camera shake and unsharp images

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by teran, Sep 14, 2011.

  1. I hesitate and almost feel like a beginner posting this question because I've a working professional for some time now, but I've been having serious issues with what seems to me as camera shake. The issue has been reoccurring over numerous assignments, such as my most recent event. To say the least it's driving me bonkers. I'm shooting with a Cannon 5D Mark II with a 24-70mm F/2.8L, 70-200mm F/2.8mmL, and 50mm F/1.2. In the most recent event I photographed the grand opening of a used car dealership, mostly indoor but well lit. I used cannon speedlite 580EX II as a fill flash. I know to shoot a shutter speed over the focal length, but for example shooting at 1/200th of second with my 24-70mm I had many issues with unsharp images. I'd like to think I have pretty steady hand when I'm shooting, but I dont believe at 1/200th of second that'd really be much of an issue, right? I'm wondering if it could possibly be my lens, but I've noticed similar issues with my other lenses as well. Please can anyone offer any suggestions or ideas as to what the cause may be? Please be kind, thank you
  2. Assuming it is not caused by motion blur, this could be an AF issue. 1/200 even for 70mm should be more than sufficient but I at times have this problem too. And it's mostly due to fast moving subjects.
  3. We need samples to be of any real help.
  4. There are plenty of past threads about 5D MkII focusing, particularly with the 24-70mm lens. Of course, you first have to determine whether it is the body focusing or whether you are indeed having motion blur or handshake problems.
    I suggest you post an example of what you are referring to. There are plenty of people on these forums who can pretty much tell you instantly, what the problem might be.
    If it is a focusing issue, you might first try the micro adjustment controls, but only after doing the usual tests to uncover where the problem may be. It might even be that you were trying to shoot in dimmer light without AF assist...
  5. " I used cannon speedlite 580EX II as a fill flash." - not sure what is your understanding of the fill flash?
    How differ are the light levels form the flash, and ambient static light level?
    You do not provide your camera shooting mode, and flash shooting mode, or an example, so is hard to provide pricise reason.
    Chances are that the flash just outputs what it thinks is correct light, possibly disregarding ambient static light level.
    Learn how to do the fill-in flash properly, manually, or automatically, that your gear has the capability to do.
  6. Thank you all, there is an example shot attachment with the original message above.
    Frank, i shoot in manual in camera and ttl on flash, I generally bounce the flash indoors, but the area was pretty open on this last shoot, lots of windows allowing ambient light. But i've even had the problem outdoors as well with no flash shooting at acceptably fast shutter speeds.
  7. I took a peek at the image you linked to and I feel there are parts of your image that are in focus but not the intended subject. How are you focusing on your subject?
  8. In this image, the camera misfocused. The focus is on the tail light.
    1. Were you using One Shot?
    2. Was Focus Assist activated?
    3. What focus point were you using?
    4. How do you usually attain focus?
    5. Do you use back button focus?
    6. Do you have the same thing happen with other lenses besides the 24-70?
  9. Misfocus like this is more likely to happen when you 1) use a wide-open aperture, AND 2) activate focus, then recompose prior to taking the picture (e.g., put the center focus point on her face, activate and lock focus, then aim further down to get the composition you want).
    Imagine your focal plane as an actual plane out in front of you, perpendicular to your lens shaft. When you shift composition after achieving focus lock, the locked focal plane swings with your camera aim. If you're working with a shallow depth of field, this can leave your intended subject out of focus.
    There's another cause of misfocus that plagues me: sometimes, my camera will lock focus on a high-contrast element in the background rather than on my intended subject, even if I have the focus point in the center of my subject. This happens more often if there's a high-contrast pattern behind the subject. In the photo you've provided, the truck bed is extremely high contrast and very easy for the camera to focus on. Patterns like that are, I believe, powerful magnets for most autofocus systems.
