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08-09-2008, 06:29 PM   #1
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Am I crazy? :)

Below is a shot that I took tonight about an hour before sunset. My K100D (not super) is new to me and this is my first DSLR. I'm a bit underwhelmed by the pictures I've been getting. First they don't seem very sharp to me and also not very dynamic. i have not post processed this shot and it was taken in raw. Am I expecting too much from the camera? I see a lot sharper pictures posted here. The lens is the kit lens 18-55. Version 1.

Thanks for all your help.

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08-09-2008, 06:51 PM   #2
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If the object is stationary (windless):
1. tripod with release or timer + shake reduction off
2. step down the aperture to f/8 (optimal f depends on what you're shooting, but f/8 is always a safe bet for sharpness in my experience with the 18-55)
3. keep the shutter speed at 1/focal length when not using a tripod (bump iso up), although for sharper shots tripods and iso 200 (longer shutter speed and therefore actually needs stationary object) is always preferrable.

If the object moves (windy):
1. Shutter speed fast enough to freeze movement + shake reduction on

For the 18-55 kit lens try not to use it at 18mm unless necessary. The lens is considered soft at that length (mine is reasonably sharp, though).

If you find that your shutter speed is constantly slow, try shooting in a sunny day under a shade
08-09-2008, 07:55 PM   #3
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I think lighting might have also been an issue in this pic, possibly leading to some shake, and therefore softness.
08-09-2008, 08:34 PM   #4
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Nearly every super-sharp picture you come across has been post processed - that's just how things are. Sure, you can get sharp images straight from camera with a nice prime, but even then, those pictures benefit from at least a small dab of sharpening, etc.


I'm still pretty new to DSLR and photography in general, but here are some things I learned to help with photo looks:

1) "Stop down" the lens if it's not known to be sharp wide open. Most every lens will benefit from not shooting wide open. For instance, on my former kit lens I would shoot at F/8 for max sharpness.

2) Shake reduction doesn't solve every problem.

A) If the scene is moving, there will be blur.
B) If the photographer is shaking too much, there might be some blur.
C) If you're on a tripod or otherwise *not* moving and you have SR enabled, there might be blur

3) Sharpen images. I primarily use Lightroom to sharpen. I use aroud a "100" on Sharpen, a 1.5px radius, 50 on "Details" and "Masking" is 0. This is with my Canon kit lens. Better lenses require less sharpening. Don't oversharpen or you start looking fake or have halos.

4) Kit lenses just aren't super sharp. They're not "horrible", but you're going to have a world of difference between the kit lens and a sharp zoom and especially a sharp prime lens.

As for your picture not being "dynamic" -- that's actually a very dynamic shot -- You're showing lots of deep shadow and a bright spot in the sky. More than likely, you would need to either carefully post process this or bracket this shot and do an HDR merge to get the best look.

Here are two examples

The first flower is a shot without any PP -- Straight from RAW to JPEG without any sharpening, etc.

Here is that same shot, but sharpened and +contrast, +clarity in Lightroom

Last edited by cputeq; 08-09-2008 at 08:41 PM.
08-10-2008, 10:56 AM   #5
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Tough to say too much without being able to see the EXIF info for the picture. It's also too small to really be able to judge sharpness. So I'll just toss out some things to consider

- What did you focus on? You can't get everything in a picture to be in focus; that's the nature of depth of field. If you zoom in on the original full size image, you'll see some areas sharper than others. if the distant mountains are in focus, no way can the foreground tree be in focus.

- What aperture? Not inly is the kit lens soft when wide open - thus suggesting stopping down to at least f/8 - but the more you stop down, the bigger your depth of field.

- What shutter speed? From what little I cna tell, it does look a little like you had some camera shake going on. SR is helpful but cannot work miracles.

