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Re: Sharpening [was Re: Resolution and print quality]

While I can certainly understand your tuning (sharpening) a photo for an
audience that is more that 10 feet away, but my posts regarding the over use of
sharpening, were not aimed at specific use images like yours, but in more
'conventional' imagery.  And by that I mean photos that are meant to be viewed
from an arm's length to 10 feet (or more) away.

What I was trying to get at is that most (not you, or anybody who really thinks
about it) photographers sharpen image without thought as to what it does to the
overall image quality, and they apply sharpening to the entire image equally.

While there are all sorts of visual tricks to be played by painters, that could
be applied via selective sharpening (among other things), those are not type of
techniques that are used by most.

And again, I go back to the photos that Epson exhibited at the Photo Expo in NYC
last Fall.  Most of these images were generally oversharpend to the point of
granularity.  While they looked good at perhaps 10 feet, if you got a couple of
feet away they started to lose the creamy smooth continuous tone quality that
I've come to expect in fine photography.  (I am not saying that there is not
room for that sort of image.)

Some say that this is a new medium, but when people talk about the advantages of
digital capture in photography (vs. film) the 'grainlessness' of digital capture
is *always* mentioned, and *that* is what is lost with mindless sharpening.

I commend you on your creative efforts.

Harvey Ferdschneider
partner, SKID Photography, NYC

> Kennedy (& Harvey),
> I hesitate to continue this discussion, having been doing serious
> photography for only a couple of years, and being a scientist rather than an
> arts person. However, I don't agree that the only sharpening required is
> that necessary to replace that lost during scanning etc. This might be the
> case if your photography is of the 'record picture' type - trying to
> reproduce exactly the scene in front of the lens. But I don't think that is
> what most 'serious' photographers do. They 'enhance' their images, by every
> physical, chemical, and electronic trick in the book, to try to produce an
> unreal picture that satisfies their artistic interpretation of the scene.
> Enhancement of edges - sharpening - is surely just one of those tricks.
> Painters have for a long time known that to enhance edges you lighten the
> paint on one side of an edge and darken it on the other. I was at an
> exhibition of paintings by Picasso, Matisse, etc only a few weeks ago -
> "Paris in the 20's" I think it was called - and I remember saying to my wife
> "Look at that marvellous example of the use of 'unsharp masking'. Looking at
> the paintings and prints of paintings in my house, I can see numerous
> examples of where the artist has emphasized an edge - to make it stand out
> from the background. And yes, if you peer at the paintings from 10" they
> look unreal, but stand back and you enjoy the effect the artist was trying
> to achieve.
> A friend of mine who goes to art classes has been taught how to enhance
> edges by painting a darker line round the inside of the edge to make the
> object stand out - asymmetric sharpening (you can do this with usm on a
> layer by setting Blend mode to Darken).
> With our new computer techniques, sharpening can be done by various means;
> usm is just one of them. But I maintain it is a valid artistic technique to
> make an object stand out, and that the amount of it that you need depends on
> the effect you want and on the viewing distance. An artist painting
> miniatures does so with delicate strokes and lines suitable for a close
> viewing; an artist painting murals uses larger brushes and strokes more
> appropriate for viewing at a distance.
> The fault that many photographers perhaps have is of applying an equal
> amount of sharpening to the whole image. Painters don't seem to do that;
> they are more selective in what they sharpen and by how much. I have
> recently started being much more selective; one recent image that needed
> different amounts of sharpening in different areas was sharpened four times
> with 100% amount of usm. Then, using the History brush, I simply painted the
> appropriate amount of sharpening into the different areas of the image.
> But all done for a viewing distance of 10 feet or more, which is what
> happens if I show my prints to a seated audience. Forget the fine detail if
> people are sitting 20 feet away; it's the overall composition and impact
> that counts. IMO.
> Bob Frost (awaiting the flak)
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Kennedy McEwen" <rkm@kennedym.demon.co.uk>
> > >
> > IMO, sharpening is a process to compensate for losses in the image
> > capture and reproduction process, to return the image to a closer
> > approximation of 'reality'.  Consequently, images which are viewed at a
> > distance should, in principle, require LESS sharpening, because they
> > already approach the ideal with the finest details being just resolvable
> > and the limitations of the capture process invisible in any case.
> >
> > One of the main reasons for making an image large to be viewed at a
> > distance is that it appears to have the same spatial spectrum content as
> > a real scene, governed only by the limitations of your eyes, otherwise
> > you might as well make it suitable for viewing at the normal 10" relaxed
> > close viewing distance.  Sharpening such an image makes it look false
> > and synthetic, and I would guess that this is exactly the sort of effect
> > that Harvey (and myself!) finds objectionable.
> -
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