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Dash of Inspiration: Image Quality – Sharpness/Clarity

July 1, 2013

A Dash of Inspiration, A Cup of Creativity by Doreen

Image Quality: Sharpness/Clarity

Let’s keep this series going by moving along into the IMAGE QUALITY grouping of the Submission Guidelines, and first up  is:

IMAGE QUALITY: Sharpness/Clarity     

The Submission Guidelines state this:

Images, whether photographs, scans of original artwork, or photographs of artwork, must have good clarity with sharp details and edges. This does not mean you can’t have selective focus or add a soft, dreamy effect to photographs which, when well executed can be a technique which provides a professional feel to a photograph. Declines may include, but are not limited to: blurry areas within an image, blurry edges, soft focus if not appropriate and professionally created, lack of depth of field, blurry images due to improper capture of movement, etc.

The majority of images that fall into the area of declines for lack of sharpness/clarity are photographs and those with photographic elements, so this is the primary discussion here, however; it goes without saying that if you have scanned or photographed your artwork and the results are not crisp and sharply focused, those too will be declined.

Blurry Areas  & Edges :  Probably the most commonly made mistake in photography is blurry areas or overall lack of sharpness. The key is knowing what caused the blurry area(s) within the photograph and making corrections when taking the photograph.

Look for camera shake as a culprit. Available light+aperture+ISO will determine the camera’s exposure. ANY movement of even the slightest breath during that exposure can cause camera shake. Identify camera shake problems by looking for these telltale signs:

  • Entire image is blurry, not just areas of the photograph
  • There is a ‘double image’ effect to the photograph
  •  Look for blurry streaks throughout the image and can even look jagged.

Poor focus is another area which will cause a blurry area in your image. Rather than seeing an overall blur in the entire image, you’ll see:

  •  Sharp focus in the wrong area of the image.
  • Usually the ‘blurring’ is softer (no, this does not mean you used a soft focusing technique)

july image 1

Poor Soft Focusing Technique:  There are a variety of focusing techniques that professional photographers use to create stunning images. There are terms which are applied to many of these methods, but unless you truly understand the fundamental guidelines behind each of these skills, you will not achieve successful results and your images may be considered blurry rather than pleasing. Look at these examples:

july image 2

A good read/refresher is The Fundamentals of Focusing Techniques.

Lack of Depth Of Field (DOF): For greeting card photographs, using a shallow DOF can certainly work, however it’s also very easy to create an image that just does not work as a greeting card image. Sometimes it’s the difference between where the DOF drop off is, and sometimes it’s a matter of whether the DOF drop off is slight or significant. To understand the difference, you need to understand DOF … it’s basic photography 101.

july image 3

A good read/refresher is Focus on Depth of Field.

Poor Capture of Movement: Motion capture photography has it’s unique techniques depending on whether you wish to stop motion or capture a feeling of motion and it begins with one question … What is your goal?

Here are some tips to recognize the difference between professional motion capture techniques and those images which had no technique and therefore are poor examples:

  • In motion capture photography, SOMETHING in the image always remains in focus.
  • When Panning Techniques are used, you get is a fairly sharp subject that stands out against a blurred background, ultimately giving the desired feeling of motion and often with some of the subject showing the motion blur.
  •  Stopping motion techniques when properly applied, give a feeling of motion because the subject is sharply focused and the surroundings show the signs of movement.
  •  Motion Blur has been successful when your subject is moving and everything else in the image is still, creating swirling lights or swirls of unrecognizable movement.

For examples of good motion capture and tips: Motion Capture Photography Tips.

july image 4

Next week we’ll continue through the Submission Guidelines: Image Quality section and discuss Grain/Color Noise. Till next week, I hope I’ve inspired you to go look through your store and see if you can weed out any images that the reviewers will find during their weeding which might have Sharpness/Clarity issues; and if so, best get to reworking the text on those cards before the reviewers get to them and decline them!


For great resources & tips visit the SalonOfArt

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 1, 2013 1:00 pm

    Very good information. Thank you!

  2. Angela Castillo permalink
    July 14, 2013 2:24 pm

    I have had many cards declined because the background was blurry, even though the main subject was in focus. It’s frustrating.

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