Better Sharpness?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by rekud300, Feb 28, 2010.

  1. rekud300 macrumors member

    rekud300

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2009
    Location:
    Ohio
    #1
    There are so many great photos on here that have such clarity and sharpness. That I would like to achieve. I have read many things since getting into this, and a lot I am understanding. Read "Understanding Exposure" and that has helped me understand DOF and getting different results with the different ISO's and Exposure Time.

    What I have - D5000, kit lens 18-55, and 55-200
    Refuse to by an other lens until I know I can achieve results I want with these, maybe not perfection, but to my liking. Only then will I look at getting better glass.


    I have tried Autofocus and Manual Focus, quite a bit with Tripods and hand held, focusing and recomposing.

    Some photos come out better than others, and a few come out with very very nice detail.

    All that I have read, I just can't seem to grasp or have the confidence of what I am shooting is going to be crisp.

    Am I missing a step. I don't mind shooting something several times to get the results I want, but already there have been times where the shot didn't come out as clear as I wanted, and you only have one shot at this.

    Or maybe I just need to get my eyes checked? LOL
     
  2. leighonigar macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    May 5, 2007
    #2
    I am by no means an expert in these matters, but I will give my notions and then others can chip in.

    1. Often photographs look lovely and sharp because the lens had some pleasing character, often primes achieve a look (subjective) which is just lovely, even if the photographs by them aren't actually that sharp. It's very odd and I don't really understand, but I suspect colour and contrast enter into things, together with an impression of increased subject sharpness lent by the smooth out of focus areas possible with a wide-aperture.

    2. Most real unsharpness in photographs is caused by camera shake, and so a tripod or monopod can help.

    3. Zoom lenses (and primes I suppose) tend to be sharpest when stopped down a bit, perhaps to f/8. f/8, low ISO and a tripod therefore can produce good results.

    4. Good photos are all about the composition and the light, i.e. where you point the camera and when, keep practising and perhaps read a few books about art and paintings. I don't know what you already know, but knowing a bit of art theory and interpretation can give you real insight.

    5. Keep shooting, but also keep thinking.

    You might like to post a good and a bad example of your work, so we can give specific tips.
     
  3. carlgo macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2006
    #3
    You are smart in your approach. I'll bet your problem is in the processing.

    If you are shooting RAW, the results out of the camera are just the first step. Nikon does little automatic sharpening in the camera, expecting you to sharpen it later in iPhoto, Elements, Photoshop, etc.

    A RAW image looks fuzzy and actually pretty terrible before it is processed.

    Note that iPhoto handles RAW, but sharpening is best in Elements, etc. iPhoto just seems to be more attuned to JPEG. Still, if you only have iPhoto, give it a try. The differences with more expensive programs are subtle and sometimes not necessary.

    If you are shooting in JPEG, then you also have to go through the sharpening process, but not as much of it. The initial image is sort of ok, but still needs sharpening most of the time.

    This is not a flaw or anything, just that Nikon figures you should process the photo the way you want, not just an automatic averaging in the camera.
     
  4. Detlev_73 macrumors 6502

    Detlev_73

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2004
    Location:
    Roswell, GA
    #4
    Canon T1i

    I've found the same with the Canon T1i I just got in October. I started to shoot in both RAW and JPG thinking that RAW would be a better, yet larger photo. Then when I started to input through iPhoto, noticed that the RAW pics were a bit darker, less defined. Guess I'll have to find a course on digital photography, as I learn best through a class method.
     
  5. jdavtz macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2005
    Location:
    Kenya
    #5
    It sounds like you have a good idea what you're doing and what your plan is.

    It would be really interesting to see uploads of one or two of the pictures that you think have "the best" sharpness of the ones you've taken, and a couple of the ones that have disappointed you a bit (not obvious camera shake, etc., but photos where you're not really sure what's going wrong).

