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Mary Beth Aiello
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/19/2006
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How to Shoot Tack Sharp


 
 
I look at many of the BetterPhoto contest entries, and the clarity and detail blow me away.

My question is this -- how do you achieve such tack sharp images?

I use a tripod (although it's 40 years old), mirror lock, cable release, and still many shots can't begin to be as sharp as I would like. Several samples are attached.

Please help with any helpful hints. Your advice is, truly, much appreciated. I'm really trying to learn all I can.

Many thanks.


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4/3/2008 2:38:04 PM

 
John Rhodes
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/24/2005
  Mary Beth, you must sign in to BP before you are able to attach images with your question.
John


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4/3/2008 2:56:15 PM

 
Mary Beth Aiello
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/19/2006
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  Daffodil
Daffodil
© Mary Beth Aiello
Canon EOS 30D Digi...
 
 
Here are photos.


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4/3/2008 4:39:05 PM

 
Bob Fately   MaryBeth, you don't mention what lens you use. While there are many zoom lenses today that are referred to as "Macro" by their manufacturers, they are not optimized for use at close distances as true macro lenses are. Other than the Nikon 70-180 Micro-Nikkor (which actually can take excellent shots up close), the best clost-up lenses are prime lenses (that is, single focal length).


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4/3/2008 4:46:27 PM

 
Mary Beth Aiello
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/19/2006
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  Good question. All of these shots were taken with the Canon 100 mm macro. I have a Canon 30D, which I love.


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4/3/2008 4:58:24 PM

 
Bob Fately   Well, it's hard to tell on a computer screen, but there are two things I can think of.

First, what aperture are you using? Close-up work involves extremely shallow depth of field, even at small apertures. To capture a 3 dimensional subject at such close proximity usually requires that you use f11 or greater.

Second, are you sharpening the images enough in post processing?


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4/3/2008 7:35:20 PM

 
Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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  Hi Mary Beth, my 100mm Macro lens is one of the sharpest I have (and I have several L lenses). You may want to go to a camera store and borrow another 100mm Macro lens and do some test shots to determine if you have a soft copy lens. DOF defintely makes a difference which looks to be the case with the photos you posted.
Most of my shots on my website "flittering about" & "flora/fungus" are done with the 100mm macro. I think many of them have the shutter speed & DOF listed as well. I did use a tripod and often times a ringlight as well. And I did little to no sharpening on most of these images.


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4/3/2008 8:12:54 PM

 
Mary Beth Aiello
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/19/2006
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Thanks for your comments.

I don't think it's my 100 macro lens, but I've attached two other macro shots using higher apertures just to show you.

Regarding sharpening, I'm using, generally, unsharp mask, 100%, radius 0.8, threshold 3-4.


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4/4/2008 5:43:18 AM

 
Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
  Hey Mary, your sharpening is set for human models...I would adjust the radiua and threshold a bit and see what happens. Scott Kelby's book explains this at length.


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4/4/2008 1:16:03 PM

 
Mary Beth Aiello
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/19/2006
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  Can you provide the title of Scott Kelby's book you're recommending. Many thanks.


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4/5/2008 6:23:32 PM

 
Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
  The Adobe Photoshop CS3 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby. If you've got CS2 they've got it for that as well.


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4/5/2008 6:59:06 PM

 
Mary Beth Aiello
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/19/2006
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  Many thanks. I have Photoshop Elements 5, and I'm sure he has a book for that program as well. I'll check.

Thanks again.


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4/6/2008 5:01:27 AM

 
Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
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  I'm not yet shooting sharp as a tack images but my eyes are now 66 years old. They were sharper when I was younger.

However, the sharpness of my work has improved since I purchase sturdier tripods and heads which fit right over the tripod's center of gravity. When there is no fibration due to a 5 gallon bottle of water being attached as a ballast just below the ball head and center of the pod, there is no vibration. No vibration --no movement.

Additionally, my images are sharper with low dispersion lenses and B+W filters, than they were without. My images are sharper when I'm not capturing through window glass, but am able to get out into the field (so to speak).

Low ISO's, depth of field, the sweet point of the lens (where the lens is the sharpest) are all factors that help us get sharper images.

I'm learning more and more all the time. Another think that helps is taking courses at BetterPhoto.com because the instructors have little hints that can really improve one's work ...at least, they've improved my work.


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7/24/2008 6:10:27 PM

 
Kay Beausoleil
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/31/2004
KayBeausoleilPhotography.com
  Susan, I feel your pain: my 65 year old eyes are a mess, and I've finally had to learn Autofocus properly.

Mary Beth, one thing no one's mentioned: Check how solid the join is between your camera and the tripod head (or plate). At one time, I was doing everything right with really decent equipment (tripod, cable release, mirror up, the works) and yet the images were still fuzzy. Turned out the camera was wobbling because the screw on the tripod plate was a skritch too long for the female receptor on the bottom of the camera. A rubber ring between the two solved the problem.


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7/25/2008 9:06:24 AM

 
Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
  What Susan & Kay are pointing out is only MORE reason to invest in a High Quality tripod and Tripod Head (most important). I use a Canon 1Ds MarkII(III) w/70-200 2.8IS + 1.4x or 2x extenders. For surfing events sometimes a 600mm lens and there is NO way a decent tripod/head would work. I own a carbon fibre tripod w/ Arca Swiss B1 (quick release) and its amazing...can hold 90lbs it says....so If I get mad at my daughter on a shoot I just hang her from the tripod and it doesn't ever sag.jk


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7/25/2008 10:25:12 AM

 
Mary Beth Aiello
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/19/2006
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  Thanks all for your comments.

