Friday, July 10, 2009

Focus People. Focus.


And I don't mean pay attention. I mean turn the focus ring on your lens until the subject of your photograph is sharp.

The trend lately, at least in art photography circles, has been toward out of focus photos. The more out of focus, the better, apparently. This is a trend that drives me nuts.

This photo by Erin Malone is typical. It's called "Mystery Forest, Yosemite National Park, CA 2007." I get it. It's mysterious, so it's out of focus. It's considered art.

But, still, to me it's an out of focus photo. If I shot this photo I would consider it a mistake. And I would trash it.

Now, I don't mean to pick on Erin. And I'm certainly not casting any aspersions on her talent. I don't know her. I just ran across this photo and thought it illustrated the point pretty well. Visit her web site and check out her work.

Maybe it's because I was trained as a photojournalist. In photojournalism, if your main subject is out of focus, the shot is trash. It will never see the light of day in a publication. Well, maybe a fine art publication.

I don't like out of focus photos. I don't consider them art. And I certainly wouldn't pay big bucks to hang one on my wall.

Apparently, I'm in the minority. There seem to be more and more publications dedicated to "fine art" photography that feature portfolios of photographers where at least one shot is totally out of focus. Some even feature entire out of focus portfolios.

And don't even get me started on out of focus highlights. The so-called "bokeh" of a photograph. Bokeh is an entirely made up concept that characterizes the quality of the highlights in an out of focus area of an image. It does not have character, it is out of focus. Bokeh was made up in 1996 by the editor of a photo magazine.

But that's a discussion for another time.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Ach, chill pill. The criteria of art(yness) are metrics such as deliberateness, whether it conveys a message, etc. Not some kind of check-list of rules for "correct"ness. Specifically, there is no such thing as "sharp", only diminishing CoC radii subject to the scale at which it's viewed and relative to your eyes.

Of course, there's nothing worse than a sharp rendition of an out-of-focus shot, so if you're aiming for sharp, do get it right at the source.