I would like to discuss the aesthetics of photography...

Started May 24, 2013 | Discussions thread
SuvoMitra Contributing Member • Posts: 855
Detail as a virtue

I think the quote says something important about how people view prints when it is the image content that matters to them. Content, composition, colour, and lighting take precedence over sharpness/detail as a virtue in itself. If the depth of field is not well suited to the scene, or camera shake is obvious, then these rise up and detract from the viewing experience. If there are sharpening artefacts or hyper-real details, these can also draw the viewers' attention away from the whole image by violating their expectations of how much detail should be accessible when they foveate an image element. This can distract viewers and give a feeling of being interrupted from their viewing. On the other hand, if the content appeals, viewers' brains can be quite tolerant of less-than-optimal detail. Of course, all this is different in some macro, still life, or some fashion images where sharpness/detail beyond normal viewing expectation can be a key quality in the image.

Images on film couldn't exceed the naturalistic detail threshold (being contained by the medium's construction) but only approach it with good optics and excellent technique. Digital images can be, and often are, tweaked past that point, and are also often viewed at larger sizes closer up than is comfortable to view prints.

A good question to ask when working on an image may be whether the lack of sharpness somewhere in it is drawing attention (much like bright patches in the background or periphery can do). This could be by losing detail that the eye wants to see, or by losing contrast that lowers the image's overall impact. If not, then sharpness is a non-issue. However, it gets harder to know where the line is the more familiar the image becomes.

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