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Thread: sharpness in portraits

  1. #1

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    sharpness in portraits

    Hi Everyone,
    I know this topic has been covered on here extensively and I'm sorry for having to make people repeat themselves, but I keep running into the same issue and I'm not sure why. If I do a portrait that is a torso shot if I'm fairly close I notice that it comes out pretty sharp. If I do a full body portrait, I go with a higher aperture but I just can't seem to get sharp pictures from farther away. Not sure why. Any thoughts on why?

    Thanks!
    ~Cheryl

  2. #2

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    Re: sharpness in portraits

    "Pretty Sharp" is not sharp I would put your problem down to that in a close shot the detail is larger and looks good whereas in the far shot the detail is smaller and harder, therefore softer, to see ?
    One can 'get away with murder' with close shots that look horrible in the wide shot ... a principle that I learnt early as I worked with 8mm movies and then later on 16mm for TV .... both were pushing things in a low quality media that those shooting with 35mm motion picture or stills workers using MF and LF had the advantage .... why people want to use full frame digital.

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    Re: sharpness in portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by jcuknz View Post
    "Pretty Sharp" is not sharp I would put your problem down to that in a close shot the detail is larger and looks good whereas in the far shot the detail is smaller and harder, therefore softer, to see ?
    One can 'get away with murder' with close shots that look horrible in the wide shot ... a principle that I learnt early as I worked with 8mm movies and then later on 16mm for TV .... both were pushing things in a low quality media that those shooting with 35mm motion picture or stills workers using MF and LF had the advantage .... why people want to use full frame digital.
    So maybe it's my camera or my lens? I have a Canon rebel so it's a crop sensor and for the last shoot I did I just used the kit lens, but I've had this problem with my 50mm as well. Not sure what I could do differently.

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    Re: sharpness in portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by Cparoyan View Post
    So maybe it's my camera or my lens? I have a Canon rebel so it's a crop sensor and for the last shoot I did I just used the kit lens, but I've had this problem with my 50mm as well. Not sure what I could do differently.
    I was trying to suggest that it is nothing to do with your gear but our assessment of images that we accept some blurr in the close shot which is unacceptable in the wide ... but you may have problems with your gear which I didn't intend to get into
    Except to say if it is camera shake then the wide shot needs less to be acceptable than the 'big and bold close-up' Try using a tripod and a cable release or ten second delay leaving the camera untouched for it to settle down prior to the exposure. Then compare the results ... but even then my first point may lead you astray.
    Last edited by jcuknz; 26th November 2012 at 08:08 PM.

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    Re: sharpness in portraits

    Perhaps show us an example or two? Lots of things could cause a lack of sharpness, from camera shake, focusing errors to errors in post production.

    A crop sensor camera with kit lens should be able to give sharp images (for most normal uses you have more pixels on the sensor than you can ever use on screen or in print).

  6. #6

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    Re: sharpness in portraits

    That could be the case as well. I tend to want perfectly clear pictures and it's just not always possible. So maybe you are correct it's just our own assessment.

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    Re: sharpness in portraits

    Hi Cheryl,

    Perhaps posting an example of each (close and near) with the Exif data for them would allow a more detailed assesment of your concerns. As you say you are using higher apertures when shooting from farther away so difference in procedure such as compensating by having to reduce speeds or camera movement exageratioin affect may also be a cause.

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    Re: sharpness in portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by revi View Post
    Perhaps show us an example or two? Lots of things could cause a lack of sharpness, from camera shake, focusing errors to errors in post production.

    A crop sensor camera with kit lens should be able to give sharp images (for most normal uses you have more pixels on the sensor than you can ever use on screen or in print).
    I'm not sure if I can post examples on this particular image I am thinking of since I don't have a model release for it yet. But I do know from doing a little research that the rebel T2i which I have does have an inaccurate auto focusing system, especially when using phase detection. It can get much better images with the live view mode since it switches to contrast detection, but I don't use live mode often. I guess the problem was significantly improved with the t4i and is basically non-existant in the 5D mark III. But to specify, I'm definitely pixel peeping and zooming in on images 100% on my computer to check them. looking at the full image they look fine so everyone tells me not to worry, but I'm kind of a perfectionist so I'm just wondering if there is anything I can do differently or if it's just my gear. Thanks!

