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Category: New Questions

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Photography Question 
Heather  M. Wareham
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/20/2007
 

Photos Aren't So Sharp...


Some time when I take a picture it looks real clear on the camera. When I get home and download it to the computer some of them are blurry. Is this from zooming in too close? I'm just learning.

1/21/2007 10:23:29 AM

 
Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/27/2004
  Hi Heather and welcome to BP!
You did not say what type of camera you are using; however, I suspect I know what is happening. When you view an image on the LCD screen of your camera, you donít really get to see the full detail of the image. This is particularly true when the screen is fairly small. You get home, upload the images to your computer and see the full detail and are disappointed when the image is not as sharp as it appeared in the field. Is this essentially the problem?
Lack of sharpness can be caused by a number of factors: focusing too closely on a subject and then limiting depth of field to a level that fails to register sharpness throughout the range of your subject; using too slow a shutter speed and not mounting the camera on a tripod; hand-holding the camera when you have a heavy lens attached; allowing the camera to focus in low light or mixed light situations and the lens fails to focus correctly ... and a multitude of other issues. Zooming in very close can be effective; however, if your subject is larger than your field of focus, the result will be blurring. For example (something I have done way too many times!) you want to focus tightly on a flower. So, you zoom tightly on the center of the flower forgetting about the petals at the edge and you end up with a blurry image of a flower.
If you are using a camera with a depth of field preview button (many cameras have these), try using the button before closing the shutter. With your finger on the button, carefully look at the edges of your image and determine if everything you want sharp is sharp. If you are not using a tripod, I suggest you start using one! I read someplace that a good sturdy tripod is the single most important tool a photographer has available. I know that when I started using a tripod on almost every shot, my photography really improved. Finally, make sure that you are using a shutter speed that matches the amount of movement in your image. If you want to stop action, you need a fast shutter speed. If you want to suggest movement, rather than show movement, a slower shutter speed will work better.
I hope that this gives you a starting place to figure out what is happening.

1/21/2007 11:16:29 AM

 
Mike Rubin
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/15/2004
  All I can say is that Irene covered it all.

1/21/2007 1:00:31 PM

 
John Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/8/2001
  In addition, all pictures loaded to the computer need some degree of editing - that means sharpening with the Unsharp Mask or other software.

1/21/2007 1:22:14 PM

 
Heather  M. Wareham
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/20/2007
  I can truly see that you all have been at this for a while. I have been taken pictures for a long time but I guess I haven't been using our camera to it fullest. My camera is a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ3 It has a MEGA optical image stabilizer 12x Optical zoom 35mm Equiv.35-420

1/21/2007 2:16:41 PM

 
Kristopher Hollingsworth
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/18/2007
  I have to disagree with John, most of my photos require no digital editing from camera to computer. There are a lot of things you can do to improve the quality of your photos at the time of shooting, and you shouldn't come to rely too heavily on software to edit the images afterwards.

Things will go a lot faster if you setup your shot correctly when you shoot it, instead of spending hours fixing it later on the computer!

Irene covered a lot, and I would definitely recommend experimenting with a tripod vs. handheld and see how your pictures change! It will make a big difference in the clarity of your pictures.

1/23/2007 12:52:22 PM

 
John Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/8/2001
  In his book RAW 101, Jon Canfield [an BP Instructor and respected author] writes:

"Every digital image needs sharpening. That may sound like a bold statement, but it's true - especially for cameras that use an antialiasing filter (which most do) to reduce moire in the photo. This antialiasing filter softens the image which needs to be corrected after exposure." This quote truly reflects RAW images, primarily.

He goes on to explain that if you download download a JPEG file from your cmaera, the camera applies sharpening to the image automatically. But, as I've found when viewing downloaded JPEGs or images scanned from sharp slides and prints and files produced with my Canon 30D, the images ALWAYS can be sharpened.

Check out Deke McClelland's book Photoshop CS2 One on One. He, too, indicates that a little sharpening is always needed.

Both authors recommend using the Unsharp Mask; Jon Canfield also explains the value of CS2's new tool, Smart Sharpen.

Kristopher, I hesitate to ask, but do you make larger prints, say 13X19's? It's very possible that when making 4X6's and up to 8X10's, the sharpeness issue isn't as noticeable. However, with a 13X19 you'd better sharpen a bit!

1/23/2007 1:27:21 PM

 
Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/27/2004
  On the issue of sharpening in CS2 or any photo editing software: Up until fairly recently I might have said the same thing that Kristopher said. I used to skip image sharpening, believing that my image was sharp enough and that I did all I could in the field to make a sharp image. Then I switched cameras and began shooting in RAW. I donít know if my standards have gotten higher; if shooting in RAW makes any difference (it shouldnít) or if it is simply that I have learned more. However, now I sharpen just about every important image prior to uploading or printing. Most times the sharpening is minimal, just a slight adjustment and it is good to go.

I certainly agree that it is a mistake to become dependent on post-capture editing to fix an image. Iím not a big fan of spending time indoors working on the computer, so I try to get the image right in the camera. However, the more I learn about Photoshop the more excited I become about the ability to adjust an image so that it better matches what my eyes saw. We all know that what the camera lens sees and what our eyes see is not the same thing. No camera, no matter how technologically advanced can beat a set of good eyes! However, if I do all I can do in the field to create a good image then the work I do in PS simply pushes that image further into the great category. Not that this should become yet another thread on the merits of digital imaging, PLEASE!

1/23/2007 3:31:55 PM

 
Kristopher Hollingsworth
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/18/2007
  I actually have a fairly decent collection of 13x19's printed on the Canon Pixma Pro 9000 and some from the Canon i9900. They all look very sharp and crisp.

I've personally had very few issues with sharpness (Or lack thereof) being an issue with my Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D), shooting primarily with Canon's 24-105mm f/4L IS Lens. Your mileage may vary, but those are my opinions.

1/23/2007 5:39:08 PM

 

BetterPhoto Member
  Regarding all images need a little working over with Unsharp Mask: There are some images where Unsharp Mask doesn't seem to do anything for me.

My usuall procedure is to set the Radius low then adjust Amount until I can barely see the halos. The Thresehold slider seems to do nothing.

Am I using it wrong?

1/25/2007 10:30:57 AM

 
John Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/8/2001
  Matthew -

As a started point:
Amount 144%
Radius 1.4-1.5
Threshold 0

Be sure the Preview Button is check ON. Then find a point in the picture where sharpness can be judged effectively. For example, in a portrait, hair or eyebrows.

Then move the individual sliders to see the effects. Moving Threshold all the way to the right will result in Ugly!! In Photoshop CS2 the Smart Sharpen tool eliminates Threshold altogether.

Set it back to O, this is a default where all pixels are influenced. Then go to Radius and move to, say, 5. sharpening should become immediatel apparent.

Remember the larger the file [MB] the more sharpening that can be used - Radius to a higher level. One more thing, before you sharpen, save a MAsterfile. Sharpening is specific to print size. So, you may want more sharpening for a 13X19 print.

1/25/2007 11:00:43 AM

 

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