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What Am I Doing Wrong?  
User currently offlineMidEx216 From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 651 posts, RR: 4
Posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 3402 times:

Hello once again, to everyone

I am back here with slight frustration. Every time I go shooting, I come back somewhat disappointed. Don't get me wrong, my shots are very well composed and everything (or at least at a point where I could crop them), but I feel as though the quality is lacking.

I often come back with shots that are grainy, soft / blurry, unfocused, etc... The thing about the blur is that it doesn't even look like motion blur.

I was just wondering if anyone could give me any advice. Is the problem with me, the lens, the camera...or some combination? Could it be possible that the lens is uncalibrated or something? Or do I desperately need image stabilization? Do I just have shaky hands? Or does the camera itself not know exactly when things are focused? Or perhaps it's light sensor isn't right, and it gives me the wrong settings, resulting in grain?

Any ideas at all?

Thanks,
Paul


P.S. - This is not a complaint of "Why can't I get any of my photos accepted?" I am happy with the look of my photos, but just wondering why quality in certain areas is lacking as much as it is.


"Cue the Circus Music!"
19 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineViv From Ireland, joined May 2005, 3142 posts, RR: 28
Reply 1, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 3391 times:

Show us some shots, with the settings you used.


Nikon D700, Nikkor 80-400, Fuji X Pro 1, Fujinon 35 f/1.4, Fujinon 18 f/2
User currently offlineRuudb From Netherlands, joined Jun 2005, 164 posts, RR: 5
Reply 2, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 3391 times:

Can you show some of your pictures?
Nobody will be able to give advice without seeing how your pictures look like.
Also include the camera, lens, using RAW or jpeg things like that.

Ruud.


User currently offlineDazbo5 From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2005, 2922 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 3387 times:

Hi Paul,

I think everyone on here will probably say they've been there at some point so we know how you feel. I have a lens problem at the moment so know more than most how frustrating it is. It might be worth you posting a couple of examples of the types of problems you are having and the equipment / settings you are using as it could be technique, post processing or several other issues you're having.

Grain is normally caused by high ISO. Most use 100 or 200 for general use but it obviously depends on the available light, camera you are using and how you process your images. Only sharpen the parts of the image you need to, ie don't sharpen the sky. Soft / blurriness / out of focus can be cause by using too large an aperture (small depth of field), most use f/8 which is the sharpest point of most lenses and give sufficient depth of field. Blurriness can also be caused by too slow a shutter speed. The focus point can cause a soft nose / tail, most use centre spot to even out the focus. As you can see, there are loads of possibilities so a couple of examples would help us help you.

Darren



Equipment: 2x Canon EOS 50D; Sigma 10-20 EX DC HSM, 50-500 EX APO DG, Canon 24-105 f/4 L, Speedlite 430EX
User currently offlineMidEx216 From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 651 posts, RR: 4
Reply 4, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 3385 times:

I'd love to show you some of my shots, but I don't know how I should do that. Unless I shrink them all down. Because Imageshack and places of the like can't take too large of photos.


"Cue the Circus Music!"
User currently offlineDazbo5 From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2005, 2922 posts, RR: 2
Reply 5, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 3382 times:

That's fine, reduce them to say 1024 pixels. You are more than welcome to email them to me through my profile too.

Darren



Equipment: 2x Canon EOS 50D; Sigma 10-20 EX DC HSM, 50-500 EX APO DG, Canon 24-105 f/4 L, Speedlite 430EX
User currently offlineMidEx216 From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 651 posts, RR: 4
Reply 6, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 3310 times:

Ok, so here goes...
All of these shots were taken with a Canon Digital Rebel XT. And they're in chronological order :P

1/125, f/22, ISO 100, standard 18-55mm lens
I realize now that the aperture on this was way too high, but still open for ideas.

1/200, f/14, ISO 200, 80-300 zoom lens
Again, probably too high of an aperture, and too high ISO.

1/100, f/18, ISO 100, standard 18-55mm lens
I thought for sure this one would come out. I've been trying forever to get a shot of these jets, and when I get one in the middle of daytime, it comes out blurred.

