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Thread: soft images

  1. #1
    GEORDIE's Avatar
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    soft images

    Can anyone help me, not having much photography experience I find a lot of my images although for composition and overall to me seem ok they don't pop. I use pse7 for pp and wonder if any of you guys could suggest something, not too technical as I am a klutz with a computer as well as a camera to brighten up my images and me.
    Cheers Colin.

  2. #2
    Stagecoach's Avatar
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    Re: soft images

    Hi Colin

    May help if you post an image preferably SOOC (straight out of camera) plus perhaps the same image PPd by you to enable help with diagnosing any 'shooting' problem and also to give any advice on post processing. I also use PSE7 and have never bothered to upgrade as I still find it does everything I want.

    Grahame

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: soft images

    How about posting an example with which to work?

    WW

  4. #4

    Re: soft images

    Hi Colin,
    What William said. We can offer much better advise after seeing examples of your images.

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    Re: soft images

    For me, Colin, some photos 'pop' too much.

    If you are getting excessive softness there are a number of possibly causes. For example, motion blur or camera shake due to too low a shutter speed. Or even a faulty lens.

    Poor focus can be due to auto focus locking on to the wrong area. A common problem when shooting with multiple AF points.

    Digital images usually need some sharpening. This may be done automatically in the camera, depending on your settings; or applied during editing. Raw shots will always require some sharpening.

    Lack of saturation, or incorrect White Balance, can also cause a lack of 'pop' even when the sharpness etc is correct.

    So, as already mentioned, show us some examples.

  6. #6
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    Re: soft images

    Go the the article http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tut...nhancement.htm listed in this web site. Local contrast enhancement is a really good tool for adding 'pop' and you can do it in PSE7. If you moved to Lr4, you could do the same thing using the 'clarity' slider and it would be easier, but the PSE version will work fine. Do this in a new layer so that you can play around with your adjustments and then change to opacity slider to decrease the effect if you made it too strong.

  7. #7
    GEORDIE's Avatar
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    Re: soft images

    soft images
    Thanks to everyone who took the time to reply to my query.
    This gives you something to work on and perhaps make some suggestions on improvements. So many helpful people this is a great forum.
    Colin

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: soft images

    Quote Originally Posted by GEORDIE View Post
    This gives you something to work on and perhaps make some suggestions on improvements.
    I believe that the first (and the major) issue is that the image is underexposed.

    I understand the shot was made with a Canon EOS 1000D using Evaluative Metering Mode and the Camera is one of its Auto Exposure Modes and Auto White Balance.

    The Shooting Specs were: F/10 @ 1/500s @ ISO200.

    There may have been some post production on the image file.

    The reasons I consider the image underexposed are twofold:

     There is soft cloud cover and soft non distinct shadows in many areas of the scene, therefore one would expect an exposure of about one to two stops open from a normal full daylight scene of EV 15 which constitutes the “F/16 Rule”. Therefore we would expect F/8~F/11 @ 1/200s @ 1/200 would be in the ballpark – the shot was made at about 1 to 2 stops under that expected exposure.

     There is a large area of “sky shimmer” reflected from the water in the middle of the scene: the Camera’s TTL Meter (which was controlling the exposure) reckoned this area as close to photographic grey – when indeed, for all the other elements scene to be in ‘correct’ exposure, that area of shimmer would probably be blown out, or at least close to “white-white” and at the extreme RH Side of the histogram.

    ***

    The resultant underexposure CAN be addressed somewhat in post production BUT it is impossible to attain the better results that would otherwise be possible, if the scene were exposed correctly for the majority of the key areas.

    ***

    Two options for a better shooting scenario:

     Because of the large area of sky reflection, a CPL Filter would have assisted.

     The shot could have been made without a CPL Filter and with no regard for metering the highlight area of the shimmer – this might have resulted in that area blowing out. In this case a Light meter reading on the grass and then locking exposure, would be sufficient

    In any case, shooting in raw, would be most beneficial.


    Here is a quick (very quick – 3 minutes) rough - showing two issues:
    soft images

    The top is the original

    The middle has the MID TONES and SHADOW AREAS simulated increase exposure of about 1½ Stops – that alone gives the image punch.

    The bottom image also has the BLUE CAST removed (Auto White Balance did that) and has selectively adjusted the shadow and highlights of the background giving the illusion of more ‘pop’ and more ‘detail’ (IF the scene were exposed correctly there would be more natural pop and detail in the background)

    You’ll notice in the bottom image the shimmer has almost blown - this is a reasonable facsimile of how the scene would have been recorded without a CPL and with more exposure.

    The bottom image has also been sharpened.

    WW

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    Re: soft images

    That is certainly a tricky scene, Colin, and the bright water will tend to make everything else a little dark; but I think there is something else to consider here.

    A small area of the bridge seems better focused than the surrounding areas, but at those settings I would expect better focus all round. The land close to the bridge is well blurred. The distant background could have problems due to atmospheric problems so we should ignore that for now.

    And the close foreground may simply be too close and outside the focus range. But that still leaves the middle distance where there appears to be some problems. Either camera shake or poor focus.

    You should be able to handhold and get better results at that shutter speed.

    So let's start with some equipment tests. Do you get problems with more than one lens? Have you tried shooting the same scene with both autofocus and manual focusing? Preferably using a tripod or other means of steading the camera.

    For a quick lens test, shoot a piece of newspaper or a magazine page which is 'stuck' to a vertical wall. Get fairly close and include an area which is a mixture of text and part of a picture.

