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Am I overly concerned about sharpness?
  
 
Patrick357
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p.1 #1 · Am I overly concerned about sharpness?


Hello everyone,

I am now getting to the point where I would like to get out and get more hands on experience with my photography. I am a novice. For this particular set of images, I am concerned about sharpness. I understand that the eyes should be the sharpest point in a photograph. I had used the Zeiss 50mm MP 2.0 ZF on a Nikon D600 for these shots. I manually focused, hand-held, using %100 natural light, at F8, ISO 100, 1/125. As I analyze the photo in Lightroom, my sharpening adjustments do not give me the clear, sharp look that I am looking for. The artistic direction that I would like to master, when it comes to photography, is a sharp, clear, detailed look. I love being able to see the texture and clarity pronounced in photographed subjects. I understand what I am describing is relative but, I hope that I have been able to articulate my concerns.

I am humbly asking for someone to look at the unedited and then edited photo and let me know if this is in my head or if I indeed created a poor image due to image capture or post-processing. Judging by the size of the picture, it looks like I need to upload larger photos. I am currently using 640 pixels, Long edge.

v/r
Patrick





Fort McHenry - Baltimore, MD







Fort McHenry - Baltimore, MD







Fort McHenry - Baltimore, MD







Fort McHenry - Baltimore, MD



Edited on Apr 01, 2014 at 06:39 PM · View previous versions



Apr 01, 2014 at 12:02 PM
gregfixit
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p.1 #2 · Am I overly concerned about sharpness?


Hi Patrick,
I think you did a good job with the processing. It sounds like you are using LR. For me, I have difficulty getting the sharpness just right using LR. I use Photoshop CC and I will create a new layer, use USM (unsharp Mask) and the selective sharpening tool, then blend the sharpened layer to taste. If the original RAW image is good, I usually like my results.
For your 2 examples above I don't think they are over-sharpened or under-sharpened.
I find it challenging to get group shots as sharp as I would like. I have tried things like applying a slight amount of a gaussian blur to the background. It brings out the sharpness of the subjects without taking away from the overall composition. (Not sure how easy that can be done in LR)

I am someone who also tries for sharpness on my photos. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what it was that made other peoples photos appealing. I looked at a lot of YouTube videos and did a lot of experimenting on my own photos.

I think the people who post photos that I like (and try to emulate I suppose) either create great light, or use Photoshop to enhance their work.

I think you did quite well and I have no doubt you will get better with time and practice.
Greg



Apr 01, 2014 at 01:49 PM
Patrick357
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p.1 #3 · Am I overly concerned about sharpness?


Thank you Greg for taking the time out to check out my images and respond back to me with some much needed information! You are correct, I am using Lightroom. I also have Photoshop but, I have been reading that applying capture sharpening in Lightroom is very valuable so I have been trying to practice that technique. The techniques that you have outlined to make the subject appear sharper, makes a lot of sense. For these photos it seemed like I had very little headroom, in raw, for sharpening before I began to see artifacting. Now that I think about it, it may have something to do with finding the sweet spot, aperture wise.


Apr 01, 2014 at 06:50 PM
Bob Jarman
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p.1 #4 · Am I overly concerned about sharpness?


+1 gregfixit

To me the sharpened version of #1 is overdone, while sharpened version of #2 works well. I also agree that sharpening in LR is largely a function of the user's eye and dexterity, while CSn or CC using high-pass sharpening or the unsharp mask filter in combination with an adjustment layer offers much more in latitude for fine tuning the image. And, there are probably more than half a dozen other techniques. The only certainty is no one technique meets all sharpening requirements.

Also, as you probably know, you can use sharpening to help lead the eye and add depth to an image. For instance in the sharpened version of #2, in LR use the brush to sharpen the family members leaving the lower grass, sidewalk area, and surface of the water slightly blurred (untouched in other words), as well as the stern of the ships to add depth.

All that said, if you observe many of the re-works on Photo Critique, you will notice that generally no two people will arrive at the same result and that ultimately their choices are subjective. Guaranteed there will never be a consensus. And, you will find each person tends to produce his/her own results consistently - some with a heavier hand than others.

Regards,

Bob



Apr 01, 2014 at 11:53 PM
Patrick357
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p.1 #5 · Am I overly concerned about sharpness?


Bob Jarman wrote:
+1 gregfixit

To me the sharpened version of #1 is overdone, while sharpened version of #2 works well. I also agree that sharpening in LR is largely a function of the user's eye and dexterity, while CSn or CC using high-pass sharpening or the unsharp mask filter in combination with an adjustment layer offers much more in latitude for fine tuning the image. And, there are probably more than half a dozen other techniques. The only certainty is no one technique meets all sharpening requirements.

Also, as you probably know, you can use sharpening to help lead the eye and add
...Show more

Thanks Bob,

You are absolutely correct. Also, I am switching from Canon. My 135L and my 35L was insanely sharp so, I think I have to get used to my Zeiss and Nikon lenses. I will take your advice with the creative sharpening process. Thank you!



Apr 04, 2014 at 12:57 AM
Eyeball
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p.1 #6 · Am I overly concerned about sharpness?


Just a few, quick comments:

- "sharp, clear, detailed" is not always the best objective if you're shooting portraits, unless you are shooting 18-year old models. You are going to be emphasizing things that people won't want emphasized (wrinkles, warts, bags, etc.). Now maybe you just happened to pick some shots that were handy to try some techniques but since both these shots are portraits, I thought it worth mentioning.

- If your interest is shooting portraits, I would suggest worrying more about lighting than sharpening for now. It is very difficult to make a nice portrait when the subjects were shot in harsh light, as both of these examples more-or-less were. I can see where you tried to recover the eyes in post but IMO you went too far and it doesn't look natural.

