Getting sharp shots

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Atomicfission92, Apr 19, 2009.

  1. Atomicfission92 macrumors regular

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    Jan 18, 2009
    #1
    Hey guys,

    Just a quick question. I seem to be having problem with getting sharp, in focus shots. I usually let AF do its thing and then switch over to MF to adjust as needed. I'm not using a tripod at the moment but I do usually find some (car, post, rock etc) to use as a make shift one.

    Before I was shooting my local marina and taking some pictures of boats and such. I had my camera set to Aperture mode and had it set to F5.6. Iso was on Auto but I know it was around 200 - 400.

    Overall the focus is about right, but the sharpness is just not there. What should I be doing? I am really trying to get away from using Auto mode and get into the more creative manual side of photography.

    Thanks in advance,
    -Atomic

    Guess it would be more helpful with a sample picture.
    [​IMG]
    Exif data
    [​IMG]
     
  2. LittleCanonKid macrumors 6502

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    Oct 22, 2008
    #2
    Perhaps the lack of sharpness is due to the lens, and not the actual focus accuracy. Most lenses are at their best after a bit of stopping down. I've found f/8 is pretty good with the kit lens I use in terms of sharpness.

    Another possibility is that the subject in question wasn't quite within the depth of field... unless we're talking about something that you locked the AF on and snapped away at.

    Edit: I don't see any glaring focus flaw in the image. In terms of pure sharpness, the lack of stopping up is probably to blame.

    Edit 2: Oh, now that I saw the EXIF I agree with the other comments. 1/50 at 400mm equiv is pushing it. I've shot 1/60 at 320mm equiv with some success, but it's definitely not an 100% thing. Very good considering the circumstances, though. I'd be pretty happy with that image! :)
     
  3. wheelhot macrumors 68000

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    Nov 23, 2007
    #3
    Well there are a few factors contributing to sharpness.

    The first and usually the most expensive solution is the lens, a kit lens (not those professional grade ones like Canon L) is not as sharp as more expensive lenses, hence your photos will never be as sharp as those expensive lenses and there is nothing much you can do about it except investing into primes or quality zoom lenses.

    The second option is to avoid shooting at the maximum length or minimum length, this applies only for zoom lens since you cant change the focal length on a prime lens (that is the primary difference anyway), cause most zoom lens, the performance will deteriorate (the degree varies from zoom to zoom, some got no significant effect at all while some is) at its extreme end.

    The 3rd option is to shoot at an aperture a few stops slower then the one on your lens, eg: a f/2.8 lens, sharpness could be improved if shoot at f/4. Also avoid shooting at f/16 and more cause it is said to introduce some problem due to diffraction.

    If you can access to a similar chart like those found in dpreview lens review, shooting near the nyquist frequency is the best setting. That is my advice and feel free to add or correct me if I did any mistakes :)
     
  4. Cliff3 macrumors 65816

    Cliff3

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    #4
    If you are shooting handheld, then your shutter speed should optimally be the reciprocal of the focal length, converted to a 35mm equivalent. In this case, that would be 1/400 or faster. You would need to increase your ISO setting or open the lens aperture further to allow you to increase the shutter speed.

    If those changes are not possible, then bracing yourself and/or the camera against something solid will help reduce the shaking you are imparting to the image. Also, image stabilization might help depending on how active the subject you're photographing is and whether or not your equipment has that feature. And there is always a good old fashioned tripod.
     
  5. stcanard macrumors 65816

    stcanard

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    #5
    The first few comments here have focused on technical aspects of the camera, and I'm not sure that's the way to go, but there is an easy way to sort that out - take some variables out of the equation. When I started with my DSLR and lenses, I had the same concern that things weren't sharp, and I was trying to figure out what was wrong.

    I set up some experiments with a tripod and completely stationary subjects where I had absolute repeatable control to look at auto-focus performance, aperture, and focal ranges.

    The answer came back unequivocably that the gear was solid and my technique was suspect, something that I have since improved significantly, once I realized there was nothing else to blame.

    I mention this because your EXIF shows a (35mm equiv) 400mm focal length with a 1/50th exposure, and this is pushing things even with an IS lens. On top of that you're shooting a moving subject with the boat - again, at 1/50th a tricky proposition - overall given the circumstances, with this exposure I would consider this a pretty decent capture.

    Start simple, determine the limitations of your gear, then move on from there. Otherwise you won't be able to focus on what to work on.
     
