On fuzzy images

This is one of the things you read about on somebody else’s blog, but never consider true until it happens to you. This time, I am talking about general public (meaning non-photographers) perception of shallow depth of field images… This is what happened to me recently.

Torie's eyes, reflection in the window2

A friend of mine wanted to share with her friends couple of pictures on my cats. Apparently, that’s what cat lovers do. I have send her image of Ace, one of the series with orange ball (not the one linked), and my favorite image of Torie – with her reflection in the window (same image was published on blog when I shot it).

Shortly, I heard back from her that Ace image is OK, but image of Torie is “fuzzy”. I have to admit I was stunned at first. After all, her face in the reflection is not fuzzy at all. Also, it is not at all that easy to shoot both reflection and original with both in focus, although I saw it possible. Which of course if of no interest to the viewer.

And then I remembered hearing about the issue from other photographers. For example, there was an article by Mike Moats on his Tiny Landscapes blog (UPDATED June 18, 2013 – luckily, Mike Moats reposts occasionally, and here you can see curent version of the article) about his impression from art shows, where people do not like shallow-depth-of-field macro images, and many of them considers them simply incorrect. After all, most of them can take an image which is in focus al the way though with their point-and-shoots, which are designed to be that way. They expect a professional photographer to do “at least as good”. Which is ironic

Apparently, only the photographers can appreciate blurry background, with often abstract quality to the final image. Only we, photographers, are proud of our expensive lenses with f/1.4 apertures, photographing just about anything as wide open as we can, leaving just this one detail, only the most important thing, sharp.

I wonder what my friend would say to this evening on the streets image by Jessica Sweeney, which I like a lot. After all, only a bit of cobble stone is in focus. You cannot distinguis action happening further into the scene. yet, us, human, we know what is there, can tell the story, so why is it so important to have everything spelled out, in focus and almost distracting?

How about you? Are you a photographer or viewer? Do you prefer images all the way sharp (like most landcapes) or so you like a blurry, non-distracting backgrounds (like in portraits or flower images)? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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