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When To Sharpen

The vast majority of photographic images benefit from sharpening.

Before you decide how and when to sharpen images, you need to decide why you’re sharpening them.

The goal of sharpening is to enhance detail rendition without producing distracting visual artifacts.

You’ll find many conflicting philosophies and their accompanying strategies for sharpening images. The seemingly conflicting advice can be hard to reconcile.

Should you sharpen once or multiple times? Should you sharpen differently for different subjects? Should you sharpen differently for different sizes? Should you sharpen differently for different presentation material or supplies? Should you view your files at 100% or 50% screen magnification?

Capture source, output device, substrate or presentation device, presentation size, subject, and artistic intention all play a role in sharpening. The characteristics and solutions for many of these factors can be objectively defined for everyone; at least one of these factors, perhaps the most important, your artistic vision, can only be decided individually.

So, if sharpening is a complex subject, how do you simplify your sharpening workflow to one that’s practical without compromising quality?

Bruce Fraser and Jeff Schewe offer the best advice in their definitive volume on sharpening, Real World Image Sharpening, which I highly recommend you read. Instead of sharpening your images for you, they teach you how to sharpen.

Their philosophy of sharpening is the soundest in the industry, which is why it has been adopted by so many in the industry. They recommend that images be sharpened in a progression of three stages; once for capture sharpening, a second time for creative sharpening, and a third and final time for output sharpening. The objectives and methods of each of these stages vary considerably. When mastered, the whole process can be streamlined to achieve sophisticated results with a minimum investment of time.

Here’s a quick synopsis …

Read more on Creative Image Sharpening here.

Learn more in my Digital Printing and Digital Photography Workshops.

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Enjoy this collection of quotes by photographer Jock Sturges.

“That’s my ambition: that you look at the pictures and realize what complex, fascinating, interesting people every single one of my subjects is.” – Jock Sturges

“Physical beauty is such a strange thing.” – Jock Sturges

“Different members of different cultures will think that some things are beautiful.” – Jock Sturges

“The truth is that from birth on we are, to one extent or another, a fairly sensual species.” – Jock Sturges

“As soon as you forbid something, you make it extraordinarily appealing. You also bring shame in as a phenomenon.” – Jock Sturges

“If somebody’s pointing a trembling finger at your pants and saying you shouldn’t be doing that, follow that finger back, go up the arm and look at the head that’s behind it, because there’s almost always something fairly woolly in there.” – Jock Sturges

“A virulent, aggressive minority has decided that Americans don’t know themselves what it is they should see, and need to be protected by people who are wiser than they are, even if they are only a tiny sliver of the population.” – Jock Sturges

“That dichotomy between the public consumption of the work and my intent and practice in making it is an uneasy one for me, on occasion.” – Jock Sturges

“I found myself serving a sentence of public denial from the very second the raid on my apartment happened.” – Jock Sturges

“I’m guilty of extraordinary naivete, I suppose. But it’s a naivete that I really don’t want to abandon, not even now.” – Jock Sturges

“But empirically I’ve come to understand that my photographs really don’t do any harm.” – Jock Sturges

“I became good at defending myself, but as far as I was concerned, that was a transient skill.” – Jock Sturges

“The world is shrinking as we see more and more of it in the media, and the more we see of the world, the smaller we are, the more aware we are of how insignificant any one of us is.” – Jock Sturges

“We live in an age where anonymity is growing in magnitude like a bomb going off.” – Jock Sturges

“Every child is going to grow up. You can see it happen in the books: They get older and older and belong to themselves to a greater and greater extent.” – Jock Sturges

“Before, I’d photograph anything. I didn’t think there was anything more or less obscene about any part of the body.” – Jock Sturges

“Any artist that’s involved in their work is inevitably going to have a focus in what they do.” – Jock Sturges

“I’m an artist that’s attracted to a specific way of seeing and a way of being.” – Jock Sturges

“I know the families that I photograph extremely well, and I’ve known them for a very long time.” – Jock Sturges

“All my life I’ve taken photographs of people who are completely at peace being what they were in the situations I photographed them in.” – Jock Sturges

“I don’t photograph any two people who are remotely the same.” – Jock Sturges

“I’d rather get back to making art than talk about it.” – Jock Sturges

Read our conversation here.

View 12 Great Photographs Collections here.

Read more in The Essential Collection Of Photographers’ Quotes.

View more in The Essential Collection Of Photographers Videos.

“Advice on how to visualize your photos, from a rare interview with Ansel Adams. Photo visualization was so important to Ansel Adams that he made it the first chapter of his book on photography.”

“Don’t miss this story of Ansel Adams’ breakthrough when he first learned to visualize a photograph, moving from amateur to the true artistry he was known for. Then see previously unreleased footage of Ansel explaining exactly what he means by “visualization” and the points to master to be an “instinctive” photographer. All footage filmed in Yosemite National Park where Ansel lived and photographed for decades. By watching and following his advice you can advance your photography to new heights!”

View more in Marc Silber’s series on Ansel Adams here.

View more Ansel Adams videos here.

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Read our conversation here.

