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Thursday, 29 April 2021


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Dear Mike
Recently had a simular discussion on this subject in relation to Flickr.
We found that perfectly sharp pictures both on screen and on prints were looking out of focus after being posted on Flickr through Lightroom.
Could be a simular issue in your examples given.

Hmm, Mike, the link to the 2nd image seems to be missing.

Re. placing sharpness in the third image: From scrutinizing my own images, I've come to the conclusion that quite often the brightest spot - especially if it's a human figure or face - inevitably draws the eye. So at first hand the autofocus seems to have done a good job. But I agree that carefully stopping down (better two stops) and putting the focus on the middle of the three ladies might have brought all of them into focus - only that overriding the automatic selection of focus points is not always easy, depending on the camera.

Yogi Bear was named after Yogi Berra, although I had no clue back in those days of rabbit ears and tinfoil. I have a few years on you. I have that character singed into my brain cells, along with certain other phrases, such as Hey Boo Boo. Also watched way too many Snagglepuss episodes with "Exit, stage left", and, " Heavens to murgatroid".
Oh, by the way. Pssssst. There's no link to Picture 2. At least I didn't see one.
Nice post, as always.

I'm sorry Mike. I'm relatively new to all this computer stuff but I can't find a link to your second example to save my life. Do I need to "right" click something to see it? Or am I only to imagine it from your description?

The poignant writing left me thirsty to see the example.

Please let me know how to consummate my encounter with the full power of the post.

There's no link for picture #2

Yogi Berra, of course. I feel like I was just having a conversation about him, but maybe that's just deja vu all over again.

Whenever I see photos printed really big, I think of Paul Rand, “If you can’t make it good, make it BIG. If you can’t make it big, make it RED!”

Link appeared, thanks

Yogi Berra, is my guess.

Yogi Berra

I will readily admit that I would never have noticed the things that you pointed out in those three photos. Well, I do see see that #1 is definitely OOF. In a way I am rather relieved that I don't have the ability to be able to analyze at the level you do, Mike. It almost seems that for me it would be a terrible weight to bear. I am not being critical, because I absolutely admire the skill that is involved and the years of work involved to achieve that analytical acumen.

Many thanks for the lesson Mike,
Are there any books on the topic of printing, or print making, that discuss these more qualitative aspects of printing? I.e. that go beyond the technical aspects of printing.
I see parallels with learning to take photographic images - one needs to wade through and learn all the technical aspects before you can get started on the creative aspects.
Cheers Ross

If you look at a photograph at a reasonable subtended angle to your eye (which, for me, is something like π/3 or a little more perhaps) and the things that should be in focus are sufficiently in focus that your eyes can not tell they are not, quite then no-one should care that they are not, quite. If in order to tell that they are not quite in focus you must enlarge the image so it subtends something asymptotically approaching π, then you are not looking at the picture any more: you are obsessing on technical details.

How physically large the image is almost never matters. My prints are 1au diagonal but I view them from my summer home on Mars: the subtended angle is quite reasonable (but variable sadly, also had to demolish Earth to make them which was annoying but, I will not miss it.)

A motto to live by ",When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

I like the ephemerality of images and prefer a softer lower contrast image than most digital lenses produce. I enjoy it when an image is just sufficiently sharp to work, I want it to dissolve if someone tries to zoom in - poof gone - not allowed do that ;) you just have to accept it for what it is.
Old film lenses generally get me there

I recently made some 12x18 inch prints from a personal project, you can really see how the lens performs in a print vs staring at a screen.
Today, 12x18 isn’t considered large for a print.

Mike said but nobody gets the joke.

Many got the joke. They didn't laugh because that would just encourage you 8-)

Yogi Bearra

This is my practice, and I'm interested in others' opinion: My default zoom-in level in Lightroom is 66%, not 100%. I judge sharpness, apply sharpening and apply noise reduction mostly at this level, not 100%.

Ok Boo Boo I may or may not be smarter than the average Berra but I am not going near that extra point quiz.

