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Photography Question 
Dawn Field
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/5/2005

How to Correct Soft Focus in Picture

I took some really great pictures at a horse show last weekend and when I downloaded them I found some were fuzzy. I had to zoom in to my camera's max 21mm from across the arena, but I used a tripod. Any suggestions as to how to clear them up, I have Photoshop Elements and Microsoft digital image. Thanks.

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10/3/2005 4:53:10 AM

Michael H. Cothran   I think you are out of luck trying to "clear them up." While there are lots of sharpening tools available, including PS's Unsharp Mask, they all have limitations, and none are miracle workers.
I'm going to second guess your situation here - I'm guessing you were indoors shooting moving horses, perhaps jumping or just trotting. Your shutter speed was most likely too slow to stop the motion of the horse, giving you a blurred image. Compound that with the fact that your zoom lens was extended all the way (which is customarily the very worst area of performance in a given zoom lens, and even more so, if you resorted to the "digital" zoom). Therefore, even if the horse was motionless, it does not surprise me that your pictures were "fuzzy." Sadly, this may be the best you can expect from your particular camera, and the best you can do is add some Unsharp Mask in PS Elements.
Michael H. Cothran

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10/3/2005 11:31:29 AM

Bob Fately   Dawn, I'm afraid that Michael is correct - there is nothing (for all practical purposes) that you can do to sharpen out of focu or blurred original images. Photoshop has powerful tools that enable you to "fuzz up" or defocus or blur a shot or portions thereof, but the reverse simply is not possible.

Try this thought experiment to understand why: imagine taking two images with old fashioned print film. Both are of a dark room with a single tiny lightbulb hanging in the center. The sharp image shows essentially an all-blackened area with a small spot of light in the middle. The "blurry" image shows the darkened area with a smeared smudge of lightness - say you panned the camera at a slow shutter speed so it appears as a line. Or if you were out of focus, rather than a sharp edge between the bulb and the background the transition is more of a blur.

Now, using the sharp negative you could mimic the streaked shot - move the negative while exposing the paper. But there is simply no way to mimic the sharp image by manipulating the blurry negative over the photo paper - no matter what you do (short of hard dodging the streak which is cheating for purposes of this experiment).

Similarly, the blurry original cannot be sharpened, even by the unsharp mask tool. What UM does is increase the contrast at the edges in the image, giving the impression of sharpness, but again that calls for there being some kind of edging - and by definition the blurriness has all but eliminated any defined edging in the shot.


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10/4/2005 6:02:27 PM

Dawn Field
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/5/2005
  Thank you Michael and Bob for your feedback. I do just have a point and shoot camera and it was "digital" Zoomed to the max, I definitely have a lot to learn!! You both have been very helpful and thank you again.

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10/4/2005 6:36:31 PM

John G. Clifford Jr
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/18/2005
  The one thing you hopefully learned is to NEVER, never, never! use digital zoom. Say you have a 3 MP camera... if you zoom to a 3x digital zoom you now have effectively a 1 MP camera.

Point and shoot 'digicams' will give surprisingly good images if you stay within the optical lens boundaries and remember that they're cameras that must be held steady, braced, or tripod-mounted for the best results.

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10/8/2005 11:59:16 PM

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