After a photo shoot, most photographers cull through their images on their favorite software. During this process, images that stand out are kept for post-processing, and rejects are thrown away. But what exactly constitutes an image worthy of making the cut?
90 percent of photographers are willing to admit that not all of their images come out tack sharp; the other 10 percent are likely being dishonest. When culling through a test shoot from this past weekend, an image really stood out to me, though it was a smidgen out of focus. This photo had me thinking: "What exactly qualifies as a 'keeper' image?" Does it have to be 100% razor-sharp? Or does overall composition, lighting, and expression hold more value than sharpness?
The example shown above begs the question: if you saw that the eyes were slightly out of focus, would this be a winner or a throwaway? As you can see towards the edges of the image, the photo is back-focused slightly; we're talking millimeters here. Now, probably due to my own error, I must have inched forward just enough when the focus was locked down, and you can also tell I was shooting at a wide aperture.
I'm an advocate of the idea that sharpness is crucial to an image’s quality or lack thereof. I would say the majority of my final images are indeed sharp; especially in the eyes. But in some cases, is it acceptable to have an image that may be slightly out of focus make the cut? I believe that as long as an image’s composition, lighting, and expression is strong enough, it is acceptable to use that photo.
Ultimately, I decided to go forward with processing the image and I am satisfied with the outcome. The model, Hannah, pulled off a wonderful expression that was very strong. I was more than content with the expression, lighting, and composition. If I were to nitpick, I would have liked the forehead and maybe even the nose to have more texture, but since the focus slipped and I was using a wide aperture, that is not the case.
That being said, I would like to ask you: What criteria do you look for when selecting your images? Does the image have to be 100 percent sharp? Or, is it a combination of composition, lighting, etc.?