Sometimes the best way to learn how to use a new technique is to deliberately abuse it, push it just a little too far so you can see what’s really going on. Even though subtlety may be the end goal, by its very nature subtlety conceals the effect, making it a less than optimal learning tool.
I’ve noticed that a lot of landscape and nature photography looks really really sharp, even when it’s blown up to a wall-sized print. There are several factors that contribute to this: starting out with a large-format bazillion-megapixel camera is one; printing on glossy paper is another.
And then there’s sharpening, which can be done in post-processing (e.g., in Photoshop) to enhance the image. Sharpening won’t cure an image that’s out of focus; it increases contrast to make the edges of objects stand out more. (OK, that’s a terrible oversimplification…)
This photo is of one of my favorite gardens along Commercial Street in Provincetown. With the tall colorful flowers in front and the artful bench toward the back, it was a perfect subject for playing around with selective focus and depth of field — especially since I couldn’t find an angle that would eliminate the house in the background.
Even though the flowers were pretty sharp, I decided to play around with making them even sharper. I deliberately over-sharpened — using a setting I knew would be a little too high. The result is the almost 3D effect you see below.