  6. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #6
    For that focal length you need a much faster shutter speed or a good sturdy tripod. You're shooting at 1/50th of a second, which the "rule of thumb" gives us as appropriate for a 50mm lens in normal steady hands- you *might* make up for it with image stabilization- however, your subjects are also moving, so they'll want a faster shutter speed as well, since freezing subject movement is really only dependent on shutter speed- image stabilization won't help there. If the lens goes to f/2.8 then you'd be closer to a good shutter speed, or you could bump your ISO to get a good shutter speed at the cost of some noise.
     
  7. Atomicfission92 thread starter macrumors regular

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    Jan 18, 2009
    #7
    I plan on picking up This tripod at the end of the week so I can stop shooting freehand. Its a Slik PRO 700DX. From what I have read, it tends to be heavier then other tripods but rock solid at the same time which is what I want. I am also going to order a wireless shutter release from ebay to try and cut out any shake from me hitting the shutter button.

    As far as my lens go, that was shot with my Tele lens, at the minimum F stop of 5.6 at 200mm. So what I should be shooting at is at around F8 or so?

    But then with shutter speed I need to be at around 1/400, but at the new Aperture value I would need to raise my ISO as well right?

    I was in Aperture priority mode so all I was doing was setting the Aperture to where I thought I wanted it and it was doing the rest less the manual focus tweaking I was doing.

    Does anyone have a good book that they would recommend reading on trying to get used to the controls on a SLR? I picked up and read a book by Scott Kelby "The Digital Photography Book" which was helpful to a certain degree because it gave me sorta decent guide lines of what I should be doing, but it didn't explain Why I needed to be doing it the way he was saying.

    Thanks for the time guys!
     
  8. Cliff3 macrumors 65816

    Cliff3

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    #8
    You could also use the self-timer to reduce vibrations caused when you press the shutter. I would program the self-timer to give the camera at least 5 seconds to steady itself (on a tripod).

    There are essentially 3 components to exposure - aperture (how big the light pipe is), shutter speed (how long the pipe stays open) and ISO (the sensitivity of the recording medium to light). If you need to reduce one component to make the shot work, then one or two of the other components must be adjusted to compensate. In this case, you need to decrease the shutter speed. You can't make the pipe bigger since you are already shooting at maximum aperture, so that leaves increasing the ISO setting as the only option available with your existing equipment. Of course, increasing ISO also increases noise, possibly to an undesirable level.

    Understanding Exposure would be a good book to buy.
     
  9. stcanard macrumors 65816

    stcanard

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    #9
    I wouldn't worry too much about a smaller aperture right now -- just from my experience with lenses, the sharpness issue in the picture you posted is too pronounced for that, if the lens were really that bad at F/5.6 DPReview would be filled with threats of a class action suit. It could be a front or back focus issue but I bet that's unlikely, too - I would really bet on the fact that this is camera or subject movement, so you have five choices in this kind of situation:

    1) Increase the ISO, which comes with increased noise
    2) Underexpose the shot, which comes with increased noise in post processing
    3) Add extra light, with flashes or otherwise (likely impossible in this situation)
    4) Determine a treatment that works with a shot that is not a sharp as it could be
    5) Buy a faster lens - $$$ solves many problems :)

    Of course that is only because you're dealing with a moving subject - you've already set your sights on the best option; if your subject is stationary the absolute best way to improve sharpness is with a tripod - the hardest part of a tripod though is teaching yourself to carry it, a lesson that I am still working on myself.

    Again, I would highly recommend - practice in a controlled situation so you can figure out just what you and your equipment are capable of. Once you have that, you know what to aspire to in difficult situations!

    I really like Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson as an introductory book, it does a good job introducing the major aspects of exposure and metering.
     
  10. Atomicfission92 thread starter macrumors regular

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    Jan 18, 2009
    #10
    I just reserved that book at my local library, so I'll pick it up tomorrow on my way home from work.

    So the lower the number of the Aperture the bigger it is. So since I can only set mine to 5.6, that's the biggest it can get. So since it won't let a lot of light in I need to either slow down shutter speed. but if I do that I have to increase ISO so I get more noise.

    But if I had a tripod I would be able to leave the ISO where it is and still use a slower shutter speed with less noise? Correct me if I'm wrong please.

    Another recommendation for that book. Looks like I am really going to have to read it now.

    As far as #3, That shot was taken at about 7:12pm, sunset was at 7:30ish. There seemed to be enough light to get the shot (plus I wanted the warmer light). From what I understood that would of been a pretty prime time to get the shot right? It was cloudy out though which probably didn't help with the already diminishing light source.