  10. I'm not sure that image is particularly misfocussed, as both her right shoulder and some of the stitching on the bag on her left shoulder are more or less in focus, it's the bit in between - her face - that is fuzzy. I suspect that in this particular picture she might just have been moving her head quite fast - the ambient light has masked any sharpness in her skin tones from the flash. Generally, details that seem to be sharpest are white bits (details on her dress, stitching on top of shoulder strap) that are facing upwards, possibly because these are the planes most illuminated by the bounced ceiling flash relative to ambient. I also have the impression that her white teeth and highlights in eyes are sharper than the rest of her face, again because (I think) these have reflected the relatively weak flash more than darker tones on the face.
  11. Also eg. look at her necklace - the shiny bit of the chain around her neck is reflecting (weak) flash from the ceiling and looks pretty sharp, while the green dangly bits which are facing into the room are distinctly more blurry.
  12. Have the camera and the lens checked out by Canon. The photo's should be razer sharp. I've seen and heard about the mirror in the camera getting bumped and moved just a tiny bit. I saw 1 mirroe actually pop out on the MK 5. Not sure about the MK 5 11.

    You can do the usual tests, hand hold and do the same shot with a pod at different shutter speeds and f-stops.
  13. Sheri and Nadine, I'm using autofocus, one shot, I have my focal point in the center, I usually lock the focus on the subject with the main shutter release on top, if I have time I try to focus on the eyes, then recompose while focus is locked and shoot. And yes, I've had the same thing happen with other lenses, such as my 70-200, but I thought with that lense was mainly because my shutter speed wasnt high enough, I try to shoot, well over 1/200 when I shoot with it, but when I have a flash, the highest I can go is 1/200th to sinc with the flash. I've been noticing the problem more and more with my 24-70 though.
    The example I showed looks like it my have been a misfocus, here is another better example of the camera shake I'm talking about
  14. Teran, the first thing I'd do is make sure you are choosing your focus point rather than letting the camera do it for you. Try to make your focus point sit on her eyelashes. This will usually give you the best in focus shot of the face. As Ian said, the plane of focus can be really shallow when shooting wide open, so if you are recomposing your shot after doing a focus lock, be sure that you are only move the camera just a tiny bit, and not your whole body. When I teach photography students this concept, the first thing they tend to do is to move their feet, or rotate at the hip. I show them then that it is far better to just do tiny movements with your hands and wrists to recompose as you are far more likely to maintain the plane of focus on your intended subject then.
    Make sure you are in one shot mode (unless you are taking shots of say someone bicycling coming at you, etc, then be in AI servo), and NOT AI FOCUS. Frankly canon should just chuck this focus mode until it is better. At one wedding I did about 2 years ago, I inadvertently flipped it over to AI FOCUS, and many of the shots came out just like yours. Probably acceptably in focus to non photographers, but to me I was horrified by the softness of the images.
    Also, try putting the camera on a tripod in your home and see if it still has problems focusing. If it does, you know you need to bring it into a canon service center.
  15. That one looks like camera shake, not misfocus, too. Same problem.
  16. Ian, thank you for your response, yes that's generally how I compose, lock the focus then recompose. I've experienced the same problem I think with the focus locking on high contrast items. I provided another example that seems more on the lines of what I was talking about with the camera shake
  17. Bob, I've felt I need to have my equipment sent in to Canon to be checked, I'm uncertain of costs, but it really is a necessity with any working professional to have their equipment working propoerly producing sharp images. I wasn't sure if it was problem with me, the lenses, or the camera, but running the test you were referring to may help me with the process of elimination. Thank you
  18. Vail, that may be my problem that I'm moving too much in between recomposition. I thought I try to minimize movement, but its possible that I'm not. When shooting something somewhat fast pace like a wedding it can be slightly challenging. I'll try out your test and see what happens, thank you
  19. I seem to be talking into a vaccuum here, but just in case anyone is listening, you can tell that misfocus isn't the main problem (it may be a sub-problem) in the second picture as well as the first because objects both in front of and behind the face are reasonably sharp-ish - sharper than the face at any rate. In the second picture both her bust (which seems to be in front of her face, at least a bit), and her shoulder (behind it) are reasonably in focus. Pretty much exactly the same as the first picture.
