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Photographer
ID Imaging
Posts: 42
Chesterfield, England, United Kingdom


I recently got a 50mm 1.8 prime for Christmas, which has been the catalyst to this problem.

I've done some practice shots with it and I'm not sure if I'm getting really rusty with shooting, my camera's getting old or my lens is bad. I shot on Christmas Day and no matter what I did (apart from not using a tripod which I didn't have at the time) every shot had a blurriness to it. Not noticeable from a distance, but once you viewed the image on a computer there was a softness to it. My exposures were a bit crazy too but I put that down to my living room being pretty badly lit.

I tried again the other day and it seems like I'm in a triangle of things I'm trading off. The exposure flits between quick shutter speed, sharpness and extremely dark images (even at 1/60) or very slow shutter speed, with a blown out, blurry image. A few times I've ended up with a pure white image from this. I've tried multiple apertures, shutter speeds and ISOs to fix this, but it never seems to work out. I can get sharp, decent shots with my flashgun, but even at the lowest EV on my flash the images are overexposed.

I also took some shots with my kit lens + flash the other day, with which I did encounter a little bit of overexposure, but it was easily fixed. The sharpness didn't seem to be affected.

I can provide some examples of any of these things if you need me to, I just didn't want this post to be longer than it already is.
Any input you guys can give would be appreciated, I'm freaking out about this a little.
Jan 11 13 08:05 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Leighthenubian
Posts: 2,865
Toronto, Ontario, Canada


not enough info..and a couple of sample images would help
Jan 11 13 08:07 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Darriffany Photography
Posts: 10
Los Angeles, California, US


Are you shooting wide open?
Jan 11 13 08:13 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Moore Photography IN
Posts: 20
Terre Haute, Indiana, US


What does the meta data show on your images? Do you have a light meter? If so then set your camera on a tripod and set up lights and meter the lights. Set the camera to the meter readings and take the picture. Now look a the meta data and does it matsh the settings on the camera.
Jan 11 13 08:17 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Leo Howard
Posts: 6,790
Phoenix, Arizona, US


thanks for posting samples
Jan 11 13 08:29 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
GoodVendettaPhotography
Posts: 3
Raleigh, North Carolina, US


Chances are, you're shooting at 1.8 which is a very narrow field. I would suggest using manual focus, if you're not already, and using live view if your camera is capable.
Jan 11 13 08:29 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
ID Imaging
Posts: 42
Chesterfield, England, United Kingdom


I've linked to some images to see if they help. I think the sharpness is probably down to me (I might have to resign myself to not handholding the camera at all since my hands are prone to shaking a little), but I'm still not sure about the exposure.

This is an example of the exposure blowing out from the flash. Here the flash is set at -3.0EV - shutter speed is 1/60 and aperture is at 2.8:
http://i.imgur.com/oEiRO.jpg

This image, however, is shot just next to the first one on the same shelf, same aperture and shutter speed again:
http://i.imgur.com/XguiR.jpg

This is the exact same image but with the camera on Aperture Priority with no flash. Aperture is at 2.8 and the shutter is at 1/13:
http://i.imgur.com/l322u.jpg

I might be overreacting to this a little, since I'm pretty sure my blurriness problems are down to my own unsteady hands! I just want to know if I need to clean up my act regarding shooting, or whether I need to fix my lens or camera.
Jan 11 13 08:31 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
GER Photography
Posts: 7,834
Imperial, California, US


The closer you get your subject when shooting with a big aperture, the narrower your area of focus gets, I've had shots where the tip of the nose is in focus and the eyes are going soft, (first shoot with my 50, 1.4).
Jan 11 13 08:40 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Leighthenubian
Posts: 2,865
Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Couple things..if your gonna ask for help at least list the gear you are using..Canon, Nikon etc..

The differences in exposure could be a result of using the flash in E-TTL (Canon)..especially if the exposure is tied to a specific focus point.

Are you using spot meter, ettl?

more info..
Jan 11 13 08:43 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
ID Imaging
Posts: 42
Chesterfield, England, United Kingdom


Illuminate wrote:
Couple things..if your gonna ask for help at least list the gear you are using..Canon, Nikon etc..

Are you using spot meter, ettl?

I use a Nikon D40 (which, if it's any use, I got secondhand and has had a shutter replacement once), and my lens is an AF-S 50mm 1.8 with no IS/VR.
The flash is an SB700.
I meter in camera and use TTL.