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    Re: sharpness in portraits

    Hi Cheryl,

    It really just comes down to 4 things:

    1. Lens quality (not as important as you might first think)

    2. Accurate focus / autofocus (ie getting the camera to focus correctly and you selecting the right point for it to focus on) (again, not particularly difficult)

    3. Correct aperture selection

    4. Correct sharpening as part of your post-processing workflow (this one is a BIGGIE!!!)

    But as others have mentioned, we need to see samples first.

  10. #10

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    Re: sharpness in portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Hi Cheryl,

    It really just comes down to 4 things:

    1. Lens quality (not as important as you might first think)

    2. Accurate focus / autofocus (ie getting the camera to focus correctly and you selecting the right point for it to focus on) (again, not particularly difficult)

    3. Correct aperture selection

    4. Correct sharpening as part of your post-processing workflow (this one is a BIGGIE!!!)

    But as others have mentioned, we need to see samples first.
    Ok I'll try and see if I can find samples that I can post. I did your suggestions on the post processing sharpening and it does make a big difference, but obviously not on the pictures that aren't super sharp to begin with.

  11. #11
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    Re: sharpness in portraits

    Cheryl,

    While I'm not a professional by any means, I agree with you. Like you, I'm a pixel peeper (part of my obsessive perfectionism), and also had the same issue you had. My close-ups were tack sharp, while the wider angles were lacking in visible sharpness when pixel peeking. I discovered that it is physics. Consider this; a full-frame censor has more light capturing area to get more detail. A crop sensor (APS-C, or half frame) has less area to capture light. So, a closer shot provides more detail since it is closer and fills more of the sensor frame. Wider shots are smaller on the sensor, so the same pixels have to capture less of the detail. Subtle details are lost between them. Same number of pixels, smaller detail. If you have a full-frame, it's less noticeable, since there would be more pixels in those sensors. I have a 10.2 Meg on my APS-C DSLR. The smaller the sensor, the less detail can be captured at wider angles. It's an unfortunate nature of physics.

    Jim

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    Re: sharpness in portraits

    Why do you go with a higher aperture? What are the apertures you use? Generally as I move further away if I changed the aperture at all it would be to open the aperture because the depth of field had increased and I wished to reduce it again.

  13. #13

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    Re: sharpness in portraits

    PS: If you're pixel-peeping and shooting RAW then capture sharpening is MANDATORY.

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    Re: sharpness in portraits

    Language feedback regarding aperture.

    Open - Reduce/close _________ for aperture size!
    Bigger - Smaller
    Increase - Decrease
    Up - Down

    Lower - Higher ______________for f value!

    What are the best terms to use to avoid any confusion?

  15. #15

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    Re: sharpness in portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by binsurf View Post
    Cheryl,

    While I'm not a professional by any means, I agree with you. Like you, I'm a pixel peeper (part of my obsessive perfectionism), and also had the same issue you had. My close-ups were tack sharp, while the wider angles were lacking in visible sharpness when pixel peeking. I discovered that it is physics. Consider this; a full-frame censor has more light capturing area to get more detail. A crop sensor (APS-C, or half frame) has less area to capture light. So, a closer shot provides more detail since it is closer and fills more of the sensor frame. Wider shots are smaller on the sensor, so the same pixels have to capture less of the detail. Subtle details are lost between them. Same number of pixels, smaller detail. If you have a full-frame, it's less noticeable, since there would be more pixels in those sensors. I have a 10.2 Meg on my APS-C DSLR. The smaller the sensor, the less detail can be captured at wider angles. It's an unfortunate nature of physics.

