on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Sharp but not Sharper

Matching Intent & Objective

Rafael Rojas

Following a career as an engineer, researcher and university lecturer he made a dramatic change of career as a nature and landscape photographer, his true passion and vocation. Today, he travels extensively in search of those fleeting moments when light and land combine to create something very special. His work has been awarded in many international photography competitions, including the prestigious Master Hasselblad Award, several First Prizes in the International Photography Awards (USA), Px3 Prix de la Photographie de Paris and Px3 People's Choice (France), Nature’s Best (USA), International Conservation Awards (USA),


As I write this, I investigate the options to update some of my lenses in order to squeeze all the detail that my new Nikon D850 seems to be able to resolve. And yet, I am not at all convinced I need any more sharpness or perfection in my images... In fact, rather the contrary, as I feel my work has been evolving into a more pictorialist realm these last few years.

That being said, this thought reminded me that these concerns about quality being systematically associated to sharpness are frequent within the community of landscape photographers. Why is it that we are so easily sucked into the need of making always sharper and sharper images?

It cannot be denied that we can always soften sharp images, but more difficultly sharpen fuzzy ones. Seen from this side, obtaining sharp images with good lenses and cameras gives us the luxury of flexibility. Indeed, when starting out with sharp images, we can decide later on how to print and present our images without being limited by a lack of definition. We can also make bigger extrapolations (resampling) and print larger before the artifacts and lack of sharpness start to make our images fall apart.

With this article, I do not intend to embark on technical discussions about the physics behind the concept of sharpness, visual acuity and resolution. Instead, I would like to consider the well established idea that sharper is always better and whether we could adopt an alternative qualitative measurement system instead.

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