Jan 11 13 08:46 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
ArtisticPhotography
Posts: 7,699
Buffalo, New York, US


George Ruge wrote:
The closer you get your subject when shooting with a big aperture, the narrower your area of focus gets, I've had shots where the tip of the nose is in focus and the eyes are going soft, (first shoot with my 50, 1.4).

It's worse than that. They are effectively "macro" photos, because he's so close to them and they are so small. The DOF here is only a small fraction of an inch - probably something like a 1/4 of an inch. I've never found auto focus to work well on something that fine. And even correctly focused, 1/4 inch isn't much.

Jan 11 13 08:47 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Untitled Photographer
Posts: 1,198
Dallas, Texas, US


ArtisticPhotography wrote:

It's worse than that. They are effectively "macro" photos, because he's so close to them and they are so small. The DOF here is only a small fraction of an inch - probably something like a 1/4 of an inch. I've never found auto focus to work well on something that fine. And even correctly focused, 1/4 inch isn't much.

How would you suggest he sets his aperture when shooting this close?  I'm learning from this thread as well.

Jan 11 13 08:52 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Leighthenubian
Posts: 2,865
Toronto, Ontario, Canada


ID Imaging wrote:

I use a Nikon D40 (which, if it's any use, I got secondhand and has had a shutter replacement once), and my lens is an AF-S 50mm 1.8 with no IS/VR.
The flash is an SB700.
I meter in camera and use TTL.

Test the focus without the flash on a tripod.

Jan 11 13 08:59 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
FEN RIR Photo
Posts: 718
Westminster, Colorado, US


ID Imaging wrote:
I've linked to some images to see if they help. I think the sharpness is probably down to me (I might have to resign myself to not handholding the camera at all since my hands are prone to shaking a little), but I'm still not sure about the exposure.

This is an example of the exposure blowing out from the flash. Here the flash is set at -3.0EV - shutter speed is 1/60 and aperture is at 2.8:
http://i.imgur.com/oEiRO.jpg

This image, however, is shot just next to the first one on the same shelf, same aperture and shutter speed again:
http://i.imgur.com/XguiR.jpg

This is the exact same image but with the camera on Aperture Priority with no flash. Aperture is at 2.8 and the shutter is at 1/13:
http://i.imgur.com/l322u.jpg

I might be overreacting to this a little, since I'm pretty sure my blurriness problems are down to my own unsteady hands! I just want to know if I need to clean up my act regarding shooting, or whether I need to fix my lens or camera.

You are seeing what fast glass is used for, Blurring out areas with Bokeh, and having a really sliver thin focus area wide open.  Do these shots again at F4 and you'll see how sharp this lens can be.  As for blowing out the image with flash, with this slow of shutter speeds, you are filling the image with flash, then filling it again with ambient light.  Do this shot again with the lens at F4 and your shutter speed at 150th or 200th of a second, so you don't get the ambient light and you'll find what I think you are looking for,

Jan 11 13 09:00 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
ontherocks
Posts: 22,452
Salem, Oregon, US


the 50f1.8 should be sharp, especially if you stop down a bit.

what makes you think you can handhold at 1/13 without vibration reduction? for a 50f1.8 i would want to be at at least 1/50s and ideally more like 1/100s.

experiment to learn what you can get away with and then stay safe which usually means cranking up ISO or stopping down (higher F).

i've been shooting weddings and i can't always get sharp images during the cake cutting using flash at 1/100s (to maintain some ambient).

i think one of the hardest things as a photographer is learning to get what you want in the image sharp. factors like the photographer swaying can come into play with shallow DOF. and then of course you have subject motion blur to consider.

play around until you can get mostly sharp images with the focus where you want it.

ID Imaging wrote:
This is the exact same image but with the camera on Aperture Priority with no flash. Aperture is at 2.8 and the shutter is at 1/13:
http://i.imgur.com/l322u.jpg

Jan 11 13 09:02 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
AVD AlphaDuctions
Posts: 10,533
Gatineau, Quebec, Canada


Untitled Photographer wrote:
How would you suggest he sets his aperture when shooting this close?  I'm learning from this thread as well.

depends on the desired result.  if the goal was to blur out both the f/g and b/g then change nothing.  it worked. if the goal was to have the cute brown fuzzy feet in focus as well the click open to 2.8 or whatever works.  DOF changes with multiple factors.  There are calculations you can make but its much faster to just try and view zoomed on the LCD.

The bottom line is the lens does not appear defective from the images so far. thats good, right?