1/125, f/16, ISO 100, 80-300 zoom lens

1/160, f/16, ISO 100, 80-300 zoom lens

1/250, f/9, ISO 100, 80-300 zoom lens
Ok, I'd think that the settings one this one are ok. Why'd it come out like this? Is this just a zoom problem? Would Image Stab fix this?

1/125, f/20, ISO 200, standard 18-55mm lens
The ISO on this was a mistake; I didn't mean to leave it set like that, but how'd that flare get there? I'm also told the photo looks soft..

1/320, f/16, ISO 200, 80-300 zoom lens
Again, I didn't mean to have ISO 200, but it still came out very soft. (Please ignore the dust spots)

1/320, f/9, ISO 100, 80-300 zoom lens
...Anything?

1/320, f/9, ISO 100, 80-300 zoom lens
And I thought this was money, until it got rejected for blurry and contrast. What's going on there?

1/320, f/9, ISO 100, 80-300 zoom lens
For the record, these last couple were all taken from the same spot, minutes apart, so solving one of them would probably solve the rest.

1/400, f/9, ISO 100, 80-300 zoom lens
Actually, I think this one is immaculate. If anyone sees a problem with it, please point it out to me.

1/160, f/5.6, ISO 100, 80-300 zoom lens
I chased this plane all over ORD last night, and came up with these results. Rather disappointing.

1/60, f/6.3, ISO 100, 80-300 zoom lens
Again I was shooting at long distances, but this came back more soft / unfocused, as opposed to blurry..

1/80, f/5.6, ISO 100, 80-300 zoom lens
A pleasant surprise being in the right place to catch this heavy, I thought I'd at least get some good shots out of the 6 I snapped as it came by. Unfortunately, this is the best I got. The panning worked perfect, but the fuselage just isn't clear.


P.S. - On some shots, I have AI Servo on, where it continually focuses, for moving objects. Does this present a problem where it lags behind just enough to make the shot soft? Or is that better than I'd get trying to do one-shot focus?

[Edited 2009-06-13 22:55:44]


"Cue the Circus Music!"
User currently offlineCpd From Australia, joined Jun 2008, 4879 posts, RR: 37
Reply 7, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 3275 times:

Okay, USA 55142 C17 Globemaster, that one had too slow a shutter speed. You could have used F/8 or F/11 for that and got higher shutter speed. ISO200 is okay. You just needed more shutter speed to combat motion blur/camera shake.

The small plane with the sun behind it at dusk/dawn is actually quite a beautiful photo. It is soft.I think it needs a bit more sharpness.

Atlas Air B744F is backlit, you need better lighting with the sun behind you. That will help.

Southwest B737NG (in flight) is much the same - backlit.

AF/ Northwest photo is too far away, it suffers a bit of heat haze. Was it heavily cropped?


User currently offlineDlowwa From Canada, joined Apr 2005, 7328 posts, RR: 30
Reply 8, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 3272 times:

I'd say the problems with the first seven were related to your settings when shooting (i.e. stopping down the aperture too much, too slow shutter speed, etc...) I think you've realized this, because the last seven look better.

That having been said, the problems with the last seven probably can be broken down into two root causes: the limitations of your equipment and your editing skills. You said you are using an 80-300mm zoom lens... I can't find any info on a Canon model in that focal range, but I'll assume it's a lower-end model. With lower-end glass, the closer to the max. zoom range and the wider open the aperture, the softer the resulting photo. I'd guess that's what happened in several of your shots. But even if your camera/lens combo is taking slightly soft shots, you should be able to remedy some of that in the edit (as long as you're not having to crop too much).

If you want some serious help/advice, send me a message or email me, and I'll show you some side-by-side examples of what kind of quality you should be expecting to get straight out of the camera and then after editing.

Dana


User currently offlineDazbo5 From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2005, 2922 posts, RR: 2
Reply 9, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 5 days 6 hours ago) and read 3213 times:

I would agree with the above, and as was susptected when you originally posted. Now you've provided some photos and how you've been using your camera, it's a problem with technique more than anything. Try using an aperture of f/8. Without going in to detail, when you stop down as much as you have, it'll reduce the quality of your photos. Most lenses are at their sweetspot around f/8 - f/11. That'll also give you faster shutter speeds and prevent some of the motion blur / camera shake you are getting through low shutter speeds. Your quality will improve by using aperture priority mode at f/8 and centre spot focus. We can get on to processing after you've got the technique right. Remember quality in = quality out, there's only so much you can do with photohop.

