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Phase One 645AF, Phase One P45+ back, Mamiya 300mm f4.5 lens
1/60 second @ f11, ISO 50, tripod-mounted, no filter

Whether using medium format, DSLRs or CSC (mirrorless) cameras, you can be capturing incredible detail. From 30-megapixels upwards, you really have to adjust your technique to get the most out of the new technology.

I’m making the assumption that you want to be able to make big prints with optimum quality and sharpness, at least on occasion. If this is you, then many of the rules we used to follow in the film days are no longer valid.

Let’s take depth-of-field, for example. Depth-of-field is the area in front of and behind our focus plane that appears to be in sharp focus. I say ‘appears to be’ because there really is only one plane (or point) of sharp focus. However, our eyes are limited in the detail they can resolve. Depth-of-field used to be based on a person with average eyesight viewing an 8x10” print at arm’s length. If areas in front of or behind the focus plane appeared sharply focused, we said that depth-of-field was extending the area of focus.

However, that was with film technology and making prints from negatives or transparencies. With digital technology, we can see much more sharpness and detail – and we can also see that an image isn’t really as sharp as it could be.

If you like taking photographs with selective focus, then digital is a good thing. On the other hand, if you like photographs to be tack sharp from the foreground to the background, you should learn how to focus-stack your images (taking a series of images at different focus distances and merging them together in post-production).

We also used to talk about being able to hand-hold a camera at 1/30 second and keeping everything sharp. However, at 1/30 second, a high resolution sensor will easily pick up and accurately record even the slightest camera shake, so we are much better off shooting at 1/60 or 1/125 second. Of course, image stabilisation will help, so perhaps we can return to 1/30 second after all?

Possibly not! It wasn’t always holding the camera that was the problem, rather the subject moving fractionally during the 1/30 second exposure. Image stabilisation won’t freeze your subject and so any subject movement will show up distinctly on our high resolution sensors.

So, what’s the solution? It depends on what you want your photographs to look like. If you want maximum sharpness, like I did for this photograph of Seoul, use a tripod or a fast shutter speed. Keep your camera and your subject still while you make the exposure.

On the other hand, if your captures are more about emotions and feelings, then a little subject or camera blur can actually add to the interpretation of your subject.

NEW TRADITION: Not all photographs have to be critically sharp, but if we want critical sharpness, in The New Tradition we need to adjust our camera technique accordingly. 

About the photo: Although hand-painting the church in colour, the final image uses the basic hues that can be found in the original raw file, rather than a completely new hue.

Need a good read? Like to learn something more about photography? Interested in new ideas? Why not purchase a copy of my book, The New Tradition, which is full of great tales and ideas. It has 100 photographs and accompanying stories guaranteed to enthrall you - and you can save $30 on the purchase price right now - use coupon code TNT30. Check out more on the www.betterphotography.com website

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