Is Sharpness Our Friend?

Here are two images that illustrate a gut-wrenching choice I encounter during post-processing. I prefer very sharp images, but most people do not like very sharp images of themselves. Long ago, when film cameras roamed the Earth, I often used a diffusion filter in front of the lens when I photographed women.  Today, I rarely use filters, but I sometimes try to achieve a similar effect with software. Being a lazy, disorganized and impatient photographer, I don’t spend a lot of time selecting specific parts of an image and applying Gaussian blur or similar effects. Instead, I apply my noise reduction software – Noise Ninja – with the contrast dialed down.

Most pores and a lot of wrinkles disappear or soften, but here’s the quandary – the subjects see smoother skin, but I see an apparently out of focus picture.  What do you see?

The subjects might see pores, wrinkles, and freckles, but I see sharp eyes, texture, and detail.

Smoother, but less punchy, in my eyes.

As in the last post, one’s intended use influences processing choices. For a small picture in the newspaper, I’d probably opt for the sharper image, which would lose detail in the printing process. For an enlargement to go on the mantle, I’d go for the softer one.  If I thought the image would always be seen from a “proper viewing distance,” I would always opt for the sharper version. The problem is, when people admire a picture from the “proper viewing distance,” the first impulse is to move closer and study it in detail. Digital photography offers a lot of advantages, but it also makes too many choices available for my little brain, which now hurts.

1 Comment

Filed under Dance and Theater, Post Processing, Professional vs. Amateur

One response to “Is Sharpness Our Friend?

  1. myrna

    well, i like the first one with the freckles, pores and wrinkles … despite receiving a notice for a seminar in todays mail: “Look and Feel Your Best No Matter What Your Age” … hummm, the guest speaker is an M.D. … in the field of Reconstructive and Plastic Surgery


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