Sharpness - Not happy about it?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by alex_foto, Jun 11, 2009.

  1. Hi all,

    I am back with some good news and bad news. The good news is that my shoot out was such a wonderful experience in general. The bad news is that some of my photos turned out to be out of focus (-kind of blury/Not so sharp). Any idea why?
    FYI ...I was using 2 750W EMD Lamps continuous lights with stands on two sides and my D80 with Nikkor 17-55mm F2.8 DX lens with SB900 Speedlight mounted on it.
    The following photo is shot at 17mm f5 at 1/60sec with ISO 200, hand-held with a WB set at Flash.
    NOT happy about the photo???
  2. Auto focus may or may not always work perfectly. In fact I consider it a nasty thing and rarely use it. But I do not do fast moving events very much. Expect some failures.
    Why mix tungsten and flash? You are asking for trouble. Handholding without flash is going to be chancy. Either tripod or flash.
    You need to sharpen the photos with your favorite photoediting program. JPEGs CAN come from the camera sharp, but you need to set what level of sharpness and then it will be correct for only one size print and type of media output.
  3. Hey Tobey,
    I was actually shooting Manual.
    Are you saying using a tripod would have brought about a better result?
    I use photoshop for PP, by the way.
  4. lots of people in here have been complaining about sharpness probs with that lens lately. I would call nikon.
  5. It may be your autofocusing skills. Yes, autofocus requires skill. It's easy to have the camera focus on the backdrop instead of the subjects when they are close.
  6. The small web version looks sharp on my monitor, but if you're having focus problems with the setup you described, I would put it down to the shutter speed being too slow. Increase the ISO, and get your shutter speed up to about 1/100 or 1/125, and hand-shaking focus blur will disappear.
  7. I agree with John. Move up the ISO and get a faster shutter speed. In large churches it can be tough when they have low light because you will lose some ambient lighting by increaseing shutter speed, but in the case of the picture above it wouldn't have been much of an issue.
  8. Looks like Dad was prepped for surgery.
    We really can't tell anything from the photo you posted. You'd have to do a 100% crop of a small area to see the sharpness issues you're referrring to. It looks somewhat overexposed to me, though. A little bright. Are you using a calibrated monitor?
  9. Pete S. -- I see some grain of truth in your point.
    John H. --- That is exactly what I was thinking myself.
    Steve C. -- I as actually talking about the focus on the face. and yes, the Monito is caliberated.
    Joseph, thank you for the advice.
  10. Personally I expect some blur if I photograph people at shutter speeds slower than 1/200s, even if the subjects are relatively static, they still usually move a bit during the exposure.
  11. I'm just saying the image as posted looks sharp to me. The full size version might show the focus issue better.
  12. I think some of it is shutter speed - however, I don't see this as OOF photo. I sharpened it a bit and seemed to clear it all up - however I do not have the orginal. Here is what I did to it.
  13. Ok this may sound kinda of silly but what does a 100% and a 50% enlargement of the focal point (point you focused on ) in the picture look like. Some times at 50% it will look sharp enought but at 100% will look a little soft its normal for this lens to show some of this - at 17mm to expect more than at 55. Do not expect same sharpness say an 80-200
    If you are manual focusing - check your eyes first - do you have close to 6-6 vision note especially if you are an using glasses that most glass are set to give you comfort viewing and not near 6-6 which normally makes the eyes feel a touch strained. Plse check your astimatism is correct to be able to see a circle as a circle and black lines as black lines and not with a fuzzy halo around the line - or you will have an issue see clear enought to do manual focus properly.
  14. The image as posted looks perfectly sharp to me, too. I don't see the problem.
    I agree that it is a tad brighter than seems right - although I wouldn't necessarily say that it's overexposed. Shooting raw? Then you want to expose to the right side of the histogram and, if necessary, pull the exposure down a bit in post. Should be easy to increase contrast in this photo and doing so might even improve the apparent sharpness.
    When you have a shot that's not sharp, the first question to ask is, is the shot out of focus or is it simply not sharp? A second question to ask is, is the problem unique to this picture (or sometimes a couple of pictures taken at the same moment) or are you seeing the same problems in lots of photos?
    It can sometimes be hard to tell whether a photo is out of focus or whether it's blurry. If the problem is with focus (and only focus), then some part of the shot ought to be sharp. A month ago I had an embarrassing problem: I'd been playing around with the focal point setting on my camera and apparently forgot to return it to the center where I leave it 99.9% of the time. Took a few portrait shots and noticed that the sharpest part of the picture seemed to be a foot or two behind the subject's faces. But perfectly focused shot can come out unclear if the shutter speed isn't fast enough to offset camera shake and/or subject movement. That sort of problem should be intermittent - and should disappear with faster shutter speeds. If the subjects are standing nice and still, 1/60th sec seems to me a reasonably fast shutter speed for a short focal length, but the stability of the camera would of course be a major factor here, and if you're handheld technique isn't good or if you simply weren't as good on this shot as usual, well, the resulting shot could be hurt. On the other hand, sometimes the problem isn't either focus or movement but rather that the lens simply isn't sharp at a given (usually wide) aperture. Note also that lenses occasionally need to be recalibrated.
