Don’t Get Crazy with Sharpness

In these days of pixel-peeping, I kinda feel like photography enthusiasts are more interested in the sharpness of their shots than in making an interesting photograph. I’ll tell you a secret: a good photograph is not good because it is sharp, but because it has a soul and raises an emotion. And as crazy as it may sound (sarcasm), blurry photographs can have a soul too (reality)!

It drives me mad when I see photographers getting anal with sharpness on their images and of their gear. Actually, the more I photograph the less I focus the sharpness of my photographs. I mean, I still try to figure out a way to get the sharpest image possible when I can, especially when I’m doing descriptive landscape work, but in a way it has become less of a priority. Why? Probably because I’m beginning to think that sharpness on an image is only the icing on the cake and I much more prefer to focus on the cake itself.

Sharpness shouldn’t be the priority in any photograph. Of course, it can really make a photograph pop out when its core is already solid, but it can also break it by removing an atmosphere that otherwise would have made it alive. In these cases movement can be thought as a powerful tool to give an “emotive and poetic” feeling to the photograph, to quote Australian photographer Steve Coleman.

As you can see, this photograph of a forest shot in Sápmi (Lapland) in the middle of winter is not really interesting when it's sharp...

As you can see, this photograph of a forest shot in Sápmi (Lapland) in the middle of winter is not really interesting when it’s sharp and bears a few distractions that do not make it a keeper…

But as soon as I started to move my camera from top to bottom, it created this abstract "painting" effect.

But as soon as I started to move my camera from top to bottom, the distractions disappeared and it created this abstract “painting” effect that makes it far more interesting.

 

Even when movement-driven creativity is not desired, do we really want to stop making photographs because it’s getting too dark for a sharp photograph? I don’t. When the high-ISO settings of my camera coupled to a wide open prime lens are not enough and I know that the resulting image will be blurry, I don’t feel bothered more than this because I know I still can create a photograph with a soul. Yes, it will be blurry. So what? A cake can still be truly delicious without icing, right? So can be a photograph.

If I am able to create the “miracle” of a beautiful blurry photograph, why wouldn’t you? Just don’t get crazy with sharpness, really, that’s not worth it. You’d better spend your time and get crazy on trying to transpose moments of life into photographs rich with emotions, whatever their sharpness.

It was already night. Iwas inside a Mongolian yurt and the only source of light available was an old yellowish bulb. Although I was pretty sure I wouldn't get a sharp image, I decided to open my 50mm at 1.8 and push the ISO to get this image. Even if I was not able to capture sharp photographs this time, I really like this photograph for what it makes me feel.

It was during the night. I was inside a dark Mongolian yurt and the only source of light available was an old yellowish bulb. Although I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get a sharp image, I decided to open my 50mm at 1.8 and push the ISO to get this image. Even if I was not able to capture sharp pictures this time, I really like this photograph for what it makes me feel.

 

Do you frequently shoot in dark situations without tripod nor extra source of light? Do you think that sharpness is one of the most important elements of a great image? I would be interested to learn your opinion in the comments!

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