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01/26/2007 05:25:53 PM · #1
What do all these images have in common?

322490.jpg 387352.jpg 359275.jpg 340234.jpg...
...and the picture I took for the Minimalism challenge?

They're all photographs I've taken that have received comments for being out of focus, soft focus, or blurry.

I've been working hard since I started seriously working on photography last spring, but I still can't seem to get good sharp images, especially with my macros. I haven't been able to enter many challenges since school started, but I took a photography class last quarter so I was still activly taking pictures.

Soft focus seems to be a consistent problem for me (both in these pictures that I've posted and haven't posted), but I can't figure out to fix it. I've tried shallow depth of field, deep depth of field, zoomed in, zoomed out, autofocus, manual focus, and every other trick I could think of.

What can I do to get sharper, crisp looking images so that I could at least have a chance of getting a better score in the challenges?
01/26/2007 05:27:59 PM · #2
#1 tool for sharper images ---- a tripod!

Handheld shots can suffer from camera movement from something as small as your breath or heartbeat. Especially very close / macro images.
01/26/2007 05:28:25 PM · #3
What is your workflow for post-processing?
More specifically, after you resize, do you apply any sharpening or USM to the image?

Sometimes (most of the time) when you resize for web, your image becomes fuzzy. Maybe this is a problem?
01/26/2007 05:29:10 PM · #4
Are you sharpening them after you resize them? Looks like you're not.
01/26/2007 05:31:43 PM · #5
Dont be to frustrated...DPC voters like the ultra sharp. The butterfly and the eggs look soft but they likely need a touch of USM or unsharp mask during processing. There is an active thread going on right now with some information. The fireworks shot and the TV portrait probably suffer loss of sharpness by virtue of the low light levels and the longer exposure times. (at least this has been my experience with these type of pics.) Again, some USM would help.

I'm assuming you are using a tripod... Macro images in particular suffer from shaky hands.

ETA:
I'm slow but i spew more text! ;)

Message edited by author 2007-01-26 17:32:49.
01/26/2007 05:44:25 PM · #6
I noticed that you were using the canon powershot A75. I have seen some problems with these cameras in terms of sharpness, especially in macro shots. Slight bumps to these cameras are enough to set something out of whack. My sister dropped hers, and not from a high distance, and photos were never crisp again.

So, I don't think it is you, it is probably the camera. Borrow someone else's camera, the same, and one different, try the shots again. Make sure though, that in-camera settings are similar.

Message edited by author 2007-01-26 17:45:36.
01/26/2007 06:30:59 PM · #7
I struggle with the exact same problem.
The preview in the little bitty window looks great but when I upload it... crap!

I don't like using my crappy little tripod. (it sucks) and its a lot of trouble. Usually can't get the legs out of my way. I need to get one with a boom arm. Someday, I will have a nice one.

My camera with the lens and battery tends to be a bit heavy, I think I may need to do some weightlifting in my upper arms to hold it better. I found out its one of the lighter SLR bodies. LOL just my luck!

I also just learned of the mirror lock up feature that was added to my
camera's firmware. That makes a big difference. The mirror slapping up is causing some of my shake. Using it all the time, though, is not practical. Great for stationary objects but thats about it.

I started to wonder if there is something wrong with my camera but then I get a really crisp sunny outside shot and know its not the camera.
I almost wish it was the camera 8(

That is all I have come up with so far. I am still on the search for creating a crisper image. I have even considered sidekicking with a film SLR. I just don't know.

01/26/2007 06:49:22 PM · #8
Originally posted by Tlemetry:

I started to wonder if there is something wrong with my camera but then I get a really crisp sunny outside shot and know its not the camera.

Because for these sunny shots the shutter speed is a lot faster and isn't affected by shake, so you can easily hand-hold the camera. Is it only indoor shots without flash that are blurry? - If so, then the chances are the shutter speed is too slow to hand-hold. You'll have the same problems with a film SLR.