Oliver, another thanks for telling me about Scott Kelby's book. I bought it the next day, and it's made a HUGE difference.

Secondly, can you tell me exactly what kind of tripod you own. I've been looking at Gitmo, but am unsure. Thanks so much.


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7/25/2008 12:36:51 PM

 
Kay Beausoleil
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/31/2004
KayBeausoleilPhotography.com
  Oliver's right about investing in a good tripod. However, my wobbles were between a Manfrotto quick release plate (Bogen in the U.S.) and a Nikon FM2 even though the tripod legs were rock solid. So quality's not always a measure of solidity. Sometimes the little, not obvious, things go wrong.

I use a (newer) Manfrotto head and carbon tripod now with no problems.


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7/25/2008 3:21:51 PM

 
Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
  Hey Mary, Tripods are made in many shapes, sizes, weights etc....for a reason. You need to describe the uses and locations you'll be shooting in and we all can better prescribe a proper tripod. Also add the budget so we don't set you up for something beyond your means. Remember I'm gonna use my tripod for the next 20 years at least so they last...its an investment that actually pays dividends thats why you rarely see used ones for sale.


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7/25/2008 5:13:49 PM

 
Mary Beth Aiello
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/19/2006
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  Good point, Oliver.

I have a Canon 30D, but eventually will buy a Canon 5D. My largest lens is 70-200. CUrrently, I don't envision going larger than that, but I don't want to rule that out. Other current lenses include a 100 macro, and a 17-55.

My photography is primarily animals, flowers, macro, and landscapes. Locations are typical, as I'm not a hiker or climber. Probably lots of city and beach shots, as well as zoos, museums and historical landmarks. I hope this new tripod will be the last tripod I will ever need, so my budget is --for tripod and head -- to be around $1000.

Thanks for your input.


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7/25/2008 8:48:03 PM

 
Ken Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/11/2005
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  Beth, I have the Manfrotto 322RC2 ball head..here's a link from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Bogen-Manfrotto-322RC2-Horizontal-Action-Connect/dp/B000184N22

It's great...no more fiddling with different levers..you just grip it and go.

I have a Manfrotto tripod and monopod...and I use the same ball head grip for both...just unscrew from one and screw it on the other.


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7/25/2008 9:01:27 PM

 
Mary Beth Aiello
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/19/2006
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  This is very helpful, Ken. There are just so many tripods/heads to choose from.


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7/26/2008 5:39:25 AM

 
Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
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  I have a Really Right Stuff Ballhead with a L bracket. It's expensive, but eating vegetarian for two months was worth the savings I made in order to purchase the head. It's that great a pleasure.

I didn't think I was going to buy a lens larger than the 70-200mm f4L, so I bought the medium size head. But, I'm beginning to find myself limited with my 200 mm lens for capturing backyard wildlife and wish I could go longer and faster. But, now I have to consider the tripod I just bought.

Still, with wildlife photography, RRS is a real treat with their ballheads, quick release and L brackets. If you check out this web page, you'll see what I mean. This is a tripod that will hold its resale value, and if it's cared for, should last for decades.
http://reallyrightstuff.com/ballheads/02.html

Before, when I changed from vertical to landscape, I'd have to change the length of the legs. No more and the reason is the L bracket.. It's faster, easy, and a real pleasure.
Here's a video that explains it really well. http://reallyrightstuff.com/video/L-Plate.html

I bought the BH40, with the quick release clamp and L bracket, which will fit your current lens and let you go as far as a 300mm f4 lens. But, if you want to go higher, then you'll need the BH55, load-rated at 50-pounds but weighs only 1.6-pounds.

Mary Beth, I've spent between 3-5 times the price of this head on the various tripods I've owned over the decades. Looking back, most of the tripods were either pure junk, a struggle, and others that let go sending my camera' to the ground. I'm not letting anything happen to my Canon or my newly purchased Low Dispersion lenses.

When this head is on, you can set the drag and when it's connected, it is connected, it will not let go! Plus, the RRS quick release clamp and L bracket is just pure pleasure as well as being trustworthy. I think they are a real necessity if you are working fast in the field.

I cannot say that this head will fit on a monopod. Because, RRS makes another head for the monopod. And, if you get other cameras, that may prove to be a problem as well. This is because the L bracket is custom made for your particular camera.

Until 1986, I held onto one camera for over 24 years. And now that I'm 66, I doubt that I'll get anything too much heavier.

Regardless of which way you go, check out Really Right Stuff and see their innovative their products. I'm one happy customer.


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7/27/2008 10:41:00 PM

 
Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
  Like Susan I use the RRS (Really Right Stuff) L Bracket and leave it on my camera at all times for added protection and use the quick release plate. The RRS head is great but I wouldn't trade my Arca Swiss B1 for anything quite frankly. You'll notice when researching tripods that the legs and manueverability are what is most important. Some are made to shoot flowers/creepy crawlys others are made to be lite weight and others are made to adjust to off balance landscapes like hillsides easily.
I also have a carbon fibre monopod but rarely use the thing...maybe 2 in the last year. Kinda nice for my daughters soccer games but at 8 they're so slow you can kinda handhold....
I used to own the Canon 180macro lens and wouldn't think of using a lens this big/heavy w/out the quick release plate since you'd be shooting low to the ground.


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7/28/2008 7:57:21 AM

 
Mary Beth Aiello
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/19/2006
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  Thanks all very much. This is very helpful. I have heard of RRS, and have looked into their products. Very impressive. They certainly have a complete system, don't they?

Again, I so much appreciate your input. I currently use a 40+ year old tripod, an Argus, that I got in college. So you can see I'm in need of an upgrade.


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7/28/2008 10:34:15 AM

 
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