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When I look at a very clean and sharp photo, it resembles what my vision looks like as in it’s also very clean and sharp but at the same time it doesn’t seem to feel realistic. A grainy and not very sharp photo on the other hand looks nothing like my vision but it does seem look a feel more realistic. This is probably subjective but I’m sure a lot of people feel this way too.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It depends on the mood you want to convey, and the subject. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 21:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ On first reading, I don't experience what you describe. I think you should definitely add some examples to your question. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 21:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you post two examples to compare it would be a more suitable question. I have the feeling you are also including things like color grading and tonal range in your concept of grainy. But I could be wrong. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rafael
    Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 22:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ When I was making icons for computer use, I also found that a careful sharp image wasn't as 'effective' as a looser more suggestive one. That's even more true for an animated motion sequence. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 23:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ People, please don't comment with half-explanations that should be answers. This is an artistic quality question, which is difficult for "X is the objective answer" that Stack Exchange is typically known for. But it's nonetheless a good Photo-SE question. This isn't open for discussion in comments. Take it to your answers y'all. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 21:08

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Have you ever seen a contact print made from a large format negative? It has vastly larger amount of details than any digital print, or than a naked eye can see, and no grain whatsoever — and, according to most people I've asked, produces the most realistic feel, when the eye dives into the details and you feel that there are more details than you can discern, just like in the real scene.

The sharp grain can create feeling of acutance, yes, but I doubt it's the way to create that realistic feel.

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