    Jim
    Jim, that makes total sense. I do get some motion blur occasionally but I feel that's more obvious but what you are describing seems to be what I'm noticing. I do try and increase my f-stop to 8 when I'm wide out and do more around 5.6 or smaller closer up. It's been driving me crazy since I can't figure out why. I may try using my 50mm and playing around with that more since I'm sure the zoom lens doesn't help in the softness. Thanks for the input!
    ~Cheryl

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    Re: sharpness in portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    PS: If you're pixel-peeping and shooting RAW then capture sharpening is MANDATORY.
    Colin,
    I do the capture sharpening the way you've described to me before and what a difference! When the closeups that I have are clear and I just add the sharpening at .3pixels at 300%, wow. Thanks for the tip!

  17. #17

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    Re: sharpness in portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by pnodrog View Post
    Why do you go with a higher aperture? What are the apertures you use? Generally as I move further away if I changed the aperture at all it would be to open the aperture because the depth of field had increased and I wished to reduce it again.

    Paul,
    I'll go to an f8 for the wide shots. I'm never sure what a good aperture is for full body shot portraits.

  18. #18
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    Re: sharpness in portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by pnodrog View Post
    Language feedback regarding aperture.

    What are the best terms to use to avoid any confusion?
    I am usually very careful with this and state two TERMS in THE one SENTENCE - especially in workshops (i.e. the spoken word).
    I think that using TWO terms together makes for better clarity no matter what range of (logical) words is used.
    eg:

    "We will need to open the aperture two stops, from F-eight to F-four.
    "We will need to close the aperture one stop, from F-one-point-four to F-two.
    "I have stopped down one from F-four to F-five-point-six"
    "I will open up two, from F-eleven to F-five-point-six”
    “I have closed down two, from two-eight to five-six”

    In writing:
    “the Aperture was F/2: you need to decrease the Aperture to about F/8, which will to get a larger DoF, to fit that group in reasonable focus.”
    “with the Aperture at F/16 it is possible that you might get some diffraction; opening up a stop or two (to F/11 or F/8) might be better.”

    I am not keen on the term “f-value”

    "higher aperture" or "lower aperture" I have found to be confusing to many people: especially to beginners - also I have found some people say "higher aperture" and they mean "a larger aperture hole", which is clearly a lower Aperture NUMBER . . .

    I use the written term “f/number” when specifically referring to the number – for example, lens nomenclature.

    Yes I know I use (in written form) the upper case “F” preceding the oblique “/” – technically this is incorrect – a lower case “f” should be used – but it should also have two curly tails - which is a pain to make to post on many forums.

    With Shutter Speeds I am also careful - as some people looking at the numbers in the viewfinder do NOT grasp that 1/1000s is a FASTER shutter speed than 1/500s . . . and that means it lets in LESS light.


    WW
    Last edited by William W; 27th November 2012 at 09:08 PM.

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    Re: sharpness in portraits

    In subsequent cogitation of my navel the question came to mind was 'from what distance is one examining the close and wide shots?' ...I suspect that the wide shot is examined closer than the close shot? Consequently the circle of confusion[s] need[s] to be smaller in the wide shot for it to look as sharp as in the close shot?

    As for opening up as one goes wider ... OH! this pre-occupation with lack of depth of field/focus URRRGH ? Once upon a time when everybody used long lenses the aim was to achieve as much DoF/F as possible

  20. #20
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    Re: sharpness in portraits

    There will only be more wheel-spinning, until examples are posted for targeted evaluation and discussion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cparoyan View Post
    I'm not sure if I can post examples on this particular image I am thinking of since I don't have a model release for it yet.
    I am not arguing with you on that particular point - though I could.

    But suffice to say as you are looking at 100% enlargement and the discussion is about sharpness and/or focus accuracy at pixel peeping proximities - then it should be very easy for you to post TWO, 100% CROP examples of each one of the two images and still not reveal the identity of the Subject.

    If you do then please also supply full EXIF and PP elements.

    For the sake of this investigation - 100% crops are would be what should be asked for, anyway.

    WW

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