How to make my photos better.

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Cabbit, Apr 18, 2011.

  1. Cabbit macrumors 68020

    Cabbit

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2006
    Location:
    Scotland
    #1
    Hello i got into digital photography in November past there when i bought myself a Canon 550D body and a cheep lens. I've been progressively getting the hang of it and using manual mode since then backed up with a handy wee book on SLR photography.

    Im just now taking some pictures i consider keepers however i wish for them to look better or perhaps i am nit picking. I took a picture of my hometown harbour to demonstrate, on any sunny day i can replicate this image again hopefully with the tide in next time but what i am looking for is how to make the image sharper so all the fine details would be kept on say a A2 sized print.

    http://cabbit.co.uk/_MG_1040.jpg

    f/8
    1/250s
    ISO 100
    28-105@28mm (Canon 28-105 II)
    circular polarising filter used
     
  2. merkinmuffley macrumors 6502a

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    Dec 3, 2010
  3. Cabbit thread starter macrumors 68020

    Cabbit

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2006
    Location:
    Scotland
    #3
    Yep not the best tripod but it holds the camera steady.
     
  4. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus

    robbieduncan

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2002
    Location:
    London
    #4
    It seems reasonably sharp in the centre and less sharp towards the edges. This is a characteristic of many lenses. Try using a different lens?
     
  5. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2007
    Location:
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    #5
    That is one heck of a pretty place!

    Wait for better light. A slightly overcast day will help with the contrast. Try to arrange for the overcast to be behind you, and between the sun and the scene, but not in front of you so you can get the blue sky. I know it sounds like a joke, but if you live there .... watch that sky and hurry on down when the light is right.

    Tripod will help if you didn't use one (as merkinmuffley said.)

    You might try using the tripod and the self timer (short delay) if you don't have remote trigger. Avoids finger pressure shake.

    If it's breezy, add some weight to the bottom of the centre column. Sometimes a light tripod can start to vibrate in a breeze. Often there is a standard sized thread in the bottom of the column. Take it to a hardware store and find a hook or a bolt you can attach, and that you then attach other things to. A small bag with rice or sand, lead weights (I suspect there may be a fishing supply shop in that town!) etc etc

    Good Luck.
     
  6. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Location:
    Oregon
    #6
    With all those pixels in the latest cameras it's tough to get all the resolution the sensor is capable of capturing. Well I see chromatic aberration (color fringing) and it doesn't look as sharp as it should. Both of these point to limitations of the lens. Sharpness is also affected by steadiness of the camera. Do you use a remote shutter release or self-timer? If you are touching the camera when the shutter fires, even the best tripod won't help.

    Also consider post-processing. Shoot RAW because in-camera processing isn't as flexible. You can also control what areas of the image get sharpened and to what extent. Also remember that the image will look better if you reduce its size. You only need the full 5184x3456 pixels if you are making enormous prints.
     
  7. Cabbit, Apr 18, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2011

    Cabbit thread starter macrumors 68020

    Cabbit

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2006
    Location:
    Scotland
    #7
    Cheers for the advice, will i notice a big improvement in corner sharpness with a 24-70 2.8 L as this is the lens i have quite had my heart on for a walk around lens.

    Also say i used f16 would this create a sharper image than f8 or is there a point that the image stops getting sharper?

    I think i'll upgrade my tripod it does tend to wibble wobble unless i set it on 2sec and step away, though these things are expensive so will be one after the other.


    Yes i shoot only in RAW and open it up in photoshop then save it out, i don't do much correction to the images just save them out as jpg i would like to do more corrections but for this example i wanted the image as raw as possible.

    And aye i plan on making some very large prints i find it difficult to get pictures large enough for my walls so i hope to get some nice pictures framed of the places i visit.
     
  8. aarond12 macrumors 65816

    aarond12

    Joined:
    May 20, 2002
    Location:
    Dallas, TX USA
    #8
    Using the 2 second self-timer is great. I always shoot at the slowest shutter speed possible, reducing the amount of noise in the picture. This invites blur, of course, but it seems your tripod is doing well.

    The color balance is quite good, though the highs are a bit blown out. Try running the a -0.3 EV or -0.6 EV to prevent this. It also might help with the overall contrast of the picture.

    Overall, a well balanced, well composed picture.
     
  9. Cabbit thread starter macrumors 68020

    Cabbit

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2006
    Location:
    Scotland
    #9
    Hmm i am not sure yet what EV is but i'll check up my book and manual to see how i do this, i was always under the assumption that the fastest shutter speed possible was the best to use as it would stop blurring of moving subjects though i guess for a landscape i am less interested in freezing the action and more in taking in the scene.
     
  10. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Location:
    Oregon
    #10
    Yes that will be much better!

    No, a lens will produce the sharpest image usually 1-2 stops from wide open. And diffusion will start to reduce sharpness at an F stop that is dependent on the size of the pixel sensor (the more the pixels the worse it gets. In your case I wouldn't go beyond f/10.)

