurs, so that has to tell you something.

    Personally, I think they capture the feeling you were wanting to capture. Its outside the norm but thats good too.

  4. biggstr6


    Apr 26, 2005
    I dont believe in critical sharpness all the time (ex Bike Race i shot awhile back) .I also believe sometimes in underexposing and pumping up the saturation & contrast to get a feel.

    I think they work. The bike pictures I would be intrested in seeing with the levels & curves played with alittle ,just to see what it produces.

    Just my opinion
  5. Chris101


    Feb 2, 2005
    Works like crazy! I love the motion blur look. Sharpness is fine, but it does not make a picture all by itself. There is certainly something to be said for showing the action.
  6. Ednaz in your serie the last one is the one i liked the most, the blur suggest motion.
  7. thinking through, thinking through...

    Good feedback, from all of you - this critique kind of nailed it in terms of what I'm wrestling with. I've always tried shots where I did this, enough so that I have gotten pretty good at nailing what I wanted to achieve. It's afterwards when I sit down with the results that I have anxiety - because if you have to shoot enough to be sure you panned right to get the subject sharp with motion background, you usually don't have a chance to shoot some normal, critically sharp images.

    The first shot is probably the most successful, even to a "civilian". The one of the boy running his bike is 90% crisp, so easy to swallow. The two boys one, though, is kind of a failure IMO; if I could have gotten BOTH boys crisp, I'd love it, but boys being boys... The mother loved the kid on the grass shot, and she's a "civilian" and not at all a photog, because she said it was what it felt like to watch him ride over the rocks. (!)

    One of my mentors laughed at me about this last night - "You're developing a personal style and it's driving you crazy. Get over it. Get better at it." Maybe he's right. There's another thing I've started doing that he says is personal style, but I'm struggling with in the same way - "is this bad photography or is it a more accurate expression of the character and the feeling of being with them.?" I'll post that later, too. In both cases I'm doing something that's explicitly "against the rules" in photography books, and wondering - "Does intent to break the rule suffice?"

    Ugh, I tried so hard to avoid philosophy classes in college, and here i am...
  8. I like to treat sharpness this way:
    1. I am in control, I choose what is sharp and what is not.
    2. If I am surprised by the sharpness of an image I was not in control and should take more care on subsequent shots.
    3. If I am going to error on controlling sharpness I do so on the side of sharpness. I can always blur portions of an image in post processing.
    4. The customer is always right.

    Now as to your images, #1 does draw your attention to the face of the child as it is the only thing in focus. I would have preferred a little more DOF on that shot. #2 is fine as shot IMO. #3 and #4 just appear as OOF shots to me as the DOF is too shallow to accomplish what you were after IMO.
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