How Much Does Image Quality Really Matter?

Modern cameras and lenses offer remarkably good image quality — levels that were only dreamed of even just a decade ago. And with those increased capabilities have come increased standards and expectations. But at this point, how much image quality do we really need? This interesting video poses the question and examines a scenario where getting the shot might take precedence. 

Coming to you from Jiggie Alejandrino, this thought-provoking video examines the question of how much image quality we really need. I'm reminded of one of my first headshot sessions. At that time, I would automatically remove any image where I didn't absolutely nail the focus. The client was not especially satisfied with what that left and asked me where many of the photos in which he knew he was smiling had gone to. I explained my reasoning, but he asked to see them anyway, and he was immediately far more pleased. He ended up selecting one where I had barely missed focus; a little extra sharpening got it plenty close enough. It was then that I realized there is a way a photographer sees images and a way a client sees them, and it is important that we understand both, because technical perfection is far from everything. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Alejandrino. 

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Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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For those of us who take images only for fine art purposes, image quality is everything. I have no interest in taking photos so that I have something to remember something by, or to show something to someone.

The reason to take a photo is so that I can have the most beautiful, most perfect visual representation of something that was possible.

No interest whatsoever in photographing family members, vacation fun, "memories", etc. That just doesn't do anything for me at all. Hence, "getting the shot" is meaningless if I cannot get the shot to look exactly the way I want it to look.

Image quality, down at the super zoomed in pixel level, is of the utmost importance.

I have seen fine art photographs that were sold as fine art that were made with a cell phone. If you were truly interested in "the most perfect visual representation" and "super zoomed in pixel level, is of the utmost importance., you would throw all your old canon cameras out and get a minimum of 50mp camera.with a new sensor tech that has good dynamic range, The cameras you have do not have either resolution or good dynamic range/ high ISO noise performance..

I agree with you - the Canon 5D Mark 4 that I use as my primary camera often falls short in a couple of areas. But I am still reeling, financially from having bought that camera 3 years ago. I would love to use a camera that better suits my desires, but simply do not have the financial wherewithal. Hopefully in 2024 or 2025 I will be able to upgrade.

It doesn't sound slike you take images for art it sounds like you take them for technical proficiency.

Both. Dramatic and beautiful and compelling compositions and subject matter are useless unless coupled with solid technical qualities. That is my feeling on the subject - others are free to feel differently, of course.

Fine art is subjective

Yes it certainly is! And that is why I am only able to write authoritatively on how I feel about it, and cannot write authoritatively about how others should feel about it.

It would be interesting to see two shots comparing the same scene with and without the flash. That's fairly easy to do if you just hold the shutter down so that it takes two shots, one with the flash and, since you're probably at (or close to) full power, the 2nd shot will happen before the flash has time to recycle. It would definitely be a lot more informative as to how the couple is being lit than by comparing that first image (that the assistant shot without OCF) because that first image is shot from a different direction (sun high and to the left) and possibly even at a different location (background is completely different).

High end glass and pro bodies will yield aesthetically striking images (tracking and accurately focusing on fast moving subjects, exceptional telephoto reach, background obliterating bokeh) with high IQ.

That said, light and composition ultimately separate a great image from a poor one. Stunning, timeless images have been made with technically inferior equipment for... quite some time now...

Image quality is not everything. It only matters up to a certain point and maybe not at all. To me what you are trying to say with your photography is always more important. No exceptions. Some will try to convince you that some spec is absolutely needed for X type of photography. But they are wrong and probably just miserable shills for technical specifications. Enjoy the art of the photo!

Pretty lazy way of working if the photographer cba to sharpen all images correctly before deleting or presenting to the client 🙄

What do you mean by "cba"?