Sharpness: Value, Perception and Reality

Frequently in the field or the classroom I am asked how I get my images so sharp. Often the question takes a more vague form, like, “how do you get your images so crisp?” or, “Why are my pictures so fuzzy?”

In the biz, the opposites are sharp and soft. In the world of the internet, sharpness is often regarded as the gold standard on which images are judged, and this can often lead people astray when making pictures. I feel that the reason for this is that raw sharpness is sometimes difficult to achieve on a technical level, and reaching a skill level at which one is making sharp images represents a “graduation” of sorts. Regrettably, many potential photographers stop at that point on the learning curve, and remain satisfied to post their photos of their cat’s whiskers or a blue jay’s plumage, proving that they are “good” photographers.

So much time is wasted doing this. And as new and supposedly better digital cameras come to the market, much money is wasted as well. Being able to make sharp images should be regarded as a tool in the box of picture taking, not a goal or destination. History and photography are burdened with sharp photographs that do little to inspire the human condition.

Once you learn to make sharp photos, you can forget it. So much more lies in front of your camera.

Sharp images, like this one of wildflowers, impersonate the idea of seeing things clearly with the human eye, but the art of photography is capable of rendering perception in so many different ways.
Sharp images, like this one of wildflowers, impersonate the idea of seeing things clearly with the human eye, but the art of photography is capable of rendering perception in so many different ways.
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