Better lighting / flash will let you use faster shutter. But a tripod with shutter release is the best option for shake-free shots!
01/26/2007 07:12:21 PM · #9
First, you need to identify the origin of the out of focus image :

a) It is outside the focus range of your camera (check the manual, check the indicators in the viewfinder, your canon has probably a specific icon for macro mode but still)
b) you are within the range, but the shot is 'shaken'
c) none of the above

Solutions :
a) Choose an other subject, check your settings, do not post if the shot is out of focus
b) use a tripod, use the self timer and just put the camera on a book or a table if it is indoor, increase the sensibility (you will have more noise but better than having the shot 'shaken')
c) Sharpen when you process the image. But you would not be able to ressurect a picture that is out of focus or shaken

Note :
- Remember that on the little camera screen, a out of focus picture will seems to be ok because the screen is so small)

I hope this helps,
Good luck in the future challenges !

Lionel

01/26/2007 10:40:29 PM · #10
Hmmmm,I was just about to start a thread on this as well, because I have been having the same kind of issues.

I think something that will help for me especially is to change a few stops on the apeture. I did some experiments last night using a 50mm 1.7 lense. On the images that I took @1.7 (I was as close as I could get to the image, while maintaining some focus), only aprox 5 cm2 of the subject is in aprecaible focus (the image, of a tree was leading away from in on a 10 deg angle). I also took images of a wire fence with no close background & it was EXTREMELY hard to get the image in focus (especially hand holding). I knocked the apeture up (or is it down??!!!!) to around the 3 region & my task was apreciably easier. With the back ground the distance away that it was, the effect was very similar.

But I do have a question. THe lense I was using was a minlota 50mm, 1.7, which in all honesty about 20 years old. Now this may apply to any camera brand, but would there be differences in the focusing ability (Calibration?) of this lense compared to a more modern lense?
01/26/2007 10:43:37 PM · #11
Also, make sure your diopter is set correctly. This would definitely cause a problem with manual focusing.
01/26/2007 11:43:07 PM · #12
Shot #1: Has blown hightlights. The main subject (the green candy), looks like it's printed wrong, so it looks out of focus. But, the rest of the picture is in focus, so it looks like a bad wrapper.

Shot #2: More blown hightlights. Also, I'm not certain what the DOV would be at f4, but you might want to close it down a little more to make sure you got it all. More like f11.

Shot #3: With fireworks, you have to get your shot early on. Otherwise, the smoke will start to build up fast. This shot shows this.

Shot #4: Just lack of detail with the low light, but that's what you should expect with this type of shot. Also, since you took it at 1.3 seconds, I'm sure you're going to flinch or move a bit.
01/27/2007 12:22:02 AM · #13
Originally posted by Nullix:


Shot #2: More blown hightlights. Also, I'm not certain what the DOV would be at f4, but you might want to close it down a little more to make sure you got it all. More like f11.


I don't imagine his camera goes to f11. I know mine doesn't :(
01/27/2007 12:29:12 AM · #14
Originally posted by BeeCee:

Originally posted by Nullix:


Shot #2: More blown hightlights. Also, I'm not certain what the DOV would be at f4, but you might want to close it down a little more to make sure you got it all. More like f11.


I don't imagine his camera goes to f11. I know mine doesn't :(


Not many P&S cameras will.
01/27/2007 12:46:19 AM · #15
Thank you all for all your helpful feedback!

I have been using a tripod, and I normally use the 2-second timer so that I'm not touching the camera when it shoots.

I have not been sharpening after resizing for the web (mostly because I didn't know I should be!) so that's probably a good thing to try. Are there any suggestions for how to do this and make sure that I don't do it too much or too little?
01/27/2007 12:48:39 AM · #16
I think you are just too close to the subject. You are getting inside the lense's minimum focus distance capability.
01/27/2007 01:23:35 AM · #17
I agree with Jmsetzler. In the first image you posted, I can see that the focus is on the pull strip on the Hershey Kiss on the left. The center object is closer than focus range.
Another thing to look at, esp if your camera has an auto lens cover, is check for contamination on the front lens. I bought a Fuji 360 dirt cheap at a pawn shop a couple of weeks ago which someone had sold because the lens had a big finger print on it. I cleaned it with a q tip dampened with alcohol and it's fine now.
I use a monopod when moving around shooting little stuff. For low shots, which a lot of the macro for me tends to be, I just lay down with the one leg under my chest, and the camera can easily be held still for most daylight shooting. It is much quicker and more convienent than a full tripod for that kind of thing. Also, make sure that the camera is set to "macro" if it has that feature.
One last thing, some cameras lock the focus when you push the shutter button half way. If you move even a tenth of an inch while in macro territory, the focus will be off when you shoot, unless you release the shutter button all the way and start over.
About the fireworks image; There may have been a little fog in the air as well as all the smoke, which would soften that shot. Another thing may be condensation if the camera has been where it's colder than outside air.
Good luck, and don't be discouraged. It will be great when you get it figured out!
M M