Jan 11 13 09:03 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
sammyspade
Posts: 98
Portland, Oregon, US


Your depth of field is very narrow with that 1.8.  In each photo, I see a spot that's in focus, with the area in front and back out of focus.  That's just the physics of a 1.8.

To control exposure with flash, you have three controls:

Shutter speed - this will affect the ambient light, but not the flash.  I can explain why if you're interested.  A faster shutter means less ambient light will be taken in but the flash brightness won't change much (if at all).

Aperture - This will affect the exposure of the flash and ambient.

ISO - This will affect the exposure of the flash and ambient.

If, with flash, it's blown out, then increase the aperture. For macro shots like the ones you posted, it's going to be nearly impossible to hand-hold.

If you really want to shoot hand-held, shoot a burst.  One of the shots out of the burst will be sharper than the others.  Usually my first shot is blurry, but the 2nd or 3rd is sharp.
Jan 11 13 09:04 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
ID Imaging
Posts: 42
Chesterfield, England, United Kingdom


Erik Ballew wrote:

You are seeing what fast glass is used for, Blurring out areas with Bokeh, and having a really sliver thin focus area wide open.  Do these shots again at F4 and you'll see how sharp this lens can be.  As for blowing out the image with flash, with this slow of shutter speeds, you are filling the image with flash, then filling it again with ambient light.  Do this shot again with the lens at F4 and your shutter speed at 150th or 200th of a second, so you don't get the ambient light and you'll find what I think you are looking for,

Thank you for this, seriously.
How high can I afford to push the aperture to still get some bokeh, but have sharpness? I don't get bokeh on my other lenses and they go about as wide as 4.

I'll test the shots again with the shutter speed and aperture changes tomorrow. Thank you!

Jan 11 13 09:05 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
FEN RIR Photo
Posts: 718
Westminster, Colorado, US


Untitled Photographer wrote:

How would you suggest he sets his aperture when shooting this close?  I'm learning from this thread as well.

IMO, if you are just trying to get the subject in focus, and she is using a flash, there is no reason not to stop it down to F4'ish where the lens will be around its sharpest and a lot more of the subject would be in focus.  If you'd still like the back ground blown out, move it back farther away from the subject.

Photography is an endless game of give and take, there is no way to get everything you want.

Jan 11 13 09:07 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
ontherocks
Posts: 22,452
Salem, Oregon, US


don't forget about ISO. it's a trinity. when i'm getting paid to shoot i'm usually in dark places at ISO1600-6400

some cameras have auto ISO (sometimes with a safety shift on shutter speed).

the biggest mistake i see newbies making is only shooting at ISO100 even in pitch dark. good luck doing that without a tripod.

ID Imaging wrote:
I'll test the shots again with the shutter speed and aperture changes tomorrow. Thank you!

Jan 11 13 09:07 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
William Kious
Posts: 8,841
Delphos, Ohio, US


Of your three posted examples, here's what I think is going on:

1. You've got a lot of white around your subject, causing a lot of bounce fill. Judging by the out of focus area, you were shooting pretty wide, which is only going to exacerbate the problem.

2. I see more grey in the surrounding area, so you've got less bounce. Again, you're shooting wide open, so your depth of field is going to be incredibly narrow. Your point of focus looks pretty sharp to me, given that you're shooting so wide (your lens, no matter WHAT you do, isn't going to be tack sharp wide open.)

3. 100%, no doubt about it... camera vibration with a relatively low shutter speed.
Jan 11 13 09:10 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Carlos Ignacio M
Posts: 21
Houston, Texas, US


Jan 11 13 09:14 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
JohnEnger
Posts: 774
Jessheim, Akershus, Norway


ID Imaging wrote:
I've linked to some images to see if they help. I think the sharpness is probably down to me (I might have to resign myself to not handholding the camera at all since my hands are prone to shaking a little), but I'm still not sure about the exposure.

This is an example of the exposure blowing out from the flash. Here the flash is set at -3.0EV - shutter speed is 1/60 and aperture is at 2.8:
http://i.imgur.com/oEiRO.jpg

This image, however, is shot just next to the first one on the same shelf, same aperture and shutter speed again:
http://i.imgur.com/XguiR.jpg

This is the exact same image but with the camera on Aperture Priority with no flash. Aperture is at 2.8 and the shutter is at 1/13:
http://i.imgur.com/l322u.jpg

I might be overreacting to this a little, since I'm pretty sure my blurriness problems are down to my own unsteady hands! I just want to know if I need to clean up my act regarding shooting, or whether I need to fix my lens or camera.

