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Why does a picture look better in a smaller version (small camera lcd, thumbnail preview, etc.) sometimes?


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#1 Peter Varnai

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 02:13 PM

Hi,
there's a problem that I was not able to figure out, nor find anything about it.


I see that sometimes a picture looks amazing in the small thumbnail image on my computer (or on a small camera LCD), but when I open it... it's boring, or bad looking. I'm quite sure it is something with, composition. Perhaps the cause of this problem is similar to the differenc when shooting for a screen or for youtube (the projection size).

Or I thought that, in small, the little disharmonies in the composition disappears because of the shortened distances between the objects in the picture. (For example when the same image is projected, I say: "Hmmm that vase should be an inch more left." And when I see it on a 2×4 inch preview, that "1 inch" is something like 0,01 inch, and doesn't matter much...)

I hope it was understandable =)
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#2 Chris Millar

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 04:54 PM

DOF will be increased in a smaller image relative to a larger one...

Probably something to do with it - but not so much the composition.


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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 07:27 PM

Well, technically there is the issue of oversampling -- generally a reduced image looks better than an enlarged image.

But in terms of composition, I've always noticed that I can "read" the composition more clearly when the image is smaller, like when you sit in the back of the theater rather than in the middle or front, because your eyes can more easily take in the borders around the subject and see everything as shapes within that border. But that doesn't mean I prefer looking at reduced images just because the compositional design is easier to spot. Composition in cinema -- most of the time -- is meant as a visual support or structure for the narrative so you're not necessarily supposed to notice it front and center, it's more meant to enhance the subject matter and direct your eye.
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#4 Keith Walters

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 09:56 PM

The not-so-short answer is that the full-colour 3-D sharply-focussed view you have of the world is simply an illusion generated in your brain.

The optical image produced by the lenses in your eyeballs is unbelievably low quality, compared even to the cheapest throwaway camera. The trick is, you brain eventually learns to work out what the actual shape of an object is, as viewed through the distortion of your eyes' lenses, and conjures up an image to match. It's not that different to you being able to visualize the shape of an object in your pocket by running your fingers over it. Once you realize what it is, you will then most likely "see" it.

Generally with small images, if you're looking at say a 6" x 4" photo from 10 feet away, most people's eyes will not be able capture a very sharp image of it. But, because you're used to seeing photos like that all the time, and they're nearly always sharply focussed, your brain will conjure up the sensation of a sharply focussed image, from the information it has available.

You don't realize this is happening, until you try to access the information, such as trying to read what is written on a sign in the picture. You still don't see a blurred image, though, you just get the sensation that the picture is "too far away".

Here's the trick: if you had two 6" x 4" photos of the same scene, one out of focus and one not, from a distance they will look the same. Bizarrely, the soft-focus will look sharp, because your brain doesn't have enough information to know that it's out of focus!

The same thing happens when you shrink a picture to a thumbnail. Because it's so small, your eye can't take in enough information to know that it's out of focus (or whatever), so you brain conjures up an image that "feels" sharp! If the image is bigger, your brain can see the artifacts!
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