01/28/2007 10:16:05 AM · #18
I went to flower show yesterday and noticed that caffine has a lot to do with it. lol You can't use a tripod at the show. So I made a chain pod. it didn't help much with the shake. I'm not sure a monopod would have helped much either. 98% of my images turned out crap. I want to cry!
I tend to use the Aperature Priority mode on my camera so I can control dof. I did try manual mode to up the speed and I upped the ISO to 200 but then I get incredible noise. I also tried mirror lock up.
Nothing seemed to help me at all. I'm so frustrated I could spit!
01/28/2007 10:52:18 AM · #19
Originally posted by Tlemetry:

I went to flower show yesterday and noticed that caffine has a lot to do with it. lol
I tend to use the Aperature Priority mode on my camera so I can control dof. I did try manual mode to up the speed and I upped the ISO to 200 but then I get incredible noise. I also tried mirror lock up.
Nothing seemed to help me at all. I'm so frustrated I could spit!


What shutter speeds were you using? I use a monopod often. The one that I use has a place near the head where I can put one of the short legs that came with it, and I put that against my neck or shoulder, and can get very stable for shots up to about 1/8 sec. I find it helps to slowly exhale as I release the shutter, and /or to also use self timer set at 2 sec. That way shaking the camera while pushing the shutter button is eliminated. If I look at the results in the LCD and see that it isn't sharp, then I will use on camera flash or a combo of flash and existing light to get the shot. For me a sharp shot with flash beats a fuzzy existing light every time. If the event is indoors, then flash is almost always necessary.
I can't understand why ISO 200 would cause excessive noise? My fuji sounds the same at ISO 100 or 400 LOL : ) Sorry, couldn't stop myself from putting that in there.
I also noticed the cccooofffeeee makes me shake too.

01/28/2007 11:17:31 AM · #20
Here's a sharpening example using your butterfly shot:

459936.jpg

This shows clearly that your original shot was sharp, and that you retained detail during resizing. My edit is perhaps a little oversharp but for this subject and web display it's probably appropriate.
Note how I've reduced the brightness of some of the background, giving far more emphasis to the subject. The subject now seems to "pop out" from the background, somethign that one commentor noted was absent on the submitted version.
I did not play with framing, but I'd suggest that slight clockwise rotation and a closer crop on this one would have improved it.

Edit: The editing details are on the image.

Message edited by author 2007-01-28 11:18:08.
01/28/2007 12:20:29 PM · #21
Thank you very much, kirbic, it's helpful to see how big of a difference that can make. What does USM stand for? I've seen that a few times and know that it's related to sharpening, but I'm not sure exactly what it is. Also what is vignette? Right now I have Microsoft Digital Image as my image editor, just because I haven't had the money to run out and buy Photoshop yet. So, I have to find the Digital Image equivalent of the Photoshop tools, if they exist, which they don't always. Thanks!!
01/28/2007 12:33:16 PM · #22
All were taken with a Canon?
01/28/2007 12:38:02 PM · #23
You're welcome Brian,
USM stands for Unsharp Mask, which is photoshop's standard sharpening tool. It has settings for three things:
- Sharpening radius, 0.1->100px
- Sharpening amount, 0-300%
- Threshold, 0 to 255
There should be an equivalent tool in your editor. The settings necessary to get like results to the photoshop tool may be different, though.
Vignetting is just darkening the edges of the frame; in this case I darkened quite a bit of the background.
01/28/2007 10:17:30 PM · #24
[quote=kirbic] You're welcome Brian,
USM stands for Unsharp Mask, which is photoshop's standard sharpening tool.

Hmm, I thought it stood for "User Supplied Magic," and that was how everyone was getting the high rated shots. I see it in comments on almost every image that rates over 6. : )
You did make the image look a lot better with the PP.
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