Darren



Equipment: 2x Canon EOS 50D; Sigma 10-20 EX DC HSM, 50-500 EX APO DG, Canon 24-105 f/4 L, Speedlite 430EX
User currently offlineMidEx216 From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 651 posts, RR: 4
Reply 10, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 3169 times:



Quoting Cpd (Reply 7):
USA 55142 C17 Globemaster, that one had too slow a shutter speed.

But that doesn't even look like motion blur. That looks like the camera didn't focus.

Quoting Cpd (Reply 7):
The small plane with the sun behind it at dusk/dawn is actually quite a beautiful photo. It is soft.I think it needs a bit more sharpness.

How can I get some sharpness out of it though? Or is that about the best it gets, and the rest comes from editing?

Quoting Cpd (Reply 7):
Atlas Air B744F is backlit, you need better lighting with the sun behind you. That will help.

Southwest B737NG (in flight) is much the same - backlit.

With the Atlas, the sun was almost directly behind the aircraft, so the other side would have yielded the same, or worse, results.

Quoting Cpd (Reply 7):
AF/ Northwest photo is too far away, it suffers a bit of heat haze. Was it heavily cropped?

But again, this looks like it's not focused. I do see some heat haze, but the cropping was minimal.

Quoting Dlowwa (Reply 8):
and your editing skills.

Just so you know, I have edited any of these yet. All of these are how they came out of the camera.

Quoting Dlowwa (Reply 8):
You said you are using an 80-300mm zoom lens...

Sorry, I meant 75-300.

Quoting Dazbo5 (Reply 9):
Try using an aperture of f/8. Without going in to detail, when you stop down as much as you have, it'll reduce the quality of your photos. Most lenses are at their sweetspot around f/8 - f/11.

I have two questions about that:
1) What about the shots I have here taken at f/9? I still had that problem with those.
2) Surely not everything has to be in the f/8 - f/11 range. The conditions aren't always suited for that. What happens when I'm trying to get shots in different light conditions. Surely it's not always going to be so out of focus..? (and no Shirley jokes)



"Cue the Circus Music!"
User currently offlineDlowwa From Canada, joined Apr 2005, 7328 posts, RR: 30
Reply 11, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 3098 times:



Quoting MidEx216 (Reply 10):
But that doesn't even look like motion blur.

Yes it does. Looks like motion blur/lens shake at long focal length. Faster shutter speed will help this.

Quoting MidEx216 (Reply 10):
Or is that about the best it gets, and the rest comes from editing?

99.9% of the photos in the database have been edited in some way, many involving some form of sharpening. If you think you should be getting shots that look like a.net quality without editing, you're going to be banging your head against the wall for a long time.

Quoting MidEx216 (Reply 10):
With the Atlas, the sun was almost directly behind the aircraft, so the other side would have yielded the same, or worse, results.

?!? Lit from the front would be WORSE than backlit? You're kidding, right? One of the prime rules of photography is to have the sun behind YOU, not the subject.

Quoting MidEx216 (Reply 10):
But again, this looks like it's not focused. I do see some heat haze, but the cropping was minimal.

Don't assume mis-focusing is always the culprit. The farther away from the subject you are, the more atmospheric interference there is, heat haze being part of that. This interference will cause softness/blurriness, and that certainly looks like what is happening in that shot. If it were a focus problem, then at least one part of the frame would be sharp... either the buildings in the background or the grass in front. Since neither are, it is reasonable to assume the focus is correct (near infinity) but that the objects that should be sharp (furthest away) aren't because they are too far away and interference is making them appear soft.

Quoting MidEx216 (Reply 10):
Just so you know, I have edited any of these yet. All of these are how they came out of the camera.

See above comments. You'd be hard pressed to find any photo on this website that hasn't been edited in one way or another.

