Emotionally In Focus vs. Technically In Focus
Photographers are, in many ways, perfectionists. We thrive at manipulating every detail of our surroundings to exact personal preferences. We tweak, nudge and adjust things over and over again until everything is exactly the way we want it. We shoot hundreds upon hundreds of images with the hopes of capturing a few that live up to our own impossible standards.
It's this desire for perfection that is part of what makes us professionals, not just hobbyists.
But sometimes, imperfection has its place too—as long as it is handled in a certain way.
As a portrait photographer who is obsessed with capturing authentic expressions from my subjects (in fact, my studio was originally called Expressions by Sandy Puc'), I often capture what I refer to as "emotionally in focus" images.
As opposed to "technically in focus" images, which have that flawless, razor-sharp detail we all love, emotionally in focus images are a bit softer, and the slightest bit out of focus. But what they lack in technical perfection, these images make up for with an extraordinary amount of emotion.
Oftentimes, a busy child will move as we play together in the studio. Therefore, more than likely these images will have some kind of movement in them, usually from the head or eyes (hence the emotion they portray). A simple laugh, random hug, or silly action can all create a softening in the image.
Because these images are almost always the cutest, most adorable of all, you can benefit from going against your gut feeling, and include them in your client's viewing presentation. Knowing that the images will not make a good wall portrait—but could make a terrific addition to an album—is key to the selling process.
Where I think I have gone wrong in the past, when I chose to leave these images in the collection, is not immediately mentioning to my client the uniqueness and realistic capabilities of such images.
When showing these emotionally in focus images, you'll likely find a mix of responses from your clients. Some will dismiss them, thinking they could create such photographs on their own, while others will fall in love with them right away because of their strong emotional connection and appeal.
At that point, it's crucial that you communicate to the client what can and cannot be done with such an image.
If you don't address the image's capabilities up front, then you're setting yourself up for failure. If you're not honest about the image from the beginning, clients are bound to fall in love with it and want a much larger print than is possible to print.
At first it may seem that a client wanting such a large image is a good problem to have, but it's actually a giant headache waiting to happen.
If you agree to sell a large wall portrait of an emotionally in focus image, you're likely to find yourself later going back into Photoshop trying to correct the image for several excruciatingly painful hours. Even with all that extra hard work, you're still likely to find out that the final product ends up not matching the client's expectations.
You've now just wasted your valuable time, and permanently harmed your relationship with the client.
Rather, if you're honest about the image from the start, you should have no problem selling it as an art piece, as opposed to a traditional portrait. Such images are great for mantles, desks, or my personal favorite, designer albums. I also love enhancing the contrast and making the image black and white for the ultimate timeless appeal.
You must understand that as a professional, I understand the importance of a well-focused image. However, as a parent and as a studio owner, I also understand that sometimes a slight movement in an image creates life and joy, and I have watched many a client fall in love with that captured moment.
Just because an image isn't technically perfect doesn't mean that you should immediately discard it. As long as you're honest with your clients, emotionally in focus images can be perfectly imperfect.