Are you a pixel peeper? 

Do you zoom in as far as you can looking for the slightest flaw in your images? My latest article for the New England Photography Guild tells a few of the reasons I have stopped myself from becoming a Pixel Peeper.

A small group of sail boats moored in Great Bay near Adams Point, Durham, NH. The boats seem ghostly in the heavy fog.

Digital noise is one example of the things most photographers obsess over and pixel peep at. But should they? The image above, Masts In The Mist, is a prime example of why I no longer worry about noise. It’s a very noisy, very grainy image that is one of my most popular. Nobody has ever said, “looks great, if only it wasn’t for all that noise.”

If pixel peeping causing you to reject perfectly good images because of the slightest perceived flaw, have a look at my latest article and you might peep a little less and enjoy your photos more.

22 thoughts on “Don’t Be A Pixel Peeper!

  1. I tend to be a pixel peeper only because when I am editing portraits and I want to brighten their eyes, I have to zoom in to get details… and I do spaz out about noise, but I am learning to ignore the noise if it’s not distracting from the image. Great post Jeff, and wonderful picture!!

    1. As I mention in the New England Photography Guild article linked to above, one of my all time favorite quotes comes from Rick Sammon. “If a picture is so boring you notice the noise, you’ve got a boring picture.” words to live by. I also feel the same way about sharpness. Yes I want to get the sharpest image posible, but the only time I evaluate sharpness at 100% is if I have several shots that are virtually identical. Like if I’m shooting wildlife on high speed burst. Only then do I zoom in to 100% to find the sharpest of the bunch.

  2. What an excellent article Jeff! I am a very picky person and often overly critical of my work. This will make me stop and think from now on before I hate on one of my photos for a little bit of noise :). I shouldn’t worry so much about photos being perfect but more about how people react to them and how they make people feel (including myself).

    1. I always try to look at my photos, and others for that matter, through the eyes of a non photographer. The photographer has a tendency to focus on the “flaws” which can really take away from the pure enjoyment of a good photo.

  3. I use to suffer a bit from obsessing over pixels, especially noise. But when I started getting some of my work to print, I quickly learned I was obsessing over nothing. Great post, Jeff, and spot on.

    1. Thank you! And I think you’ll be a happier photographer because of it. I really think the key to realizing just how overblown the whole noise issue is, is to print a few photos. A downside of digital is that you can see things on the monitor that you can’t see in a print.

  4. That is good advise, Jeff. Noise is one of the most annoying things about photography, and I usually edit it out as much as I can, but in some cases it can be a beautiful effect, like in this shot. The reflection and the B&W are beautiful, too.

    1. Thanks Belen. Let me tell you, if you don’t like noise you’d be horrified to see this file up close and at 100% 🙂 But at both 8″ x 12″ and 12″ x 18″ (20.3cm x 30.5cm and 30.5cm x 45.7cm) print sizes it look just fine. I could probably go larger and still get a good print out of it. Only another photographer would look close enough at a large print to see the noise.

    1. Yes, the older cameras definitely seem to exhibit more noise. But even then, unless it’s just horrible it likely isn’t very visible in a print of reasonable size.

  5. In most of the cases the noise is the essential ingredient in certain styles of photography. It adds so much to an image, even as you know guys, there are plenty people who are adding noise in software packages like photoshop. What, personally, would bother me about my prints will be stuff like bad quality optics, lenses, that will result on very soft edges, with loosing details in this particular area of the image, and very pronounce chromatic aberration.

    1. Again you are right on the money! A little “grain” really can add to an image.

      To a degree I agree with you on the quality of the glass used. My go-to lens for landscapes in a Promaster 17-50 f2.8. It’s really a Tamron 17-50 re-badged for sale in camera stores. The CA, at least on screen at 100% is pretty bad, but in print sizes up to 24″ x 36″ (61cm x 91cm) it isn’t even visible. My one real complaint about this “crappy” lens is lens flare. I have had to toss many other wise good images because the flare was so bad.

    1. Great! I’m not really a technical kind of person, the article I think is more practical/emotional inspiration to enjoy your photographs as a whole. And not one pixel at a time 😀 In this day of digital too many photographers spend too much time zooming in and picking apart perfectly good photographs.

Comments and thoughtful critiques are always welcome.

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