Quoting MidEx216 (Reply 10):

1) What about the shots I have here taken at f/9? I still had that problem with those.
2) Surely not everything has to be in the f/8 - f/11 range.

1) Other issues (shutter speed, distance) could be affecting the quality, or those could simply be the best quality you should expect from your lens.
2) You are correct in general. The f/8-f/11 range is generally recommend for two reasons. It keeps the depth of field relatively decent, meaning more area in front of and behind the focus plane is in focus. Second, and much more important in your case, that's generally the sweet spot for most lower- to mid-level lenses, i.e. where they can produce the best images. You can certainly shoot at any aperture with your lens, but as I mentioned earlier, the wider open it goes the softer the results will be, so don't be surprised when you shoot at f/5.6 and 300mm and get really poor results. That is to be expected from that type of lens. If you want to get sharp results at all aperture settings, you're going to need to invest in a lot higher quality of lens.

So.... you need to stop panicking about 'focusing problems', as it's possible none of your poor results were caused by this. Take a minute, read thoroughly the advice people are trying to give you here (I know I've already repeated myself several times), and hopefully you can get better results.

My offer to contact me for some personal advice/assistance still stands - maybe you can stop beating your head against the wall sooner rather than later!

Dana


User currently offlineMidEx216 From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 651 posts, RR: 4
Reply 12, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 3058 times:

Quoting Dlowwa (Reply 11):
Lit from the front would be WORSE than backlit? You're kidding, right? One of the prime rules of photography is to have the sun behind YOU, not the subject.

I meant behind the aircraft. Like, not on the other side of the aircraft. Like the plane is flying away from the sun.

Quoting Dlowwa (Reply 11):
If you think you should be getting shots that look like a.net quality without editing, you're going to be banging your head against the wall for a long time.

Right, I know they've been edited, but I'm asking if there's anywhere up to go from the example I have. Or is that the best and the rest is from editing? (Well, not the BEST..)

Quoting Dlowwa (Reply 11):
I know I've already repeated myself several times

Fair enough, but I'm still waiting for answers to certain questions...

Now, to pose a second question..what's really the difference between "lower- and mid-level lenses" and better ones? Like what makes it better, other than the price? And would this type of lens be better for situations when light requires different settings (like the last couple)?

And as I've been asking, would image stabilization help my problem at all? In fact, would it almost be deemed necessary at certain zoom ranges?

[Edited 2009-06-14 19:21:03]


"Cue the Circus Music!"
User currently offlineChase From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 1054 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 3038 times:

I'm no expert so this may be more basic advice than you're looking for, but one guideline to reduce blur from shaky hands is to keep your shutter speed equal to or faster than the reciprocal of the focal length. So, if shooting at 200mm, have the shutter speed be 1/200s or faster. A few of your pictures above look like you may have shot at slower-than-appropriate shutter speeds...of course, when you say 1/125 on your 75-300 lens, for all I know maybe you *were* at 125mm or wider. But your second-to-last image is definitely outside of this guideline.

Also it doesn't hurt to hold your breath briefly while pressing the shutter button.

Of course, if you can use a tripod, by all means do so and then this business goes out the window.


User currently offlineDlowwa From Canada, joined Apr 2005, 7328 posts, RR: 30
Reply 14, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 3012 times:



Quoting MidEx216 (Reply 12):
Right, I know they've been edited, but I'm asking if there's anywhere up to go from the example I have. Or is that the best and the rest is from editing?

It's hard to tell the exact quality of your originals at that size. It's possible editing will help, possibly not. You'll need to either post the full-size originals (or at least crops of them), or get in contact with me. I have good quality lenses from which I get results that I am very happy with, and I'd be happy to compare your shots with some of mine. That way you can see the best you can expect without editing, and have an idea how much comes through editing. The offer is still open. Seeing your full size originals should also allow me to tell you whether the problem is focus, interference, motion blur, etc...

Quoting MidEx216 (Reply 12):
what's really the difference between "lower- and mid-level lenses" and better ones?

Very good question... I'm certainly no optics engineer/expert, but I think it has to do with the materials used and quality of construction. Maybe someone with more knowledge can add to that.

