We have become obsessively preoccupied with sharpness! With digital cameras coming out with 50 megapixel sensors, where is it going to end? How sharp does an image really need to be? When is an image acceptably sharp?
Just go to your filing cabinets and remove a couple of slide sheets of images and look at them under a 10x loupe and you will see what I mean. These days we are used to scrutinizing our images on the screen at 100% or 200% (for the more obsessive) and, well, sometimes they do not look "perfectly" sharp. Guess what, if you print out a digital image as an 8 x 10, an 11 x 14, or even a 16 x 20, chances are that you will not really notice the softness.
The image above was made in a mix of pre-dawn daylight, artificial street light, and a cigarette lighter. I had the fellow move into the best possible position so that his body would block some ugly electrical poles, and then I had him light his cigarette. Photographed at ISO 2500 at f2.8 at 1/25sec chances were that it was not going to turn out perfectly sharp, and, combined with movement, that's the way it was, a little soft. The main thing is that I like the image and I will probably never use it larger than a full page in a book.
So be careful before you toss that image in the trash because it does not look sharp enough — it may well be acceptably sharp.
Jeremy Woodhouse is a professional photographer and traveller. He leads photography trips to all corners of the globe