softness of pictures

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by pawel_baranski, Mar 23, 2012.

  1. Older pictures were much softer than right now. Most of photographs i see seem to be very... raw/hard/crude, even kind of violent in some way.
    http://500px.com/photo/6001299?from=popular
    http://500px.com/photo/6002738?from=popular
    http://500px.com/photo/6002515?from=popular
    some soft pictures:
    http://webtechnologies123.files.wor...03_2008_0530604001205108030_helmut_newton.jpg
    http://jpcatavento.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/helmut_newton_002_jp.jpg (Admin Edit: NSFW image, nudity)
    or almost any picture taken by biggest photographers. (http://theredlist.fr/wiki-2-16-601-788-view-portrait-1-profile-arbus-diane.html#photo , just single link).
    How this kind of softness is achieved?
    I realize this is question about post-processing, but i have feeling that this will became conversation about which technique is better, so i posted this in cusual conversations.
     
  2. I don't agree that the Adams examples you posted to are soft.

    He does have a large number of soft photos, his portraits for example; the landscapes shown are really very sharp and
    'contrasty'. If these appear soft to you, I would first say that they are jpg copies many generations old and that is where their softness comes from. As prints in real life they are bold and crisp, even Mt Williamson.

    Anyway, if you are looking for a vintage soft look, old uncoated lenses are probably what you are looking for.
     
  3. "Older pictures were much softer"
    Apparently you missed out on the F-64 Group, Ansel Adams' landscapes, most of Ed Weston's work, most WWII photography, Weegee, and all the "give me an 8x10 glossy" shots mades with a 4x5 Speed Graphic. There was a school of soft focus "pictorial" work at one point, soft focus has come and gone in portrait work, and large format cameras have narrower depth of field than small-format film and small digital sensors. But I would argue that the dominant trend in "older pictures" was toward tack sharp, not "much softer." As someone who works both as a photographer and photo editor, I have seen far more soft images since AF has come along since many photographers are relying on AF rather than taking the time to manually focus. There are certainly many situations with moving subjects and low light where perfect focus is tricky with either manual or autofocus. But I've seen shots where someone is sitting down for a portrait, or standing still at a podium giving a speech, and the shots are soft. I look carefully and find that the photographer was using AF and the sensor was hitting the subject's nose, chin, shirt collar -- anything but the eyes.
     
  4. I'm not sure what you mean by "soft." Are you talking about the sharpness and contrast? The subject matter? The lighting?
    There is a recent trend in photography towards making images "pop," whether by oversharpening, HDR, over-the-top saturation, or whatever. These tools weren't available to photographers prior to digital photoediting.
    What we did have, if we wanted it, was contrasty films and papers, hard lighting, and larger format cameras. As Richard points out, AA's large format photography is stunningly sharp and edgy. Much of the lesser quality of professional flash photography of the 40's and 50's was a bit too "hard" for my tastes -- very harsh, somewhat high key, and with often too little attention to harsh shadows. Portrait lighting from the 70's was often very hard as well.
    Anyway, as Richard points out, our 35mm format lenses and films/sensors weren't as good in the days of olde than they are now, so they were softer overall. And nowadays everyone seems to want to overcook their images in PhotoShop -- because they can, I suppose. To achieve this look, use older manual lenses from the 70's, preferably at slightly wider apertures. Don't oversharpen in post. Don't go crazy with the sliders. That's all.
    Edit: I take it back. Gosh, you could cut your finger on any of the images from my Leica IIIf!
     
  5. Sarah, how does the large format allow for a sharper and/or more contrast in an image given "What we did have, if we wanted it, was contrasty films and papers, hard lighting, and larger format cameras"?
     
  6. http://www.joemcnally.com/blog/
    this is very good example of hard pictures.
    It's not about miss-focusing. I'm reffering mostly to famous photographers of 20-th century, and pretty much all of their pictures are soft.
    I compared ansel adam's work with some picture from 500px in my previous post. While ansel adams pictures are sharp, they are not as punchy as these from 500px for example, which are extremly sharp.
     
  7. Parv, large format doesn't result in better contrast, but its sharper because the resolving issues of the media are not as important, and because diffraction is less of a problem.
     
  8. Parv,

    At least Weston and Adams used pyro based developers. A developer which produces edge and adjacency effects on the
    negative. And the size of the negative is proportional to the size of the effects, inversely.

    Much the same way that unsharp mask looks different on a 100x100 image versus a 1000x1000 image with the same
    settings. It gives the negative and print a micro contrast sharpening effect, analogously.

    "While ansel adams pictures are sharp, they are not as punchy as these from 500px for example, which are extremly
    sharp."

    Pawel, I assure you that in real life those prints are very very sharp, even enlarged(Adams). Their effective resolution is
    far far greater than any of those digital images are from your site. Off hand, by eye, I would say equivalent to a 1gigapixel
    file at minimum. And both Weston and Adams have many examples of very 'punchy' prints.
     
  9. "this is very good example of hard pictures."

    Those skateboarders at the top of the blog look sharp to you?
     
  10. The photos that you called "old" are B/W and B/W are not good for showing on monitors. In fact, you can not "show" Adam's photos on the internet. Many of us never have a chance to see any of Adam's photos either (they only look at reprints in some ways)
    More importantly, what you called "sharpness" or "hardness" is mainly related to the "sharp" difference between the subject and background (or foreground). The kind of sharpness that you can see and feel and show at 600x400 resolution on 17' monitors
     
  11. Thanks, Sarah, Richard.
     

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