5. Everybody does it.
And sameness is boring. The goal of most photographers is to produce as sharp of photograph as possible. Somewhere along the way this has become the mark of achievement within photography and what people think of when they think of what a photograph looks like. They want a mirror image of what they think they see with their own two eyes. But really our eyes don’t see the world as perfectly sharp from foreground to background. What we are focused on at the time may be sharp but the peripheral scene is blurry. The advantage of the human eye is that it can change focus quicker than an instant making us think everything is perfectly in focus all the time.
4. The subject becomes the focus.
With a sharp portrait, be it a person, animal, or object, the subject becomes the sole focus of the image. With an unsharp photo the image becomes more about a concept or emotion. With a sharp landscape photo there may not be a defined focal point and you need to evaluate the whole scene. With an unsharp landscape the image becomes more about color, light and lines. It isn’t so literal.
If the photo above had been in focus your eye would have been drawn to the people walking on the beach, and that’s what the image would have been about. Instead it becomes a painterly impressionist image that could be many different things to different people. It requires the viewers interpretation.
3. It’s all a ploy to make you spend more money.
The camera manufacturers would have you believe that you need to purchase lenses costing thousands of dollars in order to produce the sharpest images possible, and to be considered a professional. There’s all kinds of magazines and websites out there dedicated to technical specifications of what a lens can and can not do and how sharp it is, etc. etc. It’s all just hype designed to make photographers think they need to spend a lot of money. You can use the cheapest lenses you want to make unsharp photographs.
2. How do I interact with the photo?
With a sharp photo the image is what it is. It’s there in front of us and requires no interpretation. The unsharp image is able to create a story which the viewer will have to stop and think about. It requires their imagination to interpret the story or mood contained in the image. An imperfect photograph, much like the imperfections found in nature, is more challenging and interesting.
1. Sharpness is a bourgeois concept. – Henri Cartier-Bresson
If a person notices your image because of the sharpness and clarity it means they aren’t focusing on the mood or story of the image. I guess if you want to be in the business of teaching other photographers sharpness is a nice goal to strive for, but for the photographer who wants to be an artist you want people to talk about how an image makes them feel……what the image means to them, not the technical quality of it.
And before you run off at the fingers, I should probably warn you this post is a bit tongue in cheek. Although many of the ideas expressed do relate to my work personally, I know sharpness has it’s place in photography. I’ve even been known to use it occasionally myself! And I do own some of those lenses with the little red rings around them (but they were purchased for reasons other than their sharpness reputation). There are many photographers who produced wonderfully sharp and detailed images which are anything but boring that I admire greatly.