    Just for the record: I rely on auto-focus most of the time and find it usually works fine for me.
  15. I agree with you all!
    Francie, good work - my photoshoped image looks like yours.
    Ellery chua, you lost me, especially on the 6-6 vision stuff?
  16. William,
    You raised a very important point:-
    "A month ago I had an embarrassing problem: I'd been playing around with the focal point setting on my camera and apparently forgot to return it to the center where I leave it 99.9% of the time. Took a few portrait shots and noticed that the sharpest part of the picture seemed to be a foot or two behind the subject's faces. "
    Mine was actually set to the top for most of the images, I took. That is actually why I was expectingd for it to come out a lot sharper or CRISPPER.
    Please look at the following image. It is pretty huge [posting it as is - no PP, even cropping]. For this reason it is going to show as a link. Please check.
  17. Lets see... No tripod, continuous lights (except the SB-900), and f/5.
    The biggest thing that actually jumps out at me here is the f/5, especially when you have lots of light. For portraits I wouldn't go below f/8 and prefer f/11, unless you are purposefully going for shallow DOF. Having greater depth of field will help with focusing errors, especially in a photo like this where the young lady is standing a bit closer to you. You need to expand that depth of field by using a smaller aperture. If you can't get your subjects eyes sharp, it will bother those who look at the image.
    The next thing I notice is that you are using continuous lamps and a flash together. Not only can this cause white balance issues if you don't gel the flash for tungsten, but I would think that the lamps could overpower the flash enough to keep it from freezing the action, so if your subject moved much at 1/60th you might get motion blur. My suggestion....ditch the continous lamps for portraits and get either a couple of more flashes (SB-600s are great for slaves) or strobes. Continous lamps are good for video...but I don't see why you would want to use them for portraits.
    Lastly, if you want tack sharp images, always use a sturdy tripod. That's just a given.
    One other thing.... shooting portraits at 17mm is sort of a no-no. It is pretty unflattering. Now I've seen some good portraits that were shot wide, but they were done that way to include more of the location in the image. On DX I would probably zoom to atleast 35 for a full body shot, if not all the way to 55, assuming you have enough room.
  18. Tobey,
    It appears that there are many things you can do to correct this. You aperature is fairly wide, so you don't have much depth-of-field (are you familiar with this?) and your shutter speed is fairly slow and you're hand holding the camera. It's indoors, so why not shoot with flash and on a tripod? This would correct a number of issues yielding much sharper images...-Aimee
  19. Keith, advice well taken! Thanks for the insight!
  20. Alex,
    Did you focus on the people's faces? Autofocus will usually choose the wrong part of the body if you don't direct it carefully. I find that AF often focuses on a person's collarbone. When shooting female subjects, AF will sometimes focus on their bust, leaving the face somewhat out of focus (depending on the size of the bust) if you're using a large aperture (small f-number).
    Try setting the camera to focus on a single point and then either select a point that's close the person's eyes, or focus directly on their eyes and then carefully recompose without moving the camera toward or away from them.
    Note: Putting the camera on a tripod will not fix this autofocus problem.
  21. How about posting a 100 percent view of the blurry part? Can't tell anything from the posted image.
    In any case, you need to determine why the image is OOF before you can figure out how to remedy the situation. There are lots of reasons why an image might be OOF, and many of them have been discussed above. You need to narrow it down. It could be from hand shake or subject motion, or from using the wrong focus mode or focus point mode, or method of autofocusing, or from autofocusing cameras' penchant for backfocusing...
    The first thing one does is figure out if there IS a sharp point of focus in the image. That should usually give you an indication that maybe it isn't hand shake or subject motion, but that the plane of focus wound up in the wrong place somehow. If you can't find any place where the image is sharper, and everything looks uniformly OOF, it could be hand shake. You could also have several problems, though, so these aren't set in stone.
  22. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    It is very difficult to tell anything from the image posted. on my monitor, it looks equally sharp compared to itself (re DoF) across the image for the main subjects.
    If the sample is a full frame crop: F/5 should have given adequate DoF if the Plane of Focus is a Vertical through the female’s eyes – top of bust.

