What Is Acutance And Why Should You Know About It?
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In photography, the term “acutance” describes a subjective perception of sharpness that is related to the edge contrast of an image. Acutance is related to the amplitude of the derivative of brightness with respect to space. Due to the nature of the human visual system, an image with higher acutance appears sharper even though an increase in acutance does not increase real resolution
— Wikipedia

I know that how we view sharpness or how we apply it in our editing is very subjective. There are photographers that will sharpen to the fullest extremes and then there are those that prefer a soft look.

So, where do you fall on the spectrum?

In the past, I would tend to lean towards sharpening the image as much as I could especially so that it will look great on social media and my website however I have had a turn of events.

I no longer sharpen my images.


That’s right, I don’t sharpen my images any longer and I have been focusing on acutance in my black and white editing workflow to create the perception of sharpness. Now, that doesn’t mean I am trying some trickery but focusing on the change in lightness values between tonal values of an image to create sharpness. In the example with the black and white rectangles, there has been no sharpness applied to the image but because of the change in tonal value is so sudden the line between the two appear sharp.


Ansel Adams was a master of using tonal values to their fullest to create sharp and striking images. And he did it with tools that are antiquated and he did it with acutance.

Resolution is also key to sharpness.

In closing, I also want to point out that resolution is the other variable to sharpness of an image along with camera shake, lens choice, depth of field, etc. So, the next time you go to edit an image stop and look at how you can use contrast and tonal values to increase sharpness.

We don’t see everything with sharp edges so why do we edit our photos that way?


#imaginecapturecreate #blackandwhitephotography

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Portrait photographer based out of Hamilton, Ohio. When not photographing people to help tell their story, I spend my time bringing my imagination to life and doing things I have never done before.

Imagine. Capture. Create.