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Problem: lack of definition, how to sharpen?

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I have tried sharpness to infinity or not. Usually I prefer the subject to be sharp, and everything else softer than the subject.


If the subject stands still, I quite often use focus stacking and then experiment in post until I get the sharpness on various elements that I prefer.


Here are two examples:




BDABA5 was done when I was experimenting with focus stacking. It has everything sharp. I think the sharp forest and forest floor distract from the main subject. I think the entire log should be in focus, but the forest should be soft enough to be only a suggestion.




CWX8YX was done by focus stacking and could have been sharp on all mushrooms through to the forest at infinity. In post I chose to soften some elements such as the forest, in order to emphasize the subject. By discarding some of the focus stack, I was able to experiment with the sharpness of the forest and some of the mushrooms. I probably used 5 foreground exposures at F11 and discarded the rest. The final image focuses the viewer on the foreground mushrooms. In particular, it suppresses a confusing merger between the mushroom foreground right and the more distant mushroom appearing directly above.


Sharper elements demand viewer's attention.

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It's really a matter of taste and techique I guess. In many of  my images, the subject is the entire landscape - many of my pictures are intended to illustrate whole landscape geological or geomorphological features as well as hopefully having aesthetic value. I want the distant mountains to be as sharp as possible if there are features visible. So I use hyperfocal focusing. 


But even when I am photographing plants in their environment and the plants are in the foreground, I like to keep it all as sharp as possible in camera using hyperfocal focusing. That way I know what I've got. If I wanted to soften the background, then that could be done in Photoshop if required - I don't do this but it would be easy to do in many cases.

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The example I showed is one of a set and I also took some at wide apertures with a soft distance, and some with the boundary marker (cricket field) unsharp but the distance soft. Having both the boundary marker and the fielder sharp, but the trees and houses beyond soft, disobeys the rules of depth of field and could only be achieved by blurring the horizon in Photoshop. I don't think that much or work that much on images.


All I know is that the client can blur any part of an image, cut out or do other work, if the image if acceptably sharp. Blurred parts can not be refocused though!


I use strong differential focus as often as I use great depth of field. I also have usable lenses down to 4.2mm focal length on small (but raw-capable) sensors which enable viewpoints quite impossible with a full-frame camera. Basically - use every tool you can!

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