    When radically enlarged, I perceive subject motion in the female as indicated below by the Pink arrow, the tell being the area indicated by the Blue Rectangle. An Hi Res of the cropped area will confirm my suspicion, or otherwise.

    Though evidence of both types of Motion Blur are much less noticeable when Wider Focal Length Lenses are used, 1/60s is not fast enough to freeze subject motion; nor stop hand / camera shake, in all circumstances and situations.

    In this shooting scenario, I would have used a tripod and remote release.

  23. Hi, I think you're expecting too much from a wide lens. I would try this next time, push to F-11 ISO 400 with shutter speed higher than 80. The flash will work harder but you will get sharper images. Good luck, v/r Buffdr
  24. (If nobody said this before) Zoom in on her right arm. Right along the outside edge is a green streak. Right along the inside edge is a red streak. Is that chromatic abberation? Just a question. What if you reduced the CA in Lightroom?
  25. Don't think there was any problem with DoF as at such distance and f/5 18mm lens has significant DoF. It looks to me like combined effect of unsharpnes due to people moving slightly (1/60" isn't that short exposure) and sharpness added by flash exposure (which is much shorter). One option to try is to shoot in manual exposure mode and for selected apperture (depending on desired DoF) set shutter speed so that continuous light alone would produce 1/2 to 1 stop underexposed image, then set flash compensation so that flash is used as main source (effectively room light is then used as fill-light). This way effect of the blur due to motion should be reduced thanks to short flash duration.
  26. Alex,
    The following discussions may be of some interest to you:
  27. Whenever you have a suspected focus issue the first thing to do is bench test the equipment in question.
    Shoot a ruler at a 45 degree angle away from the camera that's mounted on a tripod. Use the largest aperture the lens has and get as close as the lens is able to focus. Pick a specific inch mark mid-way on the ruler and shoot using a cable release or 10 second timer to eliminate all possible user movement. Review on the monitor at 100 or 200%. If the camera/lens is back or front focusing you will see it immediately and exactly how much.
    If the focus is dead on, then you know it is you, and the choices you are making, not the gear.
  28. I am not a wedding photographer or even a traditional portrait photographer, and I understand with wedding photographers especially, in general they are expected to bring back returns on photos shot of about 85 per cent, give or take some.
    I shoot street, and a great many environmental or documentary photos on the street, and some of them come out with amazing sharpness, but the price of that is to take a great number of photos.
    Often my subjects are only holding still for me not because they agree to be photographed but because they are conversing with me and while conversing with me, I'm shooting them, and occasionally, if I gain their respect, they sometimes will agree to try to hold still -- some will do that more often than others, and of the 'others' some will never hold still and I have to catch them during pauses in sentences where their jaw stops.
    So, when I shoot, it's often also under the most adverse circumstances, with many shots at dusk or after sundown, but I still get some quite acceptable shots with very good to excellent focus.