    And #5.. I am working on that as well, just need to pick up an adapter for my G1.
     
  11. stcanard macrumors 65816

    stcanard

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    #11
    Absolutely correct, as long as the subject is stationary; it stops the movement of the camera only, so a moving boat, or people, or animals would still have a problem.
     
  12. toxic macrumors 68000

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    Nov 9, 2008
    #12
    yeah, pay attention to your shutter and focal length. 1/50 is also too slow for anything moving.

    and just to be clear, moving from f/5.6 to f/8, or anything from wider to narrower, is termed "stopping down," not up.

    to your eyes it might seem there's lots of light, but the camera sees differently.
     
  13. Atomicfission92 thread starter macrumors regular

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    Jan 18, 2009
    #13
    So stop the movement of the boat and I will be fine then. Hmmm

    So shooting a moving object (Boat) I would still need to use a faster shutter speed and a higher ISO if the lighting isn't as bright as it needs to be. I guess I can add the "Warm" lighting that I was going for in Aperture when I download them into my Mac.

    Good to know. Thanks.
     
  14. Cliff3 macrumors 65816

    Cliff3

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    SF Bay Area
    #14
    Basically right. Let me restate it.

    The problem was that the shot wasn't all that sharp, and the primary reason for that was the slow shutter speed you used. To get a sharper shot when you are handholding the camera, you need to increase the shutter speed to the reciprocal of the 35mm equivalent focal length. However, since you can't make the pipe larger, you also need to increase the sensitivity of the recording medium (ISO) to compensate for the faster shutter speed (less light coming through the pipe).

    A tripod will let you use a slower shutter speed providing the subject of the photo is static enough that the slower shutter won't adversely affect the photo.
     
  15. Atomicfission92 thread starter macrumors regular

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    #15
    I think I got it now. Thanks, :D
     
  16. Atomicfission92 thread starter macrumors regular

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    Jan 18, 2009
    #16
    I just also noticed that when I upload my Photos to Flickr they gain a little graininess to them. Not to sure what that is about, I know I am shooting in Jpegs right now but even still.

    This picture is crystal clear on my Mac but once I uploaded it to Flickr it lost most of its sharp lines and crispness.

    [​IMG]

    You can really notice the noise in the reds although this was taken at 320 ISO so there shouldn't really be any noise.

    Now this is uploaded to SmugMug. The colors seem to be correct and not as noisey. I wonder if Flickr is hating me cause I don't have a Pro Account.
    [​IMG]
     
  17. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #17
    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I think the real problem is indeed your lens moreso than any other factor. That lens is just not sharp at 200mm, not at any aperture. Here is its blur index chart at 200mm f/5.6, which is what you used for that shot:

    [​IMG]

    (A really sharp lens has a blur index that looks like this. Bright pink, lower values are best. Anything that is blue, and therefore higher on the blurriness scale, is not really sharp.)

    And here is what SLR gear observed about that lens:

    "Zoomed out beyond 100mm, the lens begins to show some generalized softness, which becomes most apparent when used at 200mm; here, the lens shows 3-5 blur units - 3 in the center, 5 in the corners - suggesting that the lens produces its better images when used at the wider angles."

    According to their tests, it never really gets sharp at 200mm, no matter how much you stop down.
     
  18. Atomicfission92 thread starter macrumors regular

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    #18
    Thanks for that added info. Something to consider now. I was sorta hesitant purchasing the G1 at first because I know it doesn't have the "heritage" that the Canons and Nikon's do. Now I'm wondering if I should "jump ship" and go to say a Canon Rebel XSi or stick with my G1. I don't want to start purchasing lens for a system that isn't going to give me the greatest results that I can get, especially if the other system is only a little bit more money in the long run. :eek:
     
  19. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #19
    My guess is it's "camera shake" 1/50th is way to slow for a 200mm lens.

    The ruls is 1/(focal length) at minimum. and YES it is "focal length NOT "effective focal lenght". (The lens does not know you have a cropped sensor.)

    The other thing is that you may be judging the shots to harshly. If you are looking at 100% blow ups that is the same as making a 30 inch wide print. That is way to big. Always judge you shots looking at them in their final size.

    You can try using a real tripod. Get a good one. The mirror slap and shutter will shake the camera. Other things that effect sharpness are the air. It must be very clear or you get a blurry haze. And also subject motion.