    Use a tripod or place the camera on a stable surface. The camera should be square to the wall. Try a variety of settings and see if there are any problems with sharpness.

    If this works OK, your problems are probably due to 'operator error'. But we can't work on this until you have done an equipment test.

  10. #10
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    Re: soft images

    Colin,

    As your original concern was 'soft' images I would agree with what Geoff has mentioned in that there appears a quite visible variation in sharpness across the image from right to left. This is most noticeable for the bridge for which I would have thought at the aperture of f10 you used and the fact that it's reasonably level with the camera plane it should show equal sharpness/softness across it's length.

    The impression I get is that the left side of the image appears softer than the right side. Atmospherics, pollution or lighting may have caused this but if the reason is unknown I would also suggest a basic test. Using a tripod and any other means available, e.g remote release, mirror up, take a shot of a scene that has adequate detail of subject reasonably level with the camera using the same lens and aperture.

  11. #11
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: soft images

    As well as testing the lens for sharpness across the image circle: please tell us if there was any Post Production done to this iamge file. A question I alluded to, but did not ask directly.

    WW
    Last edited by William W; 10th May 2013 at 06:21 AM.

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    Re: soft images

    If PSE7 has the curves tool it then one could use that to increase contrast. My editor has a sort of histogram which showed me you were not using the full range so I brought the dark end in and the bright top point back too. This increased the angle of the otherwise straight line which is increasing contrast. The trouble with this is that the foreground water burns out so I used magic wand to select the bright foreground areas of it and reduced its brightness .... when you have something selected with the 'marching ants' whatever you is only applied to the selected area. Finally I sharpened it rather more than I would normally. I was using curves as an adjustment layer so anything I did directly onto the background layer was afftec ted by the AL-curves layer.
    If PSE7 doesn't have curves and adjustment layers I would upgrade to an editor that does have these tools before bothering about any other expenditure and shooting in raw. You should be able to achieve very satisfactory results from shooting jpgFINE with a good editor.
    soft images
    If you don't have a remote release then using the 10 second delay and leaving the camera untouched after pressing the trigger usually suffices for test shots and anything else

    EDIT Two ... Following on from Grahame's comment about the left side being soft I used magic wand on the patch of grass and the sharpened it up and it improves matters considerably and contrasts positively against the soft left end of the bridge area.
    Last edited by jcuknz; 10th May 2013 at 05:45 AM.

  13. #13
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: soft images

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff F View Post
    A small area of the bridge seems better focused than the surrounding areas, but at those settings I would expect better focus all round. The land close to the bridge is well blurred. The distant background could have problems due to atmospheric problems so we should ignore that for now.

    I had a close look today at an enhanced download.
    I concur with those three statements.

    WW

  14. #14
    Stagecoach's Avatar
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    Re: soft images

    Here's an 'over sharpened' edit of the image that may help with diagnosis. The entire image was sharpened at levels generally a bit higher than I would use but we do not know what the sharpening settings of the original were.

    The foreground area was then selected and sharpened again. There is a possibility that the foreground was out of range of the near focus distance if the focus point was on the bridge or beyond.

    I'm still confused as to why the left hand side is softer than the right but as its farther away than the right hand bank camera movement would be more conspicuous at farther distances. Whilst the bridge is horizontal to the horizon the left side is certainly way farther from the camera than the right.

    I see some unusual markings at the water edge front right ?

    So another example, although somewhat exaggerated, of how to make a flat image pop more

    soft images
    Last edited by Stagecoach; 10th May 2013 at 08:17 AM.

  15. #15
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    Re: soft images

    You might want to look at this. I did and it did help me. Im also not that technical and am not a post processing whiz. I find getting it right as much as possible while taking the shot helps me reduce the amount of time I need to tinker with an image on the computer to "make it pop".

  16. #16
    GEORDIE's Avatar
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    Re: soft images

    Thank you all for the amazing amount of interest in my problem it has given a great deal to think about and a lot of incentive to improve after seeing your results.
    Grahame the strange thing you saw bottom right was my crude attempt to clone out some people.
    Colin.

  17. #17

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    Re: soft images

    Quote Originally Posted by GEORDIE View Post
    my crude attempt to clone out some people. Colin.
    For a situation like that another approach is to copy a length of the shore and water and paste it as a new layer to be positioned over the people. Copied with a high amount of feather for the copy and with minimal merging the edges with a low intensity clone brush it can be very effective and inobtrusive.

    In anycase it wasn't THAT crude and just you didn't finish the job, a few seconds work with a 40% clone brush on my copy. After sharpening things up one needs to go back and check for things starting to show like that. One step forward two back etc or better two forward and one back
    Last edited by jcuknz; 11th May 2013 at 05:47 AM.

  18. #18

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    Re: soft images

    Is this the complete image or a crop? Did you focus on infinity in this shot or on the bridge? My first explanation for the extreme softness of the everything before the bridge is that you shot at infinity and the vast foreground is outside the depth of field. Another thing is I don't think it is really underexposed. It resembles a misty shot with little shadows and few brights. The effect of the atmosphere may have been pronounced here. Mist (or atmospheric haze) will cause a loss in contrast worse in some lenses than others. Shooting distant scenes in the middle of the day will increase chances for this sort of desaturation. Best to return in the early morning, focus on a point 1/3 into the scene at f 11 and see what you can get. After a rain clears is another good time for reduced haze. Try to vary some settings and shooting conditions and see if you can't get a better result. Shoot raw so you can increase blacks and brights if this sort of loss of contrast returns.

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