Find out more about Stephen Johnson here.

Read Great Quotes By Photographers collections here.

View 12 Great Photographs collections here.

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Enjoy this collection of quotes by photographer Stephen Johnson.

“There were a huge variety of movements in photography during the 20th century, some based on 19th century landscape photography, some evolved as a reaction against realism in painting and photography, some evolved has a way of chasing the aesthetic of impressionism in painting. A single characterization really doesn’t get at what photography and beauty meant in the 20th century.” – Stephen Johnson

“It is clear, that the way I think about landscape photography in my world, largely of came out of the f64 group of photographers such as Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Imogine Cunningham, Charles Scheeler and others. They relished the reality of the large format camera, and its clarity, seeing in that reality a great potential for abstraction. Their work became a large part of what landscape photography became.” – Stephen Johnson

“In the process of evolving this documentary power and the very real issues confronting us at the end of the 20th century, the beauty of the world often got lost in the accepted aesthetic of the Fine Art photography world. The famous quote by Cartier-Bresson about Weston and Adams photographing trees when the world was falling apart, comes to mind. Despite the enormous work and sometimes horrifyingly real world experiences it took to make them, it was easier to have photographs appreciated depicting the angst of the human experience. The dark side, the street photography of tragic circumstances, or peculiar people was the art, rather than responses to the beauty of the natural world, much less an appreciation for the wonder that it represents.” – Stephen Johnson

“It is come to the point that the world of landscape photography seems to exist in a place of perpetual sunrises and sunsets, the golden light, the perfect light, the waiting for the light, as though the ordinary experience of living seeing an experience in the planet does not in and of itself constitute a remarkable experience.” – Stephen Johnson

“I’m trying to make people aware that the Photography’s power to portray the real world is not only a power to portray our real human tragedy, but to also portray real human wonder, real human complexity and real human nuance and intricacy. The world is an intricate and nuanced place and I hope that photography can start to move toward understanding, appreciating, and portraying the common wonders of the world, rather than just the special wonders of the world.” – Stephen Johnson

“My own work is seeking to appreciate light in a different way than seems to have been previously appreciated in color photography. My affection for pastels, a more real world saturation, and not making transparent and open shadows into deep black holes (as film has traditionally done) is certainly an aesthetic I hope to propagate with whatever power my own work has to inspire.” – Stephen Johnson

“Because it is such a young media, the way we photograph, our own practices as well as those of our predecessors, have really made the history of photography. What we expect photography to be, has been largely determined by the photographs that we’ve seen and how we have understood the photographs that preceded ours.” – Stephen Johnson

“Photography has always been seen as wondrous, and much of that wonder came from its ability to render the real world.” – Stephen Johnson

“How photographers have approached these issues, their sense of truth in photography, their own sense of duty, how that has got folded into their work and both the interpreted power and documentary power of photography has influenced all of our perceptions of what photography is. We have tended the sub-categorize photography into photojournalism, landscape, documentary, fine arts, and some would argue we have different expectations from those different areas. I belive that regardless of the genre within photography, the understanding that remains a fundamental aspect of our perception of what photography is, is that it is in fact an image that was formed by a lens of the scene before the camera. However that might be influenced by our knowledge that photography can be manipulated into something that was not in front of the lens, we still have this instinct to believe, that is still at the heart of what makes this care about photographs.” – Stephen Johnson

“I try never to do anything to a photograph that I would characterize as enhancement or embellishment. I’ve said over and over again on many continents and for many years that the world is already self-embellished, it doesn’t need me to somehow make it better.” – Stephen Johnson

“Part of what we love about the photography process is the vicarious experience of a sense of place being appreciated without being in that place. It is actually inherent in photography’s basic power to let us know a world at some visual level that we haven’t actually seen.” – Stephen Johnson

“My fundamental fascination remains the photograph as witness to reality.” – Stephen Johnson

“The greatest wonder I experience in seeing new photography today is directly related to how many more people feel empowered to pursue photography and the variety of insights they bring to the medium.” – Stephen Johnson

Read our conversation here.

Find out more about Stephen Johnson here.

Read Great Quotes By Photographers collections here.

View 12 Great Photographs collections here.

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Read our conversation here.

Find out more about Christopher Burkett here.

Read Great Quotes By Photographers collections here.

View 12 Great Photographs collections here.

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Enjoy this collection of quotes by photographer Christopher Burkett.