You mean everyone doesn't immediately get the Yogi Bear reference? I am getting old.

". . . a tonal scale that's way too short . . ."

I disagree. Look at his other stuff. This guy has a lot of control of tonality. It's my bet that this look is intentional. It's not just short, it's intentionally compressed highlights and shadows around a modestly contrasty mid-range.

I wouldn't do it, but I find it quite effective, as art, if not journalism.

"Five life points if you know who the cartoon bear was named for."

I can't Berra to lose those points!

It ain't over 'til it's over, fat lady or not.

"This is influenced by technical parameters but is not a technical issue at root. It depends on each specific picture, and how you want that picture to work."

Indeed. If I were concerned about tack sharp focus on all three, I'd activate focus bracketing, and make them all super sharp.

OTOH, under the above rubric, I notice that the woman on the right, slightly OoF has more attractive rendering. If I were doing it, I'd look for slightly softer rendering for all three.

Presumably Yankees catcher Yogi Berra

Hmm - interesting. I presume that you chose three images taken with the same lens as a way of equalising one of those technical factors you mention?

I was particularly struck by #1, as I've taken a lot of (very) similar images.... It certainly needed a different aperture - on a 6D I would have gone to f8 for this image. There's not a huge amount of resolution in a 6D so diffraction limitation isn't that much of an issue.

As regards the second image, it might be interesting to learn at what stage in the process the image was converted to monochrome - in-camera, or in post - and if in post, how it was done, i.e. using a pre-set in the software or home-cooking, as it were. But I bow to your greater knowledge of skin tones - I don't think I've done a mono portrait since I stopped using mono film!

One final thought - two of the images definitely and I suspect the third as well were taken with full-frame DSLRs, which are actually a lot less forgiving of depth of field issues than APS-C or micro4/3 (let alone smartphone cameras). However, if the images will mostly be viewed on low-resolution devices, the problem becomes much less visible. It's only experienced pernickety perfectionists with traditional skills who raise these issues!

Hi Mike,

This reminds me of the line form Tootsie:

Rita: I'd like to make her look a little more attractive, how far can you pull back?
Cameraman: How do you feel about Cleveland?
Rita: Knock it off.

Jim Fellows

For my 5 points - Yogi Berra. Great article Mike.

These last two posts have been very interesting and though-provoking. I never really considered the implication of sensor resolution on depth of field. I've been wanting to send you a picture from a particular camera and lens combo that I've been shooting with quite a bit. I would love to hear your description of the lens, sensor, format and color characteristics of this particular set-up. Let me know if you are up for that and I could select maybe 3-5 images? Ideally I would strip away the exif data!

This was a fun exercise, Mike. I really enjoyed the mini photo crit. I love to hear your printmaker's expertise on these.

I'm trying to stop myself from buying any more cheap film era primes but I recently spotted some Chinon lenses and after reading that they're soft and generally not very good I read up on the company as well as I could and bought a 28mm f2.8 and a 50mm f1.4 in PK mount and a cheap adapter to enable me to use them on my Sony A7.

They're both perfectly useable lenses and in very good condition and actually they could have been made last year not decades ago.

The 28mm has mushy corners but that doesn't always matter and the 50mm is as far as I can see pretty vice less with only nit picking f1.4 bokeh with a messy background to fall back on.

These cheap lenses have quickly become favourites with the only annoyances being that they have different filter thread sizes and the controls are reversed one to the other which seems strange for two lenses from the same manufacturer and in the same mount but I've decided that these are loveable quirks and not annoying drawbacks.

Re #2: In my eyes, this image suffers from severe oversharpening, especially visible in the face on the right - both the normally barely visible skin hair and the outline of the teeth is accentuated quite harshly.
Processed less harshly it makes a fine portrait of this group, but as you've observed correctly in image #3, stopping down a moderate degree would have helped.