    Because the flash is (presumably) bounced off the ceiling, the light from it is mainly coming from above on to her. That means that lighter objects turned towards the ceiling, like the lines of the clothes on her chest, are frozen by the flash and are reasonably sharp. Her face is relatively speaking at a more turned down angle from the ceiling, so catches less of the bounced light. It's therefore, unlike the shirt, mainly lit by ambient, and suffers from shake/motion blur.
  20. Simon, thats what I thought, It seems to me when shooting at 1/200 and consciously stabilizing myself while shooting that I shouldnt have camera shake in that environment. I seem to remember back when shooting film, I could hand hold a camera with a 50mm to 70mm lens anywhere from 1/60 to 1/100 without camera shake problems as long as I was stabile.
  21. I could hand hold a camera with a 50mm to 70mm lens anywhere from 1/60 to 1/100 without camera shake problems as long as I was stabile​
    That's really on a static subject where you have plenty of time to breathe deeply and relax. In a dynamic environment, you can multiply that by two or three (something like 1/250th sec. with a 50mm lens).
    With practise, you can take pictures handheld on dynamic subjects (people moving and chatting) at much lower shutter speeds, but even with a lot of practise a signficant proportion of them will have shake/blur. Even at 1/250th with a standard lens, the occasional picture will be blurry.
    I think if the light was a bit more direct, or you bounced a greater proportion forwards rather than up, you'd find you had a higher 'hit rate'.
    Also when you're bouncing, if you're quite close to the subject then the ceiling bounced light is going to come from a pretty vertical angle and won't light planes that are vertical (eg. faces) very well, especially if it's on a weak/fill power. If you're further back, the bounced light is at more of an oblique bounce angle.
  22. Simon, I remember in this last photo example, I had the flash on camera with a diffuser at a 45 degree angle towards the subject, not bouncing off the ceiling because it was too high. Sorry, I was meaning to ignore you.
  23. another thing I would highly suggest is trying out the back button focus, once I learned how to do this then I was getting what I wanted in focus to be the sharpest part of the image, before I learned how to do this, I was ready to give up on my Canon camera. I have all of my canons set up with this feature now.
  24. I had the flash on camera with a diffuser at a 45 degree angle​
    It's hard to say without seeing the exact situation, but I have the impression that one way or another the clothes are being frozen by the flash while the face isn't. It may be that she was moving her head, so the relatively weak sharp element from the fill flash is overwhelmed and not very visible, while her chest is relatively static, so the flash helps give it it's sharpness.
    I have the feeling there's a slight back focussing that is compounding the problem (in both pictures, objects behind the head seem slightly sharper further back than objects in front of the face) which may be cause either by bad calibration or by focussing and shifting composition, or both, so you should of course check those, but I think there's a flash/ambient balance or shutter speed/hand-holding problem which is the core of the problem with the face.
    You could try using a slightly stronger flash in a few pictures, turn it up half a stop or even a stop and see if the problem goes away.
    Though of course, check your focus too.
  25. I believe it to be a shutter speed issue, as Simon opined above. 2nd picture, The flash appears to be freezing the more static torso area with her head possibly blurred by motion. While I don't use a 5DII, the old school inverse shutter speed guide doesn't work well at all on my 7D and non-static subjects or longer focal length lenses. It drove me nuts for the first week or so. The first picture may be a result of the flash AF assist tweaking focus after you set and composed, is it deactivated?
  26. In your second photo, the focus seems to be on the neck of the middle subject. That's what I see...Tom
  27. And...since you said that you use the center autofocus poin, that the focus to me seems in the center of the photo....I think I am right....misfocus...user error. TOM
  28. While this is not a comment specific to the OP's camera body, there are a growing number of people who feel that the film based shutter speed rule of the reciprocal of the shutter speed is no longer reliable with highly developed digital sensors. It is now felt that absolute sharpness requires a much higher shutter speed than was sufficient with film. One over double or even triple the shutter speed has been suggested as a safer rule of thumb to eliminate human camera shake from degrading the image.