    Always a good move. Consider a tripod to be a lifetime investment and buy accordingly. See http://bythom.com/support.htm

    However digital camera images always require sharpening. Its a result of the digitization of the images and has nothing to do with quality of lens or camera. In general you should do the sharpening step last.
     
  11. HBOC macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    Location:
    SLC
    #11
    As stated, the smaller the aperture you use, the more diffraction you will see (will look blurry). I would suggest shooting in RAW. I have been shooting in RAW for 7-8 years.
     
  12. Cabbit thread starter macrumors 68020

    Cabbit

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2006
    Location:
    Scotland
    #12
    Yep i said above i only shoot in RAW, i just haven't adjusted any of my RAW files yet i want to take the best picture possible before fine tuning. So i am guessing that say my lens is F4 then stopping down 2 stops would make F8 the smallest i would want to go?
     
  13. Captpegleg macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2009
    #13
    Cabbit, I look at lots of photos and even the best ones don't really draw me into them. They may be technically perfect with a great subject that makes me appreciate both the eye and skill of the photographer.
    This photo of yours really made me take some time and study the different points of interest. I couldn't begin to be critical of any of the elements of your work here. As others have said, your shot of your hometown harbor is beautiful. I don't know if you could make a career of shooting that same shot with different conditions but you could go a long way towards it. Congratulations, a great capture.
     
  14. Cabbit thread starter macrumors 68020

    Cabbit

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2006
    Location:
    Scotland
    #14
    Thanks i am hoping to take many more shots, i am wanting them to just get better. I am only just starting to work out what focal lengths i want (24-70mm and 70-200mm) as i have now spent 6 months going out twice a week and just seeing what i can spot.

    I know that getting the best lens available does not mean i'll get the best picture, and i also know i need to invest in a really good tripod. Though if i can push every little ounce out of what i have and keep pushing till i get the professional results i want and hopefully do it by next year(Honey moon trip to Japan after our wedding).

    I wish my pictures to really look terrific and be pin sharp so that i don't get any disappointing shots.
     
  15. HBOC macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    Location:
    SLC
    #15
    You can also shoot at different apertures as well and see for yourself what YOU like.

    Lighting is always key, along with the composition and subjects. You can have the most amazing subject, but if the lighting is not perfect, it can be the difference between ok and WOW.
     
  16. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2007
    Location:
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    #16
    Actually - this is a great piece of advice. The rule of thumb is that the sharpest aperture is about 2 down. However, the best thing to do is to go and shoot the same subject at all your apertures (making shutter adjustments of course, and then compare them.

    Also note, that some believe there is a anti-sweetspot for shutterspeeds. That at a particular one or 3 speeds the vibration of the mirror slapping up is just long enough to make the camera shake for the entire exposure. Shorter times, and the vibration is "frozen". Longer times and the camera settles in equilibrium for long enough that the blurring is overweighed by the non-blurred exposure.

    Just saying it as something I heard from a photographer I respected. I generally shoot mirror up for longer exposures.
     
  17. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #17
    f/16 is generally too small for many modern digital cameras. Diffraction happens at most small apertures, but the smaller the sensel, the sooner it becomes visible (that's one major disadvantage of high-resolution cameras.)

    You can read all about it, as well as find out when it starts to become visible on a particular sensor here: http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/diffraction-photography.htm

    One potential way to get around it with digital is to do what's called "focus stacking" where you focus at different distances with a non-diffraction-limited aperture and then stack the resulting pictures in software. IMO, Zerene Stacker is the best software out at the moment for doing so. With movement in the image, such as people, waves, wind hitting flora, etc. the effort becomes more involved.

    Your image would be much, much nicer if it were shot nearer dawn or dusk during what photographers call "the golden hour." You tend to get more slanted light then, which just makes things look better.

    Paul
     
  18. rcoward macrumors newbie

    rcoward

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2011
    Location:
    West Sussex, UK
    #18
    Easy improvements

    Cabbit,

    There are 5 easy things you can do:

    1. Shoot at the highest (detail) picture setting as possible. ie. Maximum JPEG pixel count and, if possible, also in RAW picture format. That will also give you better control of the post processing you may need to do.

    2. Tripod or monopod or soft bag to rest the camera on. I use a Jessops bean bag with a camera screw mount on it, a Manfrotto tripod as well as a Jobi Gorillapod-SLR Zoom! That last one is a bit of a mouthful but it is big enough to support an SLR camera with a medium sized zoom. ie. Anything from a 18-200mm down. I only carry the Gorillapod and bean bag or the tripod, but not all together. I'm not THAT fit!

    3. The lens is next most important. Good glass gives better results, especially at the levels of magnification you maybe looking to print out at. You use a nice Canon body so a matching Canon lens or a fast (slightly cheaper) Sigma lens should give that little extra edge in sharpness. Have a look at the websites such as cameralabs.com and look for the lens range you are interested in and see what they say. There's plenty other sites but that's just my personal favourite at the moment. Most modern lenses are brilliant in the middle compared to 20 years ago but it's as they get out to the edges that they lose the quality. You can help offset a bit of that by using different apertures but see what the tests and reviews say about the lens of your choice.