- When you say non-dynamic, I take that's mostly a function of wha you are shooting and the kind of light you are shooting in. Here, the light is quite flat. And in order to preserve details in the sky, the foreground has to be made pretty dark. PP to increase the light levels in the shadows would help a lot.
08-10-2008, 11:42 AM   #6
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I'd also suggest start with a tripod (to eliminate camera shake as a culprit)

I'd also suggest that if you are using the "auto" setting for that AF, that you turn that off and manually pick the focus point. Not to say you have to manually focus, but be sure the camera is focusing on what you want it to, not whatever it thinks the proper focus point should be.

Start there, post some more pics with info regarding the shutter speed and aperture, and we can try and be more help.

That particular picture - would benefit from the use of a split-neutral density filter, to make the top portion of the sky darker. I suspect this is near dawn or dusk and you were hoping to get nice oranges or reds in the sky, and they got washed out. Your meter exposed more for the grass than it did the sky. You can always point the camera at the sky and meter, and hit the ae-lock button so you keep those settings. Alternately you could use the manual exposure mode and do it that way.

(and bracket your exposures)
Think of it this way - with film you drop the stuff off at a lab, and someone else prints it, color corrects and adjusts the exposure for the print. You can have an off exposure and get a decent print. Now you see the exposure you really take, similar to how slide film worked, and it's up to you to do the work afterwards if the exposure or colors need adjustment.
08-10-2008, 12:07 PM   #7
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Without reading your post my answer is YES
08-10-2008, 02:31 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by cputeq Quote
Nearly every super-sharp picture you come across has been post processed - that's just how things are.
I reinforce that. Very few pictures come out straight from camera looking their best, and that only happens if you put a lot of time and experimenting into it. Camera processing is dumb, it's like a print from a 1h processing lab against hand-made gelatin prints.

08-10-2008, 05:11 PM   #9
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No processing means your RAW converter used the auto WB recommended by the camera, so it would've seen all the red and yellow and tried to compensate for it. Adjust you WB slider to get the look that YOU saw.
08-10-2008, 05:19 PM   #10
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Lots of correct answers and as you can see it is not a P&S so there is learning curve. Nothing that can't be climbing with some trial and error. Good luck and I think the big thing here as noted already is the camera metering for the sky or the ground and getting something in the middle is not easy.
08-10-2008, 06:12 PM   #11
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thanks to everyone who responded. I'm sorry I haven't replied sooner but I have no internet right now, this is from my phone! I'm happy everyone said that processing is ok. I was beating myself up a little that I couldn't get a better shot on my own. All the other tips came in really useful today when I went shooting.
Thanks everyone. I'll post more when I get a net connection. I'm on vacation and it's difficult to find a wifi spot.
08-10-2008, 07:51 PM   #12
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Definately bust out the manual and learn about the 'Auto Picture' & 'SCN' modes. You'll learn a lot by taking pictures from those automatic settings then switching over to another Program or manual mode. The SCN mode for sunrise/sunset would have been particularly helpful in the above case. You access the various option from the 'FN' button if I recall correctly...
08-11-2008, 06:07 AM   #13
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Read Bryan Peterson's "Understanding Exposure" and learn how ISO, f-stop, and shutter speed work together.

Looking at the shot, I don't think any camera would be able to properly expose the dramatic sky AND the foreground, so it looks like the camera found the foreground more important and (slightly) blew out the sky.

Since you're shooting RAW, you could have used less exposure (for example, used a faster shutter speed) which would have helped the sky but darked the foreground. In your RAW editor, you could have carefully used some fill light to bring up the foreground exposure. (think "Dodging and Burning" in the old film days)
08-11-2008, 06:08 AM   #14
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No, you're not crazy, there's just a big learning curve associated with photography. You surely didn't expect award-winning photographs just because you plonked down a few hundred bucks on a camera?
08-11-2008, 08:44 AM   #15
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please don't think I thought I could take amazing shots straight away. I just wanted to know it was possible. It gives me something to aim for.
Should I really use the scenes in the camera? I thought I wouldn't learn anything from letting the camera do the work.
Lots to read. Thanks everyone!

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