When is a photo too sharp?

demiro

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We generally praise lenses and photos for being sharp, but sometimes I see shared photos that look way too sharp (beyond natural) to me. Sometimes it's obvious that too much sharpening has been applied (halos appear, for example), but often it just looks "too sharp" to me without being able to point to any tell-tale signs of heavy handed processing.

Am I the only one who thinks that? I ask because often photos that I cringe a bit at are praised for their sharpness. I'm thinkinking "harsh" and "unnatural" and people are saying "great shot" and "tack sharp".

Not a big deal of course, we can all like the look we like, I'm just curious if my viewpoint is out of whack on this. Maybe looking at my own less-than-tack-sharp shots for so long has convinced me of a false (and low) standard. :smile:

Please discuss if interested. Thanks!
 

pdk42

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Well, I guess like beauty, sharpness is in the eye of the beholder! The subject of course will dictate what we find acceptable - a portrait can take a softer presentation that an architectural shot. I think we just need to use our artistic judgement to determine what we find acceptable.

We all want lenses to be sharp, but truth be known sharpness is not the be all and end all of a good photograph.
 

sgreszcz

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I tend to dial down the sharpness to -2 on my olympus cameras as I shoot JPEG and find the images to look a bit oversharpened.

This also makes video look more pleasant with less compression artifacts.

I can always add more sharpening later with raw files in olympus viewer.
 

Jonathan F/2

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We generally praise lenses and photos for being sharp, but sometimes I see shared photos that look way too sharp (beyond natural) to me. Sometimes it's obvious that too much sharpening has been applied (halos appear, for example), but often it just looks "too sharp" to me without being able to point to any tell-tale signs of heavy handed processing.

Am I the only one who thinks that? I ask because often photos that I cringe a bit at are praised for their sharpness. I'm thinkinking "harsh" and "unnatural" and people are saying "great shot" and "tack sharp".

Not a big deal of course, we can all like the look we like, I'm just curious if my viewpoint is out of whack on this. Maybe looking at my own less-than-tack-sharp shots for so long has convinced me of a false (and low) standard. :smile:

Please discuss if interested. Thanks!
There's a big debate with FF 50mm lenses right now. Some people prefer the creamy, yet soft'ish look of the Canon 50mm 1.2 and Nikon 58mm 1.4 lenses, but others prefer the surgical wide open sharpness of the new Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art lens.
 

stronics

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I always notice a sharp picture for being sharp. I also like tonal value, when the two come together, with good subject matter, that is amazing.
David
 
S

synthetictone

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Too many people I think get overly concerned with having every images tack sharp. Sometimes, it is needed and helps but sometimes it is more about the content, composition, color and tones than the sharpness.. especially if just displaying the image in a much smaller format on the web or small 4x6 or 5x7 print. I still remember looking at many great film photos that were nowhere near as sharp as today's digital photos but they were still great anyhow.
 

drd1135

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I admit that I worship at the altar of sharpness. I also tend to take pictures of "things" and not people. The problem is that I've looked at photos for so long as a hobby that I look for image properties that most people don't even see, and I suppose "tack sharp" is one of those. Of course, I don't plan on changing as I like my peccadilloes.:dance3: If a lens is advertised as "creamy" I usually look elsewhere. I like the surgical sharpness of the lenses likes the O25 and O45.
 

Jonathan F/2

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I admit that I worship at the altar of sharpness. I also tend to take pictures of "things" and not people. The problem is that I've looked at photos for so long as a hobby that I look for image properties that most people don't even see, and I suppose "tack sharp" is one of those. Of course, I don't plan on changing as I like my peccadilloes.:dance3: If a lens is advertised as "creamy" I usually look elsewhere. I like the surgical sharpness of the lenses likes the O25 and O45.
I think when you have a lens like the 75mm 1.8 which offers both excellent sharpness and creamy OOF areas, it's truly the best of both worlds!
 

demiro

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I should add some clarity to my OP. I like sharpness as well. The 45/1.8 is one of my favorites. I'm talking more about sharpness beyond that, which I assume is from processing.
 