    A few ideas - you might have checked them all already:

    • Focusing the lens then moving an inch backwards or forwards while recomposing
    • Camera-shake
    • Moving subjects
    • RAW files with no sharpening applied
    • Over-high expectations for your current lens
    • Miscalibrated lens or camera (unlikely, but my first DSLR consistenly focussed a couple of inches in front of the subject (tested with square-on box and angled tape measure after a couple of disappointing days of shooting with my new toy) - Canon replaced it for free
     
  6. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2008
    Location:
    Over there------->
    #6
    In addition to what's been said, you should learn the sweet spots of your particular lenses and any others that you may acquire in the future. Zoom lenses are usually sharpest near the middle of their ranges and when stopped down to about f/8. You can find some very handy interactive "blur index charts" for most lenses on slrgear.com.

    Also, when you use a tripod, be sure to use either a shutter release cable or at least a 2-second timer. For best sharpness, use the tripod whenever possible.
     
  7. anubis macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2003
    #7
    Maybe it would help if you posted some examples? Maybe some photos you've taken that are to your liking, and then some that aren't? That might help us provide better advice ;)
     
  8. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #8
    First off, maybe there is nothing wrong and yo expectations are to high. For example many peole lookat one to one (100%) blow ups of their phots on a large monitor and think the image is not good. Of course it will look bad. Any image when you make a 40 inch print and look at it from 18 inchs away will look bad.

    So,... Judge you work at the normal print size from a normals viewing distance for that size. Small prints shoud be looked at while in your hand and bill boards from your car as you drive by.

    About Sharpening -- this is the LAST step after the image is resized. Sharpening always adds noise and artifacts so we do this only as much as needed and no more and only after the image is sized.

    Next: If the focus is wrong most of the time what happens is that it's just that the wrong part of the image is in focus. Check for this. Is this part sharp in even if it's in the background or whatever? If so then you have "focus error" and you need to be more careful not to make this kind of error.

    If not part of the image is every sharp then think about aperture, try shooting at about one stop below maximum. The extremes of the lens' range are never the best.

    If you are using a tripod use the self timer or the IR remote to trip the shutter. Evenwwith a tripod you hand can shake the camera unless the tripod is very large, like a studio camera stand.

    User some flash, fill-in flash at one stop below ambient can help

    Keep the ISO low, 200 or less

    Post example images
     
  9. rekud300 thread starter macrumors member

    rekud300

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2009
    Location:
    Ohio
    #9
    Post of a couple

    Here are a couple,

    1st one hand held, I know the sky is blown out, had to much noise. This one though just doesn't look sharp

    2nd one, TriPod, I like, but when blown up, seems a little noisy as well.

    Seems like anything flat, with very little depth, seems to be ok, anything with a large depth of field, seems like I am loosing the focus.

    I like shooting with Tripod, and when I do, I am shooting with a 10sec delay.

    Tested shooting with RAW, not real comfortable. Been using Aperture for the JPEGs.

    I want to be sure of what I am doing, as I am leaving Tuesday for New Orleans, and will be there for 4 Days. Will have 1 day to shoot in light, and 3 nights of night shots. I don't want to get back and be disappointed in my shots.

    Thanks for all the help and thoughts
     

    Attached Files:

  10. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    #10
    Because you're shooting JPEG, by default, the in-camera sharpening settings for Nikon are usually a little conservative. Go to your image adjustments menu and bump it up 1 or 2 notches, this should help. Alternatively, turn off in-camera sharpening altogether and do it in Aperture, where you will have a little more control and also can reverse the changes. It's a good idea to go look at tutorials and learn what each sharpness function (things like radius, masking, etc) actually does, as it is important to know best how to manipulate the different sharpening controls in order to maximize sharpness.

    Don't know if these are 100% crops, or resized images, but it's actually best to sharpen an image after it has been resized to its final value. For example all those "crispy sharp" photos you see on flickr or wherever, that are only 800x600, they were resized to 800x600 then sharpened again, to give more definition to the edges.

    Looking at the EXIF in your photos, I see that you are shooting at a pretty high ISO. The basketball one is ISO2000 and the landscape is 1250. These speeds are way overkill in what appears to be bright daylight. If you are on a tripod there is no reason to not shoot at base ISO (200 for the D5000) unless you need to speed the shutter up. This high ISO can also account for lack of sharpness as in-camera noise reduction works to smooth the image but robs it of detail.

    Also it's important to get the focus point correct. Particularly in shots like the snowscape, where there isn't a clear central subject. In this case you need to think where in the image to focus in order to get as much of the image sharp as possible. If you don't set it correctly, the foreground may begin to blur (it's possible that's happening here).
     