Looks to me like these are images that you have totally in focus, but focus seems to be where you don't want it to be. If you are using multiple focus points, this may occur. If you use one(moveable) focuspoint, you can avoid this.

Also your DoF (depth of focus) is very, very shallow as you are using a very small aperture (big opening) on a very closeup photo.  Your DoF seems to be just a fraction of an inch...

You can fix this with shooting with a higher value aperture (smaller opening) which will give you mode DoF, make a (moveable) single selection focuspoint and set the focus where you want it, and shoot on a higher ISO.


J.

Jan 11 13 09:16 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
FEN RIR Photo
Posts: 718
Westminster, Colorado, US


ID Imaging wrote:
Thank you for this, seriously.
How high can I afford to push the aperture to still get some bokeh, but have sharpness? I don't get bokeh on my other lenses and they go about as wide as 4.

I'll test the shots again with the shutter speed and aperture changes tomorrow. Thank you!

If you shoot closer to the subject, with the back ground farther away you can bokeh it out,  I'll add this picture here.  This was shot at F4 and because the model is 10 to 15 feet away from the back ground it was blown out, again not as much as if I was at 1.4, but I didn't want to have a chance of getting only parts of the model in focus.

http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6177/6205744833_d45c401b3e_z.jpg

Now this one was shot at 1.8 but because I was farther away from the model the field of "In" focus area was big enough to get the whole models face in. but you can see by the time you get to her hips its getting soft in focus.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8041/7991844146_4a3879c1a2_z.jpg

Jan 11 13 09:16 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Carlos Ignacio M
Posts: 21
Houston, Texas, US


There are three factors that will have an effect on the depth of field, the focal length of the lens, the aperture and the distance of the lens to the subject. The combination of all these three will create different results. Larger aperture, shorter depth of field, DOF. Longer lenses, shorter DOF and smaller distances to the subject, shorter DOF.

There are also factors that Freeze or Blur an image. The length of time, the longer the more blur. The speed of the subject, the faster the more blur. The movement of the subject, in a straight direction away from or towards the lens the less blur. Going across and paralleled to the lens, the more blur and the ISO, the slower the sensitivity the more blur. If handheld, the length of the lens in comparison to the shutter speed can also cause "camera movement" blur. The safest way to decipher this is by using the reciprocal of the lens' length. If you are using a 60 mm lens then the reciprocal is 1/60th and the slower shutter speed for that lens, handheld is 1/60th of a second. Of course, you can work other factors in like holding your breath, holding on to a pole or wall and you could go slower by two shutter speeds.

The most important tools for a photographer to learn in the camera are ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed and know what these tools can or cannot produce. The other tools are one that we do not know much about as Physics and that is light. The direction, quantity, quality, wavelength and thermal theories, the size of the source in relation of the subject and, in studio or artificial lighting, the inverse square law of light or 1/D. While there are great photographers that have not studied Photography, one is to imagine how much better they would have been if they would have studied it and its History. Good luck!
Jan 11 13 09:48 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
M Pandolfo Photography
Posts: 12,116
Tampa, Florida, US


JohnEnger wrote:
Looks to me like these are images that you have totally in focus, but focus seems to be where you don't want it to be. If you are using multiple focus points, this may occur. If you use one(moveable) focuspoint, you can avoid this.

Also your DoF (depth of focus) is very, very shallow as you are using a very small aperture (big opening) on a very closeup photo.  Your DoF seems to be just a fraction of an inch...

You can fix this with shooting with a higher value aperture (smaller opening) which will give you mode DoF, make a (moveable) single selection focuspoint and set the focus where you want it, and shoot on a higher ISO.


J.

+1. It's not that the OP has blurry images. It's just that the in-focus area is miniscule because he's shooting wide open.

That's the whole point of that lens and fast glass in general. You're getting exactly what is advertised. Change your aperture to f4, larger area in focus. f8...even more. Camera basics.

Jan 11 13 09:57 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Smedley Whiplash
Posts: 17,329
Billings, Montana, US


heh heh... I always buy the f4 to begin with. It costs less, and who shoots at 2.8 anyway?
Jan 11 13 10:03 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
FEN RIR Photo
Posts: 718
Westminster, Colorado, US


Smedley Whiplash wrote:
heh heh... I always buy the f4 to begin with. It costs less, and who shoots at 2.8 anyway?