    Now under those conditions, I don't usually boost my ISO to the thousands, but do boost it maybe to ISO 400 or ISO 800 and occasionally higher, but generally not higher than 800, if I can try to get a capture at that level or under. I rely on my camera's continuous drive, and while my subject is conversing with me, I will auto focus on one of the eyeballs of my subject, because that's the most critical area when one judge's focus.
    Almost everyone who is looking to judge focus first will look to see if one or the other eyeballs are 'in focus' and often if both are--although in a portrait where the subject is sideways to the camera, it may be forgivable if the rearmost eye (usually) is less in focus than the foremost eye.
    I'll shoot and shoot and shoot, and often will get a great number of shots with motion blur and some with camera blur, even if I'm shooting with a V.R. lens, because I'll sometimes have shutters speeds of 1/1-1/2 seconds to 1/30th of a second. Under those conditions, it would be amazing with an often moving subject NOT to get every shot 'out of focus' or with unacceptable blur, but I'm often a steady holder and my technique of shooting multiple shots, often in bursts (to account for moving jaws and blinking eyes) often results in one good one for each burst, or every other burst or so, and a great number of interesting photos that are original because others do not try to take photos under such conditions.
    And when my subjects see themselves captured, sometimes under poor indoor lighting or even outdoors at night under available light, their amazement that I get anything at all, and sometimes some good shots or better, helps turn them into more cooperative subjects.
    If I were hired by someone (I'm an amateur right now and always have been) but hoping to go 'fine art' pro, and that someone were looking through my captures, they might be horrified and think I'm a poor shooter for the number of rejects, but in my mind's eye, the number of rejects is the wrong way of looking at it . . . . the correct way is the number of interesting and unusual (original) photos, that are within acceptable focus.
    Maybe I don't fit 'in the box' and probably never have in whatever I've done -- I've almost always done it 'my way' and achieved acceptable and often better than acceptable to superior results . . . .
    If I were shooting weddings, I'm sure brides and grooms would be horrified at the number of 'rejects' if they roamed through my 'captures' (as I am told most do, so maybe I'm not cut out for wedding photography).
    But when I go for 'the moment' I'm generally the one to get it because in all that 'firing' I'm usually the one who can 'feel' it coming and I am most often prepared for it and in place and ready.
    (I'm all for bench testing lenses if buying them; I saw one guy who bought lenses and carried around his own 'target' for testing lenses -- he'd shoot the 'target' under a lamp or other light, then examine the parts of the 'target' for sharpness and pincushion and barrel distortion, right then and there. No need to go to a camera store; just pin the target to a wall or even a lamp shade.) If it's your lens and you have doubt, a quick drop in at a repair shop may result in a 'free' evaluation of your lens -- I've had it done for me several times -- it only takes a tech a minute or so in general while you wait, (if they are not buried behind levels of clerks and others who insulate them from customers and actually do come in contact with customers. They don't want to waste their time billing for something that works fine, if they're ethical, is what I've found in general.
    Certain lenses have had production problems so if you see complaints about certain lenses, and yours is under warranty, make sure it gets tested, then repaired during the warranty period and you do nothing to void the warranty (such as modify the lens, or let it have impact damage of another sort -- even unrelated to the focus issue, as that will prevent 'free warranty service on a pre-existing condition.
    John (Crosley)
  29. Hi all,
    Sorry for the late reply and thank you for all the kind feedback, and insightful & constructive discussion. I have taken it all and will try to apply in my next shoot out - which is this weekend.
    Nadine, Congratulations! I have skimmed over the article that features you and your work on the site.
    Kim, I shall try to sleep on the equations - reminds of my high school years. :)
    Proud member of the family,
  30. Alex--thank you. Re your situation, have you drawn any conclusions? As I said above, if you don't start narrowing things down, you will be in an endless quagmire of possible causes for OOF shots.
  31. Alex,
    6-6 vision is otherwise known as perfect vision.
    If there is softness it could be from AF, if MF was used the clarity of your vision - check your eyes or glasses, the lens itself, camera craft issues. Work thru the list by testing each area.

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