Do some phrases bug you after you’ve heard them a few times? Perhaps a commercial you’ve seen too much?
Many years ago I went through a phase of reading books on photography. One phrase that kept coming up was the idea of making photos that were tack sharp. Initially I thot it had a nice ring to it! It also made sense since I’m not usually aiming for dull murkiness. That requires little effort!
I worked hard to improve my skills and spent a lot of money replacing equipment trying to achieve it. I wanted entry into the tack sharp club!
While I made considerable progress and still highly value a sharp image, I now find the term a little annoying. Tack sharp seems to infer some sort of objective, measureable standard when it’s really just an unforgiving mirage.
A professional wildlife photographer I met last spring talked about never going beyond 300 ISO. He used a 48-inch monitor to make sure there was no grain whatsoever on his wildlife photos and to ensure his images were sharp. Later I got to thinking – what made him stop there? Why not get an even larger monitor?
As I looked closer and zoomed in on my much smaller monitor, my hard-fought sharpness started to fade … and then faded some more. When I added more sharpening in post processing, it still seemed a little soft or looked completely artificial. The whole thing was starting to drive me crazy.
I could feel myself turning into the dreaded pixel peeper – that annoying person who focuses on the technical aspects of photos instead of the beauty. That’s not why I started taking photos. I recall another photographer commenting that when he asked his wife what she thot of a photo, she never mentioned the technical aspects, only whether she liked the photo.
So forget the elusive dream of tack sharp. Yes I want a photo that is sharp enough to look good. But the real goal isn’t technical perfection but capturing and sharing beauty. That’s the path I started down at the beginning but it turns out there are a lot of distractions along the way.
A few weeks after meeting that professional wildlife photographer, I ran across a description for photographers who never go above 500 ISO. It was a special photography term – “sissies.” There’s another phrase I’m not too crazy about!