Magnum photographer Henri-Cartier-Bresson once famously stated that “sharpness is a bourgeois concept” and thousands of would-be photographers have taken what was intended as a jocular retort to heart as if it were gospel from the greatest man ever to hold a camera. Nothing could be further from the truth.
From Vanity Fair magazine’s Shooting Past 80 article on photographers 80 years of age and older:
“He had his little Leica,” Newton remembers, “and he simply would point and shoot.” Since Cartier-Bresson’s hand isn’t as steady as it used to be, some of the pictures were a bit fuzzy. “Sharpness,” he told Newton, “is a bourgeois concept.” Newton sits back and laughs: “I thought that was just divine.”
So one of the most-quoted photographer statements ever was born as a joke between two veteran photographers, Helmut Newton and Henri Cartier-Bresson, and then has been used ever since as the justification for poorly-made snapshots, as holy writ.
Thomas Fitzgerald, a Dublin-based fine art photographer with a technical and graphic design background, concurs in a timely article about sharpness, Sharpness is Not Overrated and Why I Care About Image Quality.
Every now and then someone trots out some article or blog post about how “sharpness is overrated” and how you shouldn’t care about getting sharp images, and how having technically accurate pictures somehow makes you gear obsessed and a bad photographer.
I have been giving sharpness, JPEG image size and quality, and cameras with and without optical low pass filters (OLPF) some thought lately, in the light of new cameras being released without them.
I love each of the hybrid APS-C and Micro Four Thirds cameras I have here, whether they are primarily for video or for stills photography, but I don’t want to discard any of them because they are not producing results as sharp as the most recently released cameras such as the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5.
I often use several cameras in the course of my projects and need their results to work together well. That need is becoming even more urgent now that I am uploading full-sized 100% quality JPEGs to my Flickr account and will be doing so for other such accounts and websites soon.
What to do? Then I remembered piccure+ from having used a trial version a while ago, when all this was less of a problem and I was still trying to understand how to achieve optimum sharpness in a number of raw processors and image editors.
If you find yourself in the same position as I am in now, then give piccure+ a go.
- Eric Kim – Why Sharpness is a Bourgeoise Concept in Street Photography
- Iconic Photos – Vanity Fair Portfolio – the Shooting Past 80 article as published in Vanity Fair.
- Newsweek – Opposites Attract
- The Inspired Eye – 10 great photography quotes from Henri Cartier Bresson
- Thomas Fitzgerald Photography – Sharpness is Not Overrated and Why I Care About Image Quality
- Mary Ellen Mark – Shooting Past 80, text of the article from Vanity Fair.