  11. jdavtz macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2005
    Location:
    Kenya
    #11
    Okay - those two examples.

    Basketball hoop:
    Is that the original image or is it modified at all (exposure, etc.)?
    It's at ISO 2000, 1/320 second shutter, f/8, at 36mm
    I think the un-clearness is all to do with your camera's ability to use ISO 2000, but the real question is whether you realized that it was set to that, as you certainly don't need a 1/320 exposure at 36mm focal length - you could have used ISO 500 at 1/80 second and had a much nicer picture.

    Snowy landscape:
    Looks in-focus and 'sharp' to me, shot at 1/1250 second at f/10 at 18mm ... but ... at ISO 1250!!
    That's why it's so noisy.
    You could get the same exposure with ISO 100, f/10, 1/100 second, which would be much more appropriate and noiseless.
     
  12. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2009
    Location:
    Folding space
    #12
    Wow. These shots are ISO 1200 and 2000. You will have a hard getting sharp images with that high a rating. I don't care what gear it is. With the same lenses, I'd pit my XSi at ISO 100 against a 7D at 1200.

    Prove me wrong. I'm sure someone will...:D...

    Dale
     
  13. leighonigar macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    May 5, 2007
    #13
    As was said above, the ISO is way too high. I mean, the snow shot was at iso 1250 and had an exposure of 1/1250! You don't need such a high shutter speed per se. There is a compromise between blur due to the length of exposure, and noise due to the ISO, currently you're compromising the ISO too much for higher shutter speeds, or perhaps it's accidental.
     
  14. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2008
    Location:
    Over there------->
    #14
    The XSi would win that battle, even against a full-frame camera. Low ISO will always be preferable if there is no subject movement to freeze.

    OP: your high ISO is problem #1. Try taking some tripod-mounted shots at base ISO (the lowest one your camera offers), using a shutter release cable or else a timer. Keep your aperture small, and favor the middle of your zoom range. Then report back. :)
     
  15. rekud300 thread starter macrumors member

    rekud300

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2009
    Location:
    Ohio
    #15
    Starting to make sense

    OK, yes I was shooting at ISO's that I thought were correct. Obviously not.
    1st one cropped quite a bit.
    2nd cropped a little, but I did make some adjustments in Aperture 1st, and then resized.

    My understanding was the the lower the lighting the lower the ISO, the brighter, the Higher ISO. Overall, I am probably shooting at too high of an ISO on quite a bit of my pics after reading this and looking back. I really believe I misunderstood ISO settings.

    I think I need to read and understand ISO better.

    As far as expecting too much out of a lens? No, if I can't get good shots with the equipment I have, then it's not the equipment, but me. I would rather shoot good to great first, before spending money on glass. I have seen some great shots with less equipment than what I have so it can be done.

    This info is going to help a lot, I am glad I can ask and get straight up answers from this group.

    Thanks

    Here is one of my better ones I feel, with Tripod, ISO100, no adjustments in Aperture.
     

    Attached Files:

  16. FrankieTDouglas macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2005
    #16
    ISO is independent of time of day. Always use as low an ISO as possible. My general rule of thumb is set aperture first to get the depth of field I want. Then adjust shutter speed. Increase ISO only if needed to achieve higher shutter speed.

    One thing people are missing in this whole "only sharpen once" topic is that sharpening is nothing more than fine contrast adjustment. When you dodge and burn fine areas of an image, you are also sharpening. Also, one can do an unsharpen layer halfway through adjusting, and only mask in parts of the effect. There are no certain rights or wrongs with sharpening, or when you should or shouldn't do it. The only thing to watch out for is haloing due to sharpening. This is when the fine contrast regions of your image begin to deteriorate with sharp, jagged regions.

    As for your images, I think in the first what you see is an image with too much ISO noise. It's bleeding all through the image and so you're losing contrast, which gives the appearance of lack of sharpness. In the second image, there are too many middle tones. Contrast is the range between light and dark, and that image is sitting too much in the middle. Apply a healthy S curve to it, but only mask it in in regions where shifts from light to dark are taking place. This will reinforce the contrast regions of your image and give the appearance of greater sharpness.

