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Thread: Sharp or Soft

  1. #1
    lumicks's Avatar
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    justin sison

    Sharp or Soft

    Sharp or Soft

    Been wondering WHEN photos / portraits have to be sharp or have "soft effect".

    A photo of my daughter dancing on the street while waiting for their school bus. Taken last Chinese New Year.
    C&C welcomed

  2. #2
    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Manfred Mueller

    Re: Sharp or Soft

    There is no "have to" in photography; these are compositional choices that the photographer makes in keeping with the image he or she is trying to create.

    In portraiture, deliberate softness is often aimed at females, especially their faces, to reduce what might be viewed as blemishes, wrinkles, etc, which often become more prominant was people age. This softness has evolved to a point where is seems to represent femininity, regardless of the age of the subject, even getting down to children. In general, regardless of the amount of softening applied; we do want certain features to remain sharp; eyes and potentially the lips come to mind here; but we will tend to hide the acne and other defects in teen girls.

    On the other hand, the opposite seems to be true for men; where sharp focus that show sculpted muscles, facial hair, etc are often enhanced to represent masculinity. Even as men age, wrinkles and scars are viewed as "badges of honour", that are worn with pride and not hidden with artifical softening.

    There is a bit of a crossover when photographing / displaying women engaging in more "traditional" male roles; athletic and business poses are handled (within limits) with a more masculine style; accentuating starkness and downplaying defects without softening the image. Street photography or photojournalic styles, where we want to portray a bit more grittiness will try to show the subjects, both male and female, with wrinkles and blemishes. On the other hand, ballet or dance images may emphasise a softer view, regardless of the gender of the subject.

  3. #3
    lumicks's Avatar
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    Re: Sharp or Soft

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    There is no "have to" in photography; these are compositional choices that the photographer makes in keeping with the image he or she is trying to create.

    In portraiture, deliberate softness is often aimed at females, especially their faces, to reduce what might be viewed as blemishes, wrinkles, etc, which often become more prominant was people age. This softness has evolved to a point where is seems to represent femininity, regardless of the age of the subject, even getting down to children. In general, regardless of the amount of softening applied; we do want certain features to remain sharp; eyes and potentially the lips come to mind here; but we will tend to hide the acne and other defects in teen girls.

    On the other hand, the opposite seems to be true for men; where sharp focus that show sculpted muscles, facial hair, etc are often enhanced to represent masculinity. Even as men age, wrinkles and scars are viewed as "badges of honour", that are worn with pride and not hidden with artifical softening.

    There is a bit of a crossover when photographing / displaying women engaging in more "traditional" male roles; athletic and business poses are handled (within limits) with a more masculine style; accentuating starkness and downplaying defects without softening the image. Street photography or photojournalic styles, where we want to portray a bit more grittiness will try to show the subjects, both male and female, with wrinkles and blemishes. On the other hand, ballet or dance images may emphasise a softer view, regardless of the gender of the subject.
    Thank you so much Manfred for the very helpful info and tip!

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