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Thread: LF: do your viewers notice the difference ?

  1. #1
    Founder QT Luong's Avatar
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    LF: do your viewers notice the difference ?

    As LF photographers, we certainly are aware of the technical quality of the final print. We notice the exquisite tonality and detail of some prints. We are often disturbed by lack of sharpness or excessive grain when viewing large enlargments made from small negatives. However, do non-photographers even remark this sort of things, or is it only the image content which strikes them ? When you show them your prints, do they realize it's not something attainable wi th a small camera ? You read enough on photo.net about "stunning" 30x50 inches lightjet prints made from 35mm that I am wondering if LF makes a difference to other people than ourselves. whether

  2. #2
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    LF: do your viewers notice the difference ?

    Absolutely. Even scans of my 8x10" contact prints (which are not really as high resolution as my 35mm scans, by virtue of my particular equipment--I haven't quite figured out why this works) seem to impress people in a way that my smaller format images don't. Viewers typically comment on the seeming "three-dimensionality" of the contact prints. I think subconsciously, the rectilinear perspective and control of the focus plane only possible with a view camera (or maybe a 35mm camera and a really big ladder) contributes to the sense that these images are special.

  3. #3

    LF: do your viewers notice the difference ?

    I would be tempted not to focus on the camera. OK, I'm an amateur so I don't have editors drooling over my work, but I like my pictures and the people who I inflict them on like them too. If I do well, they compliment me for whatever reason, not my camera. I say I don't want to focus on the camera/format because there are two possible reactions one good, one not: 1) slight inaudible gasp and eyes glued to photo with big smile (good), and 2) "My that's a lovely photo, your camera must take very nice photo's". Am I the only one who gets the "you must have a nice camera" unintentional insult? I saw a guys 35mm prints today that are better than my 4x5 contacts so I wouldn't count the camera any farther than the chosen tool. Mine is 4x5. Dean
    Dean Lastoria

  4. #4

    LF: do your viewers notice the difference ?

    Q.T., I do the art show circuit with black and white photography, so I have probably had several thousand people in my booth during the past six years. I have found that many, many of them do see a difference, although they may not be aware what makes the difference. I have had people literally stand in front of a photograph and study it for half an hour. They comment on the sharpness and contrast. Of course, about every show someone will comment that they are "gonna get some black and white film for their camera". I do get a lot of comments on the sharpness, even though I am not a sharpness freak. A lot of times I think they are seeing detail and shading in small areas that are not strictly related to sharpness. I think modern 35mm lenses are blazingly sharp, and probably sharper than any lens I own, but there is a difference in prints and I think the customers see and appreciate the difference. One of my best selling images, which was made with a convertable element of an old Wollensak triple convertable, is not that sharp when viewed under a magnifying glass, but it looks sharp in an 11x14 print. The image has sold consistantly for several years and has won ribbons and prizes at a lot of shows and competitions. I realize I am beginning to ramble so I will close with the comment that I think sharpness and apparent sharpness are noticed by the public.

    Good Shooting, Doug.

  5. #5

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    LF: do your viewers notice the difference ?

    No, the general public seems to wonder if my photographs are even photographs. I would have to explain carefully for them to understand what large format is. These issues are not important to them but they like the images and the emotional content behind them.

  6. #6

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    LF: do your viewers notice the difference ?

    Hi Q.-Tuan, I'm kind of one of them psychologists who is not a psychologist/head shrink but who has done a little research on perception. And I think your question is a very good one, one I've often thought about after reading all the contending arguements for what is the greatest of the lenses and ultimate formats. I don't know if it has ever been done, the kind of experiments that would really answer these questions, but if you did do the experiments I think a lot of people who have spent mega-bucks on their lenses would be very unhappy to find out what factors contribute to preceived "sharpness" of the image with regards to the general viewing public. Off hand, think of a random selection of 16 viewers; grab the first 16 people (those not legally blind and those not color blind, but God knows what shape their vision is in) that come out of the shopping mall and present them with a selection of images made with different lenses or formats, and then ask them to make discriminations about what is the sharpest image of the lot: you have a grandmother standing there with a 14 year old boy rating your work. I think sharpness for Joe Average will be tied-in with subject recognition (the viewers past experience and stage of development and needs at the moment of judgment), color intensity, and who-knows what else... I think concepts associated with what's known as gestalt psychology contribute to image "sharpness."

