Despite our use of tripods, of image-stabilizing lenses, our choosing only the best weather and photographic situations, we STILL manage to create a great image that is less than tack sharp. The truth is, we are humans and we are imperfect. We are shaky, we breathe hard (at times), our hearts beat too strongly (at times), we had too much coffee or tea (never), we get cold, we get tired, our feet hurt, we are unsettled from reading Goosebumps stories, etc.
Heap onto that pile of human shortcomings the fact that our scenes and subjects are in constant motion as well. From the grandness of the Cosmos down to quantum physics: everything is in motion always and forever. Wind blows, rivers flow, trees sway, frogs jump, people avoid and ducks move.
One more scoop for the pile: our light is not always bright and our photography conditions are often less-than-perfect.
What can we do? For starters, we can acknowledge these scientifically proven facts and make plans to mitigate the challenges we may find. For those of you whom create images with phones, consider that you are lucky to have one of the smallest cameras you can use. This is great because larger cameras mean more for our feeble muscles to carry. For those of us who insist on lugging big "pro" cameras into the out-of-doors, I suggest a tripod. In high winds you can even add weight to your tripod to help hold it still. This is only one example of the many ways to hedge your sharp-photo bets when creating the images in camera. What I really want to discuss is in post processing.
I want to first share with you a sometimes taboo idea: pressing the shutter-button and saving an image on your memory card is only half the process. You then need to (get too) edit. This is an important, integral, fun and creative part of the image making process. You might not want to find yourself being too much of a purist to find the joy and value in editing your photographs.
Personally, I find my style, what I like in my images, is a more nature images without too much photo-fantasy included. There is, however, a certain mood that you remember, you felt or the subject required. And sometimes that mood, as recorded, just wasnt perfect. in these moments I do some color work, tone work, etc. to bring the subject to life, just enough, without it looking like an Avatar character.
The one universal 'fact', however, is that an unsharp subject is a subject that cannot carry the weight of the story and often fails in the mission of conveying meaning. Frankly, if it is unsharp it is not a successful image. Unless of course you are selectively using out-of-focus techniques, but that is not what we are talking about here.
Read the first paragraphs again, that is what we are talking about. I am human and I do not always get sharpness perfect. I used to be snobby about editing tools, thinking that one just has to do better when pressing the shutter. I was wrong. Realizing this and accepting it, I now embrace tools that can save the image from the virtual rubbish bin: artificial Intelligence sharpening software.
I recently purchased Topaz Sharpen AI from Topaz Labs This tool is FANTASTIC! I have used it for both new and old, some very old images, to bring the subjects to acceptably sharp. For new photos, I will review my images for sharpness. Those images of which I did not nail sharpness, I run through Sharpen AI before sending into Lightroom. For my older digital images, some taken with 10mp cameras, I am able to go revisit, sharpen, re-edit and upsize to create a new up-to-date file.
Here is an example of Sharpen A.I. in use. Color and tone were edited with Lightroom, afterwards.
These photos were created with a Canon 5DS R camera, Sigma 70-200mm lens and no tripod (I was seeing what the camera could do).
The duck appears sharp enough, but there is some softness on the flight feathers, and the eye is not perfect. An eye must be sharp!
If we zoom in we can see that the eye, the entire head really, are not sharp.
I used Sharpen A.I.'s "Motion Blur" correction to help render the image as much sharper.
This helps greatly to create an image that is much sharper and cleaner looking.
All in all, I am very pleased with this new tool and recommend it to anyone. After all, you are, I'm sure, human and experience imperfection at times. I embraced my humanness and all its ugly beauty. When I did that I accepted the fact that there are times I can use some help to save my images. I sleep just fine at night.
Now, if this is the A.I. that takes over the world, at least we'll all look sharp.