    In the last image, the area with greatest sharpness also appears to have the nicest contrast: the right side car with the light reflections on it. Overall, the image isn't too bad. Decent value contrast. One thing to really think about instead of your sharpness, is your composition. This image seems to lean to the left. Two big lights are pulling my attention to the top. There is no true content focal point pulling me in (not where you focused, but how you designed the composition by design). Find a solution to pulling the viewer in with content contrast, either with color, shape, line, value, etc, and it will seem sharper automatically.
     
  17. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

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    Location:
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    #17
    That's backwards. ISO is a carryover from film days - higher ISO films (400, 800) were more sensitive to light, and so were used when there would be less light available. Lower ISO values (100,200) were used in situations where there'd be more light available.

    As others have said, always shoot with the lowest practical ISO settings. If you're shooting off a tripod, unless your subject is moving you should use your camera's native ISO (100 for Canon, 200 for Nikon, not sure for others) and use longer exposures. Newer cameras have better high-ISO performance than older ones, but you still get the best detail, lowest noise, and highest dynamic range when you shoot at your camera's native ISO setting.

    The main reason to shoot at higher ISO is if the light is so low that your exposure time is going to be too long for a sharp shot - that's mainly a concern for handheld shots.
     
  18. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #18
    For the record, not all Nikons have a base ISO of 200- it depends on the model (for instance the D40, D40x, D80, D200, D2x and D3x cameras have a base ISO of 100.)

    Paul
     
  19. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #19
    There's not much to understand- ISO on a DSLR is the signal being boosted to allow for shots in low light. Always shoot at the lowest number (ignore those "Lo" settings) you can to get the shot. Anything else requires the signal to be amplified, and that introduces noise into the image. If you're shooting at an aperture of f/8 at ISO 200, and that gives you 1/30th of a second for a shutter speed, then if you need f/8 for depth of field (DoFmaster or some other calculator is nice to have) but you need to get the shutter speed up to 1/125th of a second, then you're going to have to go to ISO 800. If you don't need a fast shutter speed, then use a tripod for a better picture. Lens-wise most lenses reach best sharpness stopped down two stops from wide open, so if your lens has a maximum aperture of f/4, then f/8 will be where it starts to get sharp. Some lenses, mostly primes and very expensive zooms will have very good sharpness before that, though occasionally you'll find a "bargain" lens that is sharp across its scale. If you like to shoot landscape/cityscape images, I'd suggest checking out the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 AF-S DX lens- it's reportedly sharp even wide open.

    The D5000's base ISO is 200, only take it off of 200 when you need to to get the shot.

    Paul
     
  20. rekud300 thread starter macrumors member

    rekud300

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2009
    Location:
    Ohio
    #20
    Another Questions

    On the D5000 ISO settings it shows after the lowest setting, which I believe is 100, there are 3 more sets of numbers named Lo -0.3,-0.7 and another number. These same three are at the highest settings as well, I believe after 3200? Hi 0.3,0.7

    I don't have my camera in front of me at the moment but I did notice when I was looking at earlier today. What do these numbers mean?

    I have much more confidence with all your input of getting good pics in New Orleans. I will have my Macbook and am planning on posting some shots to get your input to make sure I am on the right track if you don't mind. Of course it will have to be a thread by itself now that POTD is being monitored(LOL).

    Never been there and looking forward to the experience and the food.
     
  21. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #21
    The D5000's base ISO is 200- ignore the lo and hi settings, they're artificially created and going lower than 200 won't give you better images and the hi settings are too noisy.

    Paul
     
  22. rekud300 thread starter macrumors member

    rekud300

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2009
    Location:
    Ohio
    #22
    Thanks for all the input

    Thanks for all the input and suggestions.

    Did some tests, today/tonight around New Orleans close to my Hotel. This way I can go back and recompose, as I wasn't as worried about that as I was I wanted to put the ISO suggestions to use. Shot one at 800 to freeze a water in a fountain (not shown), everything else at ISO200. Much better detail and sharpness.
     

    Attached Files:

  23. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    #23
    Those most recent two look to be right in terms of sharpness. That is probably what I would be expecting from your equipment and straight from the camera (no post sharpening).
     

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