    I bet you couldn't even get consistant agreement between photos taken with the same lens at the same f-stop. I mean, show that 14 year old boy two photos taken with your old Wolly (or with your $1000 made yesterday in Germany glass),one photo of a cotton wood tree and one of last month's center-fold. Now ask him, "Tell me, which one of those pictures do you think is sharpest?"

    Most all discussions on sharpness leave out the psychology of "seeing" for the average person, and as I result it seems sometimes to me that trying to reduce the art of photographs to pairs of lines per mm is really not what I'm after, but on the other hand, you know, I can appreciate state of the art cameras and people who can make technically beautiful images. However, I do know that some of the claims I've read about the performance of certain lenses would just not make any (as we say in the trade) significant difference on the average person out for an aesthetic experience.

    Image quality for the viewer is, in the end, preceived sharpness, and I'm often amazed at which photographs of mine my friends select as their favorites when I know the photo is out of focus. I use old LF cameras because I like it, but I don't have any illusions about the possible outcome of a controlled experiment with a panel of randomly selected judges in a contest between a master of 35mm and a master of 8X10.

    Great observation about sharpness Q.-Tuan, end of lecture.

  7. #7

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    LF: do your viewers notice the difference ?

    Can the average person discriminate the performance between a racy Honda Prelude vs. a Porsche?

    I think that most people do NOT know that a particular image is shot with a large format camera, they only see the final image and respond to it. They have not established a point of reference for image quality. They may be more impressed with a nicely lit enlargement from a disposable cam.

    However, if the same scene was photographed with different formats, printed at a 16x20 size and compared side by side then they will notice the difference.

    The issue of sharpness and image quality is troublesome in LF photography. I feel that far too many times, in the search for critical sharpness and detail, LF photographers have a tendency to produce very large boring shots of focused detail (myself included as I am near sighted).

    If the shots I am shooting on an 8x10 doesn't stop the average person and make them consider a quality difference, then i guess i am not pushing myself hard enough!

  8. #8

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    LF: do your viewers notice the difference ?

    In my opinion, with the advent of digital jiggery-pokery, and the lightjet 30"x50", LF colour work will lose out for many applications where movements can be duplicated by tilt and shift lenses for 35mm, for all but the largest blow-ups - such as one I saw a cople of months ago, about 30' by 50' advertising " marvelous new retail oppertunities on this site 40,000sq feet avaliable" - it was stuck in front of a mass of scaffolding around a building in Glasgow a while back. However, one thing where LF will still hold strong is the fine art and B+W side of things due to better tonality and luminosity brought on by a larger surface area as 35mm in B+W (or mine atleast), are decidedly dodgey above 10X8 or so (mainly because I like shooting films at or above 800 ASA).

  9. #9

    LF: do your viewers notice the difference ?

    People will notice the art first. If the picture is attractive to them, they may examine it more closely and see that it's very sharp, that it has excellent tonality, etc., but they may not. Most will just see the picture as a picture and not even be conscious of the technical excellence (or lack of it), although it may well be a factor in their appreciation even if they are unaware of that. They are certainly unconscious of the technical work we may have had to do to get the picture, i.e., rise or fall, tilts, etc. They see only the final result, and they judge that not on any technical basis but on perceived artistic merit. The extreme example of this which we have all seen often is the snapshot of some person; no matter how poor the technical quality of the photograph, if it's a "good likeness", to the average person it's a good photo. The argument for LF is not that it will produce technically superior pictures, but that it will enable us to get the picture we want, a picture that may have been unobtainable with any other type of camera. But in the end, any picture still has to be something that a viewer will appreciate first for its artistic merit.

  10. #10

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    LF: do your viewers notice the difference ?

    Don't worry about it. If you're not doing this for yourself, and are instead concerned about satisfying the "quality standards" of the public at large, give up LF. A digi-wonder or 35 should suffice.

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