    I read this advice a lot. So I'll propose an experiment. Shoot something hand held with a full frame DSLR with a 200mm lens at 1/50 second. Notice the image is blurred. Now get some black electrical tape and mask off the edges of the CCD so that the size of the sensor is effectivly reduced to 1/2 size. Now the "effective focal length is 400mm. Take the same shot at 1/50th

    If "effective" focal length mattered the second shot would have twice as much camera shake blur.

    But anyway 1/50 at 200mm is just to slow. Shot at 1/200 or faster or use a good tripod.

    One more thing: I read above you are planning to get an IR remote for the camera. Those are good to have but if the subject is not moving you can use the self timmer. Set it for 5 seconds. It works as well but only for static subjects
     
  20. Doylem macrumors 68040

    Doylem

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    #20
    You will get the best out of any lens by using a tripod. And, personally, I wouldn't dream of hand-holding a 400mm lens, because I would not be able to get critical sharpness with it. $ for $, I'd say a tripod is the cheapest way to improve picture quality... though it is, of course, an extra piece of kit to carry...
     
  21. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #21
    Well, it is a stabilized lens. The OIS is good for 2-3 stops, so 1/50 should be OK. At least he shouldn't have to shoot at 1/200.
     
  22. Cliff3 macrumors 65816

    Cliff3

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    #22
    By halving the sensor size, you have also halved the number of pixels being captured. The effect from each pixel will be magnified in the overall photo since it represents a greater share of the whole.

    If you are pixel peeping with 100% crops, as long as the area covered by the crop is the same, then a direct comparison between two images is valid. The only way to make that happen is to change the focal length on one camera so that the two cameras share the same field of view.
     
  23. Little HZ macrumors regular

    Little HZ

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    #23
    I got a Manfrotto 190XPROB 3 Section Aluminum Pro Tripod and a Manfrotto 488RC2 Midi Ball Head with RC2 Rapid Connect System (3157N), and they have made a discernible difference in the sharpness of my photos, without busting my budget. I find the tripod to be light enough and easy enough to set up that I am willing to use it. Some were enough heavier tha I could see myself leaving them in the car rather than lugging them along with me ... :rolleyes: (And the ball head is VERY helpful in getting the camera aligned just right ... !)

    I'll also say that I have taken several classes at the local community college lately (in Santa Fe, NM, where the community college has EXCELLENT faculty), and all of them have said of digital images, "You will always need to sharpen them with Photoshop." Do others find this to be true, or have I just managed to find some obsessive compulsive teachers?
     
  24. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #24
    Your analogy is wrong; it's not analogous to sensor crop. If you block out part of the shot with tape, it's only analogous if you then increase what you have left to fill the same print size or output JPEG size (say, 800 pixels for both). And yes, it will be less sharp.

    This is easier to understand if you look at it the other way round.

    Take a FF sensor camera (like the Canon 5D) and shoot something stationary at 200mm, 1/200s. That object, according to the 1/focal length rule, should be sharp (assuming your hands are of average steadiness). Now crop that shot by 40%, giving you the SAME image you would have gotten from a 1.6x crop sensor (like a Canon 50D, for instance), then upsize the shot to the same size as the original. Now make a 8x12 print from both files (or export both to the same sized JPEG). Details that were smaller in the FF shot are now 1.6x bigger (the effective focal length increase), and are consequently less sharp than in the original FF image.

    If all cropped sensors were doing was cropping the image, you'd be right. But that's not what's going on. The crop sensor has a smaller angle of view than the FF camera, but produces the same sized print; it's effectively taking the inner 40% of the FF field and blowing it up to FF print size.

    Think of it: when you crop an image in PP, you aren't making a smaller print. If you were, there would be no change in focal length. But you're resizing that image to the same sized print as the uncropped version, and that resizing is what causes the increase in effective focal length, not the cropping per se.

    Effective focal length, not actual focal length, is what matters. For 200mm on a 1.6x crop sensor, you need 1/320s. If you were using a larger sensor (say a medium format camera), you could get by with a longer shutter speed, since effective focal length is actually shorter.
     
  25. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #25
    I'm not sure the others who have chimed in have succinctly identified the part of this "experiment" that makes it break down. So I'll put it this way:

    You can't "take the same shot" in this scenario if you "mask off the edges." In order to get the same shot, you'll have to then step back from your subject. Stepping back from the subject increases the distance over which the camera has to be steady and therefore increases camera shake.
     

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