This is true. However, the sweet spot of the 2.8 is going to be larger than the sweet spot on the 4.0.  Thus, still making it easier to get what you want when the opportunity isn't favorable.

Jan 11 13 10:06 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Ken Marcus Studios
Posts: 8,472
Los Angeles, California, US


Shooting macro images, such as you've shown can always have difficulties.

Using a tripod and cable release will most likely solve a lot of the problems

KM
Jan 11 13 10:08 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Carlos Ignacio M
Posts: 21
Houston, Texas, US


Michael Pandolfo wrote:

+1. It's not that the OP has blurry images. It's just that the in-focus area is miniscule because he's shooting wide open.

That's the whole point of that lens and fast glass in general. You're getting exactly what is advertised. Change your aperture to f4, larger area in focus. f8...even more. Camera basics.

Very true. This is referred as "circles of confusion" in Physics. There is truly one area where the image is in focus, the smaller apertures give the "appearance" of been in focus due to the "circles of confusion". Think that the aperture are the point of a pencil. The smaller the point of the dots the "sharper"  a drawing will seem. The Art Movement, Pointillism was based on this principle, "circles of confusion".

Jan 11 13 10:09 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
AJ_In_Atlanta
Posts: 12,781
Atlanta, Georgia, US


I agree in most of those images there was clearly an area in focus.  I think its a matter of getting the right area in focus.

As for exposure, I shoot in manual so I can get exactly what I want.  Not really sure what to tell you about Nikon and its modes
Jan 11 13 10:12 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
HO Photo
Posts: 515
Los Angeles, California, US


ID Imaging wrote:
I use a Nikon D40 (which, if it's any use, I got secondhand and has had a shutter replacement once), and my lens is an AF-S 50mm 1.8 with no IS/VR.
The flash is an SB700.
I meter in camera and use TTL.

As folks have noted, it looks like you have a sharp, in-focus area in each shot. Seems to be working as advertised. I think your problem is that you're shooting fairly wide open, fairly up close. You will run into a "shallow depth of field" issue every time, doing this. Nothing wrong with that --- sometimes you'll want it, and do it intentionally.

The D40 is a DX camera, meaning the effective focal length of that lens is 75mm. I would not drop the shutter below 1/80 unless on a tripod. Preferably, 1/125.

Also, the closer you are to your subject, the narrower your depth of field. At f/2.8 at a distance of 4 feet you're going to have a field of acceptable focus that's about 2.5 inches deep. That's all.

Jan 11 13 10:18 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
ArtisticPhotography
Posts: 7,699
Buffalo, New York, US


ArtisticPhotography wrote:

It's worse than that. They are effectively "macro" photos, because he's so close to them and they are so small. The DOF here is only a small fraction of an inch - probably something like a 1/4 of an inch. I've never found auto focus to work well on something that fine. And even correctly focused, 1/4 inch isn't much.

I just checked an on-line depth of field calculator. Just google "online depth of field calculator" and play with one.

At 50mm, f/2, at 12 inches, your depth of field is only 0.09 inches. The little lines on a ruler are 1/16th of an inch 0.0625 inches. So, you have between 1/8th and 1/16th of an inch depth of field. Half of that is in front of the focus point and half is behind, so figure if you focus is dead-on, you'll have one of those little lines on a ruler, each way, in focus. That's not very much. Your pulse might make you move that much. Your breathing definitely will. So, you need a tripod or near darkness and a flash.

Now, once you make a move to a tripod, you can extend your shutter speed and close down your aperture. So, if you go to f/4, you have 0.19 inches. That's HUGE on the scale of what you are doing.

F/8 will give you .37 inches of DOF.

Now here's where DOF gets tricky, just so you know. If you stay at F8 and want the same area frames, but you switch to a 100 mm lens and go to 24 inches (twice the lens, twice the distance), SURPRISE, the DOF stays the same. When you frame something, any lens/distance combination that maintains the same framing results in the same DOF. However, the 50mm and 100mm pictures will look very different because your relative angle to each part of the picture is very different.

So, if you want to increase your DOF, get better lighting (okay, MORE lighting) (and usually a tripod) so you can increase your f/stop.

----------------

Back in the day, when you used fixed-focal lens and manual focus, you used this rule to your advantage. The standard lens was 50mm. So, you kept it set at something like f/16 (remember the sunny 16 rule, it was f16 for a reason) and kept it focused on infinity. Then, your focus became much less critical because everything out past something like 20 feet was in focus.

Jan 11 13 10:19 am  Link  Quote 
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