    4. Get the time of day right and the light will do the rest for you. Different times of the day give different light levels and that may affect your choice of focus and exposure points the camera is automatically looking at. Which leads me onto the last point.

    5. If in doubt, go manual! That includes exposure and focus. You maybe able to zoom in on a point using the live view on your viewscreen at the rear and fine-tune your focusing using the manual focus ring on the lens.


    Do any three of these and you will be taking a big step towards your goal. Experimenting is also a great way of seeing how different settings change the mood or character of the result. There is a sixth thing you can do but that's non-technical.

    Don't rush! Take your time and you will get great/better results than just a chance snapshot. We are always looking for perfection, especially when we see the results others come up with in the magazines. But the truth is probably that to get that shot the photographer may well have visited the scene more than once and shot loads of pictures at different settings before selecting the one for the mag. There's no magic pill...

    I hope that helps and let us know how you get on with these and all the other advice other people offer you. I'd be interested what particular advice helps you the most...

    Good luck!
     
  19. Cabbit thread starter macrumors 68020

    Cabbit

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2006
    Location:
    Scotland
    #19
    This is one thing i done since day one was turned it to RAW only, as i know at print that my printer wants a good tiff, i have also switched my camera to the ADOBE RGB colour space.

    I think i will be looking for a much better tripod, especially as the 2 lens i want are over a KG and my current tripod only supports 2kg and is already falling apart, but i did expect as much it was £20 and i only got it as a stop gap measure. 4 months = £5/month.

    I plan on getting a Canon 14mm II 2.8L, a 24-70L and a 70-200 L 2.8 in the future, the first will be the 24-70L, the 14mm II will be next year for my trip to Japan, and the 70-200mm 2.8L IS will be for Otakon 2011. So this should cover my sharpness issues and range issues now that i have tried out different focal lengths. To add to this each lens will get a circular polarising filter as i found its effects so far to be terrific at helping pull out the details in vegetation and the sea(though not always desired for the sea).

    This is one thing i have never thought about, usually i aim to go out when the sun is at its highest point as when it starts to set here it is very quick and buildings quickly look very dark and drab. As we progress into the summer i will be able to go out for longer and try out different levels of light.

    Yep i am always in full manual mode though rare do i focus manually, i can't see very well on screens so i use the eye peace or plug it into my laptop for fine adjustments, however i think my problems may be the lens i have as my 50mm 1.8 is sharp edge to edge.

    Exposure is also something i am working on, i do not quite understand some of the exposure settings yet but am starting to. One of the things my book taught was to only set one focus point which has made it much more efficient at auto focus though i worry this may cause issues.
     
  20. AoxomoxoA macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2010
    #20
    Golden hours for photography... just before/after the sun comes up and the same when the sun goes down.

    If your want the 'sharpest' detail, make sure your camera noise reduction is set to as low a level as you can tolerate.

    If your camera has a mirror lockup setting, utilizing this will help even more in keeping the camera still on the tripod.
     
  21. Cabbit thread starter macrumors 68020

    Cabbit

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2006
    Location:
    Scotland
    #21
    Ok my picture setting is set to 0, 0, 0, 0. All noise and auto image enhancements are off(found out first week many of these were adding noise in low light). I have found how to move the mirror out of the way too.

    I am going to run a test tomorrow if i have time to compare F4-F22 to see how this effects sharpness.
     
  22. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2007
    Location:
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    #22
    What were your other choices? Adobe RGB is better than sRGB, but not as good as ProPhoto, which is not as good as LAB.
     
  23. Cabbit thread starter macrumors 68020

    Cabbit

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2006
    Location:
    Scotland
    #23
    The other choice is sRGB. As this is a entry level DSLR i am assuming ProPhoto and LAB are not available.

    Once i have my 3 main lens i will however be upgrading to a 5D(Full frame and more importantly weather sealing like the chosen lens are, i do live in Scotland after all :p )
     
  24. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2007
    Location:
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    #24
    Roughly speaking:

    sRGB = what most consumer level monitors can display. This space is suitable for anything meant just for the internet.

    Adobe RGB was developed as a good match for most printing processes. However, I believe now that printers (inkjet/commercial/etc) can now often exceed the aRGB space.

    Perhaps you knew this, I don't know....

    I would aim for ProPhoto capability if you can get it, since you seem to want to go to big prints, as opposed just posting on-line.

    I live in a rain forest (temperate one, West Coast of Canada). I also know about rain. And mist. And why one doesn't wear cotton socks for 9 months of the year. Unfortunately I don't think my main system is at all weather sealed. Gives me an excuse not to go out in the rain.

    cheers
     
  25. Cabbit thread starter macrumors 68020

    Cabbit

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2006
    Location:
    Scotland
    #25
    All 12 months of the year rain is unavoidable here and i wont let it stop me snapping my pic. I will look for my next Camera to go beyond Adobe RGB in the future, however for now my best bet is to make the best with what i have.

    By trade i am still a programmer so my investment in terms on money will always be Computer > Camera, at least until i am more settled into a steady job.
     

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