U of S | Mailing List Archive | alt-photo-process-l | Re: Soft Focus

Re: Soft Focus

  • To: alt-photo-process-l@usask.ca
  • Subject: Re: Soft Focus
  • From: Richard Knoppow <dickburk@ix.netcom.com>
  • Date: Sun, 20 Jul 2008 17:04:11 -0700
  • Comments: "alt-photo-process mailing list"
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----- Original Message ----- From: "John Cremati" <johnjohnc@core.com>
To: <alt-photo-process-l@usask.ca>
Sent: Sunday, July 20, 2008 3:56 PM
Subject: Soft Focus

This is a fantastic book on Soft focus lenses and portraiture. .
There is a number of master portrait photographers who describe each of
their portraits , the lens used, lighting details ect.. I believe every two
pages is another photographer... The last copy of this sold for over $125 I

If you are considering buying a historic soft focus lens, this book
will allow you to compare the effects of each lens.. All Soft Focus lenses
are not created equal as you will see in this book...Personally I like a
portrait lens that will allow you to focus sharp toward the center and
blurs off to the edges allowing you to control both the amount of blur as
well as the area that is sharp. Couple this with a very large aperture and
the effect can be dramatic producing halo's , fog, ect on top of the
Good luck if you buy this book as I am sure you will be pleased.....Most of
these photographers and their secrets are no longer with us.

John Cremati


I have another book by the same author on lighting for product advertising. I don't remember the title and the book is not at hand but its something like "Commercial Lighting". Another book which discusses portrait lighting is John Alton's _Painting with Light_. Its about motion picture lighting, written by an academy award winning director of photography. The original is quite rare but it was reprinted not too long ago by, I think, the American Society of Cinematographers. I've not done a seach for it but it should not be too difficult to find.

There have been all sorts of soft focus lenses. Most make use of uncorrected spherical aberration but some of the early ones also used chromatic aberration, part of the softness of box camera lenses is due to the lack of chromatic correction in most of them.
As I mentioned before a different sort of soft focus effect can be gotten by using various sorts of diffusers over the lens. One really has to experiment to see what the effects are. One can also have a hole, either round or shaped (for instance star shaped) in the diffuser.
Soft focus effects when enlarging from a negative result in a different effect since the bright areas in the negative are the shadows so the effect is to broaden out the outlines of shadows rather than highlights. I have never personally liked this effect since I find it muddy but its been used often enough. Of course the effect when enlarging from a transparency is similar to what one gets on the camera but without the variation in effect from differences in distance. You can waste many happy hours experimenting with this.

Richard Knoppow
Los Angeles, CA, USA

  • References:
    • Soft Focus
      • From: John Cremati <johnjohnc@core.com>