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What Is Real Anyway?
I should add some clarity to my OP. I like sharpness as well. The 45/1.8 is one of my favorites. I'm talking more about sharpness beyond that, which I assume is from processing.
I am a PP beginner and I wish I could sharpen my photos to the 45/1.8 sharpness. I find my SOOC photos from that lens almost look over processed.
 

magkelly

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One of the best photos I ever took of a good buddy of mine was just a bit less than tack sharp. It's not blurry, but it is a bit soft. I totally love that shot because it is so him, and it is a truly lovely shot in terms of content, but when I posted it online all I heard was "Oh it's a pity that it's not sharper!" Not every shot needs to be tack sharp to be worthy. In fact, when it comes to portraiture I like it a bit less than. I don't particularly like or want hi-def looking shots of people's faces where I can see every little pore or hair. That's why I don't have a high def TV. I just prefer a more normal view to that. IMHO there is such a thing as too sharp.
 

Replytoken

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There are may factors that contribute to whether a photo looks sharp. And while someof them are acceptable to me and others are not, I do have to admit that many subjects tend to have a more 3-D like quality when they are sharp. It may be microcontrast among other things that I am seeing, but I would rather error on the side of sharpness, as it is easier to soften an image in PP than it is to get it looking like it was shot sharp.

--Ken
 

T N Args

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A photo should have the sharpness that it should have, pictorially.

It is an aesthetic, image-by-image decision.
 

AussiePhil

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A Lens can never be sharp enough however photo's can look overly clinical when produced with sharp lenses or over sharpened in post. whilst i love to see every feather on a bird or the fine detail in a macro photo I don't need to see all the pores on the portrait. :)
 

yakky

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I've yet to see a picture that looks as sharp on a monitor as it does in real life, though retina displays are getting close. The only way I consider something oversharpened is when I see artifacts, especially noise in bokeh or halos that make people look like cardboard cutouts.
 

Splitprism

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A Lens can never be sharp enough however photo's can look overly clinical when produced with sharp lenses or over sharpened in post. whilst i love to see every feather on a bird or the fine detail in a macro photo I don't need to see all the pores on the portrait. :)
I think this comment hits the nail firmly on the head, the latest camera/lens systems are so good, the detail they are capable of producing is astonishing in most cases and scary in others, my wife won't let me take pictures of her with the Oly 45mm, she's really vain.
 

janneman

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I am one of those who often feels digital is too sharp, too smooth and just boring perfect. It depends on the subjects, but more often than not I add grain or a blurred layer in PP. It might very well be the inheritance of too many years with film, Tri-X and what not. For example the tug boat picture below looks better to me with a certain griminess added, and the landscape gains a sense of wonder and quietness with the slight blur.
Having said this, it is always good to have a perfect pic to start with, so I can decide how much 'quality' needs to be removed :smile: It is a very personal preference, and in the end, just do what you feel is best...

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Ramsey

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I like sharpness on my lenses. And i like it from wide open lens. What's the point of a 1.4 (or faster) lens if you cannot use it at that f stop because it's too soft, even at the center?

For me personally, there's no such thing as a lens too sharp. I can always reduce the clarity and sharpness in PP, especially if we're talking about portraits (pores, skin imperfections etc) and i do (limited) PP for every photo that i send to people or print (I find it to be less time consuming and less bothersome than getting the WB exactly correct for every single shot).
There's a limited amount of what you can do in PP if the sharpness is not there.

If i was 99% satisfied with SOOC jpegs, i'd definitely lower the sharpness to -1 or -2 on some lenses (especially on P20mm) for candids or posed portrait shots.
 

scott2hot

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Exactly as ramsey said...on other aps-c formats i have used primes always needed stopping down to get any kind of sharpness...99% of M4/3 lens super sharp right from max....just sold sony 35mm f1.8 because it wasnt sharp and colours didnt pop until F3.5...rather have the option to tone down than not at all. other wise fast primes are moot as i prefer pop and detail over creamy dreamy wishy washy.
 
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