    YMMV, but I no longer consider myself the human tripod that I did in film days. Just my $.02.
  29. I disagree that the problems exhibited in these images are from subject motion, although subject motion in relation to the ambient might be a factor in the second image. I still think they are primarily misfocused images.
    This is the kind of issue many people have encountered using Canon cameras and lenses. Some professionals have even gone to Nikon just to have surer autofocus.
    In the first image, I think the autofocus grabbed the tail light area. In the second image, it grabbed the tip of the center woman's blouse, on her right shoulder. The DOF for the image was about 1 foot (I estimate). Most of the time, the front part of the DOF range is 1/3 of the DOF. Since her face is turned away from the right shoulder, there is plenty to miss. As far as I can tell, the tip of her blouse, as well as her elbow area, are in focus.
    IMHO, Canon lenses, or maybe it is the autofocus system itself, are too quick to grab onto something. So when you attempt to autofocus, the lens/camera rushes to attain focus, and if it doesn't run across a nice, contrasty target, it grabs at whatever is nice and contrasty (in back or in front--mostly in back) of the subject.
    This is regardless of center point use, although the center point is the most sensitive. I don't think parallax (with focus/recompose) is an issue here. The above is why some people find improvement by using the back button focus control, which can help stop the lens/camera from going from point to point (when not desired).
    This is also why I sometimes think it is better that I use a Tamron 28-75mm zoom, than the 24-70mm. The Tamron is slower than the Canon L lens. Slower, in this case, may mean surer. I rarely have autofocus issues on my 5D with that lens. I have had issues with my 16-35mm L lens.
    Also, focusing on the eyes can cause problems, particularly with wide angle lenses. This is because the target is smaller, due to the perspective. Whenever you attempt to put a focus point on a small target, which has 'edges', the focus point can get snagged beyond the edges--usually on the background. When I focus/recompose on small targets, I avoid ones that have edges.
    Still, I have read that the 24-70mm needs more calibration than others, and has elements that get out of whack quicker. Then there is the possibility that your camera and lens(es) are out of calibration. Usually, the vast majority of cameras and lenses are just fine. But it is a possibility you need calibration.
    I would test your camera and lenses being more careful about your focusing method first. If you can rule out some goodly percentage of misfocus problems, you may have your answer. If not, proceed to actually ruler testing your camera and lenses. You may need to send them in for calibration.
  30. I keep looking at this thread, can't work it out to my own satisfaction though. I think Nadine has it right, you are getting inconsistent focus performance from the body, not the lenses fault or camera shake, go through the micro AF procedure and see if it helps.
    Here is an image from my 24-70 shot at 70mm, f2.8 @ 1/40 sec handheld. Center focusing point, one shot AF, focus and recompose, AF on the shutter button.
  31. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    What an interesting puzzle.
    I have mulled over the two photos for about a week. I have also read all the responses a few times.
    What I think (short version):
    Photo #1:
    5DmKII; 24~70/2.8L, FL=27mm;
    F/4.5 @ 1/160s @ ISO200; Flash Fill; Hand Held; SD ≈ 5ft; DoF ≈ 2ft 2in
    In the first photo the AF is accurate in so far as the tail-light of the truck is in sharp focus – but so is the woman’s left breast and that is in just about the same plane as the tail-light
    The Woman’s far (right shoulder) is not as sharp. I think it is entirely feasible that the AF latched (correctly) onto the high contrast pattern in the woman’s dress across her bust line – which is in the centre of the frame.
    The woman’s head (eyes) are about 12” behind that plane of sharp focus and is not (as) sharp as the front line of her dress.
    The Flash Fill: making two reference points - the FACES of the man background right in red top and the man background left sitting in cubicle – there is no flash fill on either face. So I extrapolate that those skin tones are my reference point for the ambient exposure.