“I would come out of the chapel after communion and occasionally I would see the world transformed, filled with light.” – Christopher Burkett

“I knew that if it was real, which it was that there must be some way to photograph that.” – Christopher Burkett

“The things that I’m trying to present in my photography are things that are absolutely real in the world, subtle qualities that many people don’t see.” – Christopher Burkett

“I’m working within a very limited box, in terms of possibilities. But, by working within that box to the maximum amount … it’s like a form of discipline, it is a form of discipline, and there is a strength and a depth that is possible within that discipline that doesn’t happen in any other way.” – Christopher Burkett

“Traditionally, art was not meant to be a worship of the ego of the artist, it was meant to be an expression of God’s grace, of divine things.” – Christopher Burkett

“I’m concerned about myself, what I’m doing, what my spiritual answer is rather than what I think other people should be doing. If my religion has any value it’s in my life and what I do. That’s its power and that should be evident. If it isn’t then it won’t be obvious. You know what I mean?” – Christopher Burkett

“This crystal clarity is part of the experience of trying to see the world as it truly is. The world is full of an infinite number of details. It’s only our blindness, in one form or another, that doesn’t allow us to see that.” – Christopher Burkett

“The truth is that if we lived .. I was trying to find a word for it earlier, all terms are limiting … in a state of divine grace everything would be even more real. That’s exactly what I’m trying to portray in my photography, that moment of … I don’t like to put a word on it because it’s too limiting. As soon as you put a word on it, it becomes a concept rather than a reality. And what I’m trying to present with my photography is that almost super real quality, not fake real, but super real. I’m trying to show something that is precious and real, that most people do not see.” – Christopher Burkett

“I have terrible vision without glasses. I didn’t know that until I was in first grade. Most of your visual processing mechanism is formed by the age of six. I couldn’t see the features on someone’s face unless I was about a foot and a half away from them. I learned to identify people by their shape and the way they walked. I had no idea. I had no idea at all. Then I got glasses. It was quite a revelation. All of a sudden the world was transformed with these details. I’ve tried not to lose that sense of astonishment and wonder. I never knew there were leaves on trees, I could only see if they had fallen. I’d never seen clouds before. The moon in the sky had been a fuzzy blob. I could never see stars, some of the brightest ones were a very faint globule, out of focus, about the size the moon would normally be. That whole sense of incredible wonder, of miraculousness has stayed with me. The whole world is full of marvelous details.” – Christopher Burkett

“I don’t try to justify what I do. I think the work is strong enough to speak for itself. I don’t mean that to sound arrogant, but to me it’s not an issue, because I know what I’m doing is unique and I feel comfortable about that. When I’m out there, I’m not trying to look for a picture that looks like a picture I’ve seen before. I’m trying to see the world fresh and clean, and yet with a knowledge of the history of photography. I don’t think of working within a tradition, I think of working within the world, within life.” – Christopher Burkett

Read our conversation here.

Find out more about Christopher Burkett here.

Read Great Quotes By Photographers collections here.

View 12 Great Photographs collections here.

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Read our conversation here.

Find out more about Olivia Parker here.

Read Great Quotes By Photographers collections here.

View 12 Great Photographs collections here.

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Enjoy this collection of quotes by photographer Kenro Izu.

“Feeling is a very important aspect because my subject is sacred sites. There is a very strong spiritual feeling regardless of what the religion was. The important thing is the spirituality of these monuments. It’s not just a photograph of a building. The building has to be there to photograph but the atmosphere is what I’m really interested in. The building is a representation of that spiritual side. Without architecture there is nothing I can photograph. But what I’m photographing is atmosphere, air actually surrounding that monument.” – Kenro Izu

“I try to teach students to try to see with your eyes not through the camera because through the camera is always something different.” – Kenro Izu

“If you don’t see it you don’t get it. If you see you’ll get it.” – Kenro Izu

“When I’m fresh things always surprise me somehow. But if I see something everyday for one month then it doesn’t surprise me anymore.” – Kenro Izu

“I took so many pictures and I never gave back. I thought in taking we have to give something.” – Kenro Izu

“We photographers are privileged to have a communication tool like the camera. It’s great communication.  I have to use that privilege for good not just for my career or artistic or personal business.” – Kenro Izu

“People always ask me why I am photographing stone monuments. It’s the closest thing to something that lasts an eternity. But look here there is a border line between the sand and the stone. It’s so vague. When I saw this I thought, “Stone is not forever.” Everything eventually goes back to the soil or water.” – Kenro Izu

“In general what I learned was in the west something eroded, rotten, disintegrated is not something beautiful. Fresh is better than dying. Sometimes I got very weird comments when I photographed a dead or dying flower. They said, “Why don’t you take it when it’s really beautiful?” That’s a different point of view. One might think these roses are ugly, that two days before they were much prettier. I see both ways. When they were in full bloom, peak, they were beautiful, of course. But I see this as equally beautiful. In a way it is more beautiful to me. I sometimes wonder if that is one difference between eastern and western.” – Kenro Izu

“I try to search my own sense of beauty. And where I can see it, I use it as a study, thinking about what is life and what is death. It’s a big subject and I still can’t figure out what it’s about. But by observing I can sometimes feel … but I can’t really say.” – Kenro Izu

Read our conversation here.

Find out more about Kenro Izu here.

Read Great Quotes By Photographers collections here.

View 12 Great Photographs collections here.

Photographer, curator, historian, and critic … “During his tenure as Director at MoMA, John Szarkowski redefined the world’s understanding of the art of photography and established himself as one of the giants of 20th Century art history. “ He is the author of seminal books including The Photographer’s Eye and Looking At Photographs.

View 12 Great Photographs Collections here.

Read more in The Essential Collection Of Photographers’ Quotes.

View more in The Essential Collection Of Photographers Videos.


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