Thank you for this lesson, interesting

Hi Mike,

Thanks for a very helpful article. I notice this alot in my own photos: looks sharp fitted to my monitor, not so much at 100%. And, it still always comes as a surprise; darn, nice photo, but no longer usable.

BYW, the bear reference feels like déjà vu all over again.

Phil Rizzuto


I’m proud of my age. Of course I recognize the name and know he was named after Yogi Berra, the NY Yankees hall of fame catcher from the 50’s and 60’s.

Mike, I once had a portrait of a minor celebrity where I cursed at myself for missing the focus on the eyes. It turned out to have a long career as a thumbnail.
Yogi Bear must have been named after Yogi Berra, although I never made that connection until now.
"If the world were perfect, it wouldn't be."
Yogi Berra.

It might be my imagination but I have found that B&W pictures are more forgiving of unsharpness than colour ones.

As a kid growing up in India in the 1990s, I watched a lot of Yogi Bear - and Bugs Bunny, Dick Dastardly and various other yesteryear cartoons - on cable TV (Cartoon Network). I recognised the reference immediately!

At some point the channel caught up with the times and started showing Pokémon and stuff. Me and all my friends hated it, and would wax nostalgic about the good old days of Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros (a bit funny now to think of ten-year-olds talking about the good old days). But now I have a better appreciation for anime and other styles of animation which are different to what I grew up watching.

You really show a portrait orientation - you seem to prefer a single focus or small group. Any minor problems (or artistic choices) are amplified disproportionately by increasing size. So there's a maximum comfortable viewing size. I usually live in the 14-20mm FF wide angle landscape orientation where I get lots of detail and DoF is plentiful. So I love 20x30" prints and zoom in endlessly. However, there's very little focus in the artistic sense, so pick your mess...

The third party lens market is certainly interesting. I recently got myself a manual only macro from Laowa (Venus Optics) and apart from the lack of electronics of any kind ( my camera can’t even see the aperture setting), it is certainly a quality lens, both optically and physically. Given the absence of motors and circuit boards, it is also remarkably slim.

If you are prepared to forego the electronics, there are certainly some lenses out there that are worth giving a try.

Hi Mike,
Although there was a lawsuit involved, it seems the cartoon Yogi was named for the great NY Yankee catcher Yogi Berra. Berra sued but was unsuccessful. Berra apparently received his ‘Yogi’ moniker from the seated cross-legged position he assumed while waiting on deck to bat.

interesting read, thanks for it. I rarely print large, love small prints we can have in our hands but this notes and the suggested exercise are very usefull in the cases I make large prints for exhibitions. I'll try it.

So I guess you wouldn't like this picture:


[No, I think that works.

With every picture it's really just a question of whether the photographer gets it the way s/he wants it, and then if others think it works for them too. Liking pictures is kind of like liking songs. Some work for some people, some for others; some work for most people and some work for few. But it's all in the "chemistry," so to speak, and it's an individual thing. --Mike]

So I guess you wouldn't like this picture:


[No, I think that works.

With every picture it's really just a question of whether the photographer gets it the way s/he wants it, and then if others think it works for them too. Liking pictures is kind of like liking songs. Some work for some people, some for others; some work for most people and some work for few. But it's all in the "chemistry," so to speak, and it's an individual thing. --Mike]

Thanks. Identifying the goal of your photograph before you shoot sounds so lofty, but if I think about what I want before I leave the house, so to speak, and I get what I seek, then I am immensely satisfied. (The tulip outing went as planned.) The trouble is when I go out with a pre-conception, but cannot achieve it because reality refuses to accommodate my “vision”. It's frustrating. I find in those situations it's best to look around for something else. Sometimes, the spontaneity is its own reward. The rest of the time I am more than satisfied.

Yogi Bear was named for the famous New York Yankees catcher, Yogi Berra, #8. Berra in turn was famous for his quotations. “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” “It ain’t over, til it’s over.” “Its deja vu, all over again.” (More info here: https://yogiberramuseum.org/about-yogi/yogisms/ )

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