    I now refer those two skin tones to the skin tone of the woman: the face of the man in red top is about 1 stop down and the man in cubicle is about 1½ Stops down.
    So I conclude the flash is about 1~1½ stops above the ambient – and therefore at Tv=1/160s and Hand Held there is more than reasonable probability of capturing SUBJECT MOVEMENT and or CAMERA SHAKE.
    Camera shake I rule out as the Tail Light is crisp and I cannot detect any trailing edges on the silver areas.
    However I do feel that the woman’s face is less sharp than the right shoulder strap of her dress. Although I cannot categorically show a trailing edge to prove Subject movement, the right earring does seem to be moving right to left across camera – which would be in accord with the woman twisting her head toward the camera, from the truck. I do however note a trailing edge of the Thumb of her Left Hand and it is definitely moving upwards, which would be a common movement in an human who is making camera ready “candid” position.
    Therefore I conclude that 1/160s with that level of Flash Fill in that lighting scenario was insufficient to arrest noticeable Subject Movement.
    In summary, I believe that the softness in the woman’s face is due to two factors, both “equal” in their destructive nature but each of themselves only very slight – the sum of the two being what is noticed:
    • The plane of sharp focus is about 12 inches on front of the eyes.
    • The woman’s head is turning.
    I doubt that we can “blame” poor AF for this one sample as it is more than quite plausible that the AF found its target accurately.
    Photo #2
    5DmKII; 24~70/2.8L, FL=62mm;
    F/4 @ 1/200s @ ISO200; Flash Fill; Hand Held; SD ≈ 10ft** ; DoF ≈ 14 inches
    **(I believe the EXIF distance nabbed the closer woman, not the woman in the pink top)
    Again, I believe the AF is NOT “at fault”.
    It appears to me the AF latched onto the Blouse of the woman in the centre of the frame – specifically the line of the blouse at the right shoulder and clavicle area. This is near the centre of the frame.
    Her Left shoulder is slightly forward of that line and slightly OoF, so is her face.
    There is a very slim DoF in this shot.
    Again there is not a great dominance of the Flash Fill exposure over the Ambient exposure and with the Tv=1/200s there is opportunity to capture Subject Movement, which I seem to detect in her hands and the camera she is holding – but they too are slightly OoF, so I am not 100% sure. Certainly if that woman did turn her head toward the other lady . . . and if the shutter was released during that turning movement there is enough ambient exposure, at Tv=1/200s, to capture a blur.
    Also I am not convinced that there is ZERO camera movement in this shot – there is no really tack sharp area IMO. Her name tag appears blurred sideways and although the base of her blouse appears sharp, her shoulder and pants appear also blurred, sideways.
    Co-incidence maybe, but realistically 1/200s at 62mm hand held – the Photographer could have made an error and be moving, following the direction of the Main Subject’s movement – from left to right (which is the blur direction of her mane tag)
    With all good intent many of the contributors have focussed in on (pun intended) discussing whether or not the (big) problem is poor AF or not: thus isolating the discussion to “prove” one way or the other.
    We have - ONLY two examples both of which exhibit:
    • a reasonably shallow DoF
    • a Plane of Sharp Focus which is in accord with Centre Point AF
    • reasonably dominate Ambient and a Tv which is not fast enough to arrest moderate Subject Movement
    The OP states that this problem is occurring with a number of lenses – and that it seems to him as “camera shake” – assuming his gut instinct is a reasonable starting point for problem solving, my suggestion is to interrogate ALL the occurrences which irritate, and to note specifically:
    • the shutter speed used
    • the possibility of subject movement NOT being arrested at that particular Shutter Speed
    (If Flash is used, then note the relative intensity of the Flash Fill to the ambient)
    My best guess is the OP will find common trend in all the photos which are irritating him, and I am almost willing to bet a Mars Bar that it is:
    Shutter Speed; Ambient Exposure and Subject Movement related: with maybe just a FEW Camera Blurs related the slow Tv.

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