- If I just looked at your before and after examples without reading your text, sharpening would be the last thing that would occur to me as your topic of interest. It almost makes me wonder if "sharpening" is not the best word for what you are trying to achieve.

I'm not trying to rain on your parade, I'm just trying to help you focus on what you really need to do to improve. If you could post some links to work from other photographers that you like and that shares some of the attributes you have in mind, it might help us help you a little better. I almost wonder if you are going for somewhat of an HDR-like effect.



Apr 04, 2014 at 01:02 PM
 

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Patrick357
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p.1 #7 · Am I overly concerned about sharpness?


Hello Eyeball,

You brought up some very valid points. Sharpening is not always your friend. I wish that I had clearer eyes. I am still very new to photography so I am trying to feel my way around what it is that I want to achieve and how to go about reaching my goals. You are absolutely correct about the harsh shots. Funny story, As I was unloading my gear, the park ranger told me that I could not take professional photographs without a permit. I packed up my lighting gear and the couple was game for me to take natural light photographs. We tried searching for the ranger to ask for permission but, could not find her. The family wanted the water to their back so, I had no other choice but to shoot with them facing the light. I was so anxious to get the shots before we were kicked out of the Fort, that I did not coach the family to try and avoid squinting even though the sun was shining into their faces. Maybe open shade would have given me the better results. I do not wish to achieve an HDR effect. I do enjoy vibrant, punchy colors but, without the super dynamic range. I guess I like High Definition but not High Dynamic Range.

As I zoomed into their faces, the eyes just weren't clear. Maybe my expectations of zooming so far into a photograph to observe such small details is unrealistic. From the feedback, I feel pretty good. It seems as though everyone has given me some information that has helped me understand what is going on in my photograph.

From what I have learned, my sharpening is not lacking but, in fact a little over-kill. That is good news because, I can always cut back. I have also learned to be more mindful about shooting with the sun to my back. Thanks!



Apr 05, 2014 at 09:44 PM
Patrick357
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p.1 #8 · Am I overly concerned about sharpness?


https://www.behindtheshutter.com/phase-one-iq160-product-review/

Wow, I was doing some searching and I decided to drop by the website of one of my many inspirational photographers and I landed on a page of his that sums up exactly what I was trying to articulate. Coming from a Canon 5D mark III and using my L lenses, I was able to notice more detail in my shots, even when zoomed in. My Nikon, Zeiss setup gives me a different look when I zoom in. My photos just doesn't seem as sharp and clear. Don't get me wrong. I love my current setup, I just am trying to educate myself on the limitations of my equipment and the limitations of my current shooting technique. I am sure that the problem is more with my technique. Even at 1/125, using a 50 mm lens, I probably introduced motion blur, which is taking away from my desired look.



Apr 07, 2014 at 03:58 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #9 · Am I overly concerned about sharpness?


Patrick357 wrote:
The artistic direction that I would like to master, when it comes to photography, is a sharp, clear, detailed look. I love being able to see the texture and clarity pronounced in photographed subjects.


I'm a "detail junkie" myself.

+1 @ not all subject matter warrants the micro-detail of Scotty Pippen's nose on SI, but there is something about the clarity of an image that calls to me.

For me, the key (on the overall subject) is to learn what constitutes "sharpening" in the realm of contrast perception. Our contrast comes from various pieces of the overall puzzle @ light, subject, lens, processing. The book that I leaned on the most is Real World Sharpening by Fraser & Schewe.
http://www.amazon.com/Sharpening-Photoshop-Camera-Lightroom-Edition/dp/0321637550

Other books abound and I've had plenty of assistance from others here @ FM (not to mention much trial & error) to realize that optimal sharpening is not a one size fits all recipe. Case in point is that as you change lenses (say from Canon to Zeiss) you are using a different contrast / drawing style. This change in drawing style warrants a change in processing to yield a similar perceived contrast.

When I first made the switch from Nikon D70s (consumer) to Canon 1D MK II (pro), I was dismayed by how soft my pics looked on my upgraded equipment. Chuck Westfall of Canon helped me to understand that I would need to utilize a different sharpening algorithm for Canon pro files than Nikon consumer files than I was previously accustomed to. The same concept can apply to changing glass that one size does not fit all ... whether that be changes in lighting (especially @ the variability of ambient), lens or sensor/file size.

+1 @ Dennis, Bob & Greg bringing out some good points (as usual).

One other thing that comes to mind for me is WB ... any cast (slight as it may be) that you may have in your color will steal from your clarity/perceived sharpness. This is why I do my independent shadow/highlight WB (first) prior to my sharpening (last).

Took a stab at the first one. There are some issues with mixed / dappled lighting and it could use some more refinement, but hopefully you get the gist. As always, S&P to taste (gamma prefs, etc.) ... skin tone not quite my forte, however.








Apr 08, 2014 at 06:49 AM
Patrick357
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p.1 #10 · Am I overly concerned about sharpness?


Hey Rusty,

I really appreciate you taking the time out to assist with guiding me in the right direction. I have read your post and I have actually learned several things. I will take your advice and read up on it so that I can practice applying it. I really appreciate you taking the time out to process one of the pictures, in order to help me get an understanding of what you are talking about. Thanks!



Apr 08, 2014 at 10:12 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #11 · Am I overly concerned about sharpness?


No problem ... you did the hard work @ capturing some great expressiveness from your subject(s). That's the piece that I never could really pull off on a regular basis when it comes to photographing people.

You can always outsource your processing or re-process an image (heck, AA did for decades while he developed his PP skills) when you get some tough ones (while you learn), but its kinda tough to outsource your captures.



Apr 09, 2014 at 12:19 AM





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