Quoting MidEx216 (Reply 12):
And would this type of lens be better for situations when light requires different settings (like the last couple)?

I'm assuming you mean low-light situations... In that case, yes, higher quality lenses are better, because you can use wider apertures without fear of too much loss of quality. The camera will also play a factor too, as different sensors handle low light in different ways (whole other discussion there).

As for IS, as a non-Canon shooter, I can't comment directly, but I would think that the longer the focal length you are using, the more useful IS would be. Once you get into the longer telephoto range (say ~100mm+) lens shake does start to become a problem, so IS could be helpful for you (in low-light situations too).

Quoting MidEx216 (Reply 12):
but I'm still waiting for answers to certain questions...

Which ones have we missed?

Dana


User currently offlineMidEx216 From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 651 posts, RR: 4
Reply 15, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 3004 times:



Quoting Dlowwa (Reply 14):
I'd be happy to compare your shots with some of mine.

Ok, I will email you...tomorrow. It's been a long day.

Quoting Dlowwa (Reply 14):
Once you get into the longer telephoto range (say ~100mm+) lens shake does start to become a problem, so IS could be helpful for you (in low-light situations too).

Ok, that helps me. I've been looking at getting a nice zoom lens (as the 75-300 that I'm using right now I borrow from a friend) before I go to India. I didn't want to spend too much, but since I'm not sure if I'm going to India, that'll open up some of those funds for a better lens.

Quoting Dlowwa (Reply 14):
higher quality lenses are better, because you can use wider apertures without fear of too much loss of quality.

I guess that kinda confuses me a bit. How can a higher quality lens perform better in low light, when there's no REAL change in it? As long as the focal length and aperture are the same, wouldn't it all depend on the sensor and shutter settings, etc? Unless of course this lens had IS.



"Cue the Circus Music!"
User currently offlineCvervais From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 610 posts, RR: 2
Reply 16, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 3004 times:
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Also, since I fell victim to this, make sure you're not gripping the lens on the focus ring. you can easily throw a shot out of focus by doing this. I did for awhile and I kept banging my head into a wall wondering why the shots out of my Canon EF 100-400 IS lens were soft.

User currently offlineJohnKrist From Sweden, joined Jan 2005, 1399 posts, RR: 6
Reply 17, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 2996 times:
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Quoting MidEx216 (Reply 15):
I guess that kinda confuses me a bit. How can a higher quality lens perform better in low light, when there's no REAL change in it? As long as the focal length and aperture are the same, wouldn't it all depend on the sensor and shutter settings, etc? Unless of course this lens had IS.

Usually it's a factor of materials, size and coatings of the elements in the lens. A cheaper lens will have some plastic lens elements and they are usually very small and also the quality of the element is good, not more. An L-lens for example has been through thorough testing to assure they all meet the requirements of professional photographers, all elements are high grade optic glass, the front element is 3-4 times larger, there are more aperture blades and so on.



5D Mark III, 7D, 17-40 F4 L, 70-200 F2.8 L IS, EF 1.4x II, EF 2x III, Metz 58-AF1
User currently offlineLufthansi From Germany, joined May 2002, 454 posts, RR: 2
Reply 18, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 2913 times:

Hi Paul!

I tried to work a bit on your Learjet. Well on the picture at least  Wink

I levelled it, set the black and white points for colour balance, resized it to 1024pixels and sharpened it via UMS.

Hope you like it. But it is probably overexposed. I have the same problem too at such nice weather.

http://i27.photobucket.com/albums/c184/lufthansi/53237843.jpg

Cheers,

Stephan



Life starts at take-off!
User currently offlineChampfence From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 53 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 2872 times:

MidEx,

My best advice would be to spend some time on many of the popular photography websites to learn more about photography in general. Read reviews of equipment, sepecially lenses as there is a HUGE difference in the quality of glass. Your Canon EF 75-300 is notorious for soft images. You can rent a Canon 300 f4L lense for about $65.00 per week online (it's about a $1300.00 lense!). Try your shots with some first rate glass, and then you'll know where you are. IMHO your lense is your problem. It looks like you have really good access to take aircraft shots. Good luck.

BRB


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