Projects and ponderings for film photographers

Archive for August, 2010

Wide-Eyed About Blur

Many photographers got a good chuckle this week, when the dating site OkCupid posted an analysis of which camera settings make you romantically attractive.

OkCupid harvested all this camera information from the EXIF data embedded in their members’ digital photos. This means, unfortunately, that we can’t get numbers proving that being photographed on film is the sexiest of all—but I assure you it’s true.

Since I often sputter about how harsh and unflattering on-camera flash is, I’m tickled to finally see hard numbers spelling out how bad the damage really is. Having your picture taken with flash is equivalent to adding 5 or 10 years to your age, as far as your attractiveness goes. (Hmm, plotting my age on that graph, I fear I’d better be photographed in total darkness.)

The analysis also showed an effect where viewers preferred photos taken at wide lens apertures—notice all the green boxes for f-numbers f/2.8 and below? Of course, taking shots at wider apertures means shallower focus, allowing a photographer to de-emphasize extraneous background clutter.

But I think OkCupid misunderstood something about the f/stop effect. Point-n-shoot cameras and DSLR kit zooms generally don’t offer apertures of f/2.8 or larger. Only a photographer who went out and bought a different, more advanced lens will ever have “f/1.4″ show up in their EXIF data. Such people are more engaged, and presumably more skilled, as photographers—thus, they probably shoot somewhat more flattering portraits.

Another problem is that without knowing the sensor size and the subject distance, the f/number alone will not tell you how blurred the background actually was.

Portrait with Shallow Depth of Field

Selective focus—will it get you more dates?

Nonetheless, when Christian Rudder comments, “because the photos with the low f numbers feel more intimate and personal, they get a better viewer response” I do agree. A portrait where twinkling eyes are sharp, but beyond is a soft halo of blur… it does look very stylish and appealing—even romantic.

So will running out and buying that f/0.95 Leica Noctilux convert you into an irresistible sex bomb? (Albeit one with an empty bank account?)