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Thread: Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

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    Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    Hey folks,

    This is my first post here, I'm grateful for this site as I have picked up quite a bit of knowledge and the community seems friendly.

    I picked up my Canon T1i in August of 2010 and I love it, I could see myself making a career out of this but, I wouldn't even think of taking someones money until I can yield a product that looks great and that's where I need quite a bit of help. I believe I'm focus challenged. I'm going to post some pics below of what I think is good focus vs bad focus and any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Good focus pics (At least I believe so):
    Focusing, need help - not satisfied.
    Focusing, need help - not satisfied.
    Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    Bad focus pics (The lack of sharpness is dis-heartening):
    Focusing, need help - not satisfied.
    Focusing, need help - not satisfied.
    Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    Now the six images I posted above are just some examples from recent shots, but my ratio of good-to-bad photos is staggeringly awful, so many blurred and not sharp at all - is this normal?

    I know I only have a Canon T1i but my goals are something akin to these shots, http://www.janemphotography.com/index.html.

    Thanks for your help!
    Last edited by fascinator; 16th February 2011 at 09:14 AM.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    Hello and welcome to CiC.

    Would you like to tell us your proper name? It makes communication so much more friendly. You can edit your profile and put it under 'Real Name' so that it appears in the side bar in all your posts.

    To answer your question, firstly a couple back to you ....

    1. Are you shooting in RAW or JPEG?
    2. Are you doing any post-processing (PP)?
    3. If so, with what software?
    4. And, again if so, what sharpening do you do in PP?

    I'm not see a lot wrong with your 'bad' ones. Where are you seeing the lack of sharpness that you find dis-heartening?

    Maybe you could also give us some shooting information, particularly what aperture value (f number) were these shot at?
    Last edited by Donald; 16th February 2011 at 09:02 AM.

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    Re: Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    Hey Donald,

    Thanks, I added my name.

    1. 1 - jpeg, 2 - raw, 3 - jpeg, 4 - raw, 5 - raw, 6 - raw.
    2. Some color correction.
    3. Adobe Lightroom 3.2
    4. Just sharpening for the screen on downsize.

    I guess I need to clarify, take the 4th shot for example, Katie is standing above me next to the tree, I'm taking the shot in Av at f/2.0 (50mm f/1.8 lens), and it's giving the nice bokeh effect but she is still blurred (not super sharp) - shrinking the image down like this gives a lot of grace for error, but the 1:1 image is not great.

    The 5th shot is taking a f/1.8 and the last one is taken at f/1.8 (shutter at 1/200) with the T1i flash up for filler flash, as the sun was going down, with the flash and center focused it still came out fuzzy. (I replaced the last one of the deer with this one, as the deer didn't really show, in a good way what I'm talking about.)

    For super sharp center subject images like this, would I be better off just doing AF and then manually adjust a hair - I've been doing some searches to see if the Canon T1i has any sort of auto-focus problem, some folk seem to think so while others say it's fine.

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    Re: Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    I think the problem with most of the images shown, except for the forest shot, is that your subjects are moving and chances are you are hand holding the camera. On top of that, you probably only take one photo and stop to look at the results.

    1. Check your equipment, are you on manual focus, auto focus.
    2. If your camera is set to auto focus, take three to four shots of the same scene. One of the four should be best for sharpness.
    3. Check to see if your shutterspeed is adequate enough to get the best exposure, but fast enough to eliminate camera shake.
    4. Check your camera holding technique, make sure your arms are braced against your body, or use a nearby support, use a tripod if able.
    5. Check your aperture setting, the second photo should have the least amount of issues regarding focusing and it looks like you intentionally set for a shallow DOF.

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    Re: Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    Hi ya,

    Just wondering what focusing mode you're using (one-shot or servo), and whether you're selecting your own AF points, or just letting the camera choose for you?

    By the way, most (if not all) serious shooters stick to 1 focus point in the view finder (more often than not, the centre one).

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    Re: Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    Generally, your Raw shots are softer than the Jpeg, although they do have better colour. Remember that Raw images do not have any automatically applied sharpening by the camera; so they will require a little more sharpening during processing.

    But, like the previous answers, I would suggest that operator error is more likely to be the problem here. I would certainly be using a narrower aperture than you have used, even if that meant having a higher ISO.

    For me, the 4th and 5th photos are the best, but they need a little extra sharpness applied; and a bit of cropping to make the main subject more dominant.

    And with regard to the ratio of keepers; when I first went digital several years ago with a secondhand Canon Powershot G2 I was keeping around 50% of my shots but now, after purchasing around 3000 of equipment the keeper ratio has dropped to 10%. But when I look back to my early digital images I realise that the true ratio of good photos should have been more like 5%; and I have recently ditched a lot of them.

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    Re: Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    I recommend that you educate yourself on the subject of Depth of Field, Hyperfocal Distance, and Auto Focus where you can learn how to balance shutter speed and aperture to freeze motion while maximizing, or control, the range of "in focus" elements of a scene.

    I'm aware that most PP applications provide a means to sharped an image, but you can't regain the detail lost if the focus is not where it should be, it's always best to start out in control when you take the shot.
    Last edited by Steaphany; 16th February 2011 at 02:48 PM.

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    Re: Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    Hi Joseph,

    from your description and a little playing with image #4, I'd say sharpening is the main problem:
    a bit of sharpening on the posted image makes it look quite good, and you say the only sharpening you do is for the screen on down size.

    I usually do at least 2 or 3 sharpening steps (as suggested by members here :
    - capture sharpening (I'm funny here, using 'refocussing', a Digikam term for a kind of deconvolution sharpening, on low noise; USM otherwise)
    - 'creative' sharpening (often 3-4 pixel radius at 0.4-0.6 amount, threshold as needed)
    - and a final round after downsampling the image (to correct for the introduced softness).

    Remco
    (as a final note, image #2 also seems a bit soft, though the subject makes it less noticable than the portraits where you have a lot of fine detail)

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    Re: Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    Hi Josh,

    I think the answer already lies/lays, in the replies above.

    To enable us to better judge where the problem might be, a 700px square crop from the place you were intending to focus on, so it can be published here without downsizing (at 1:1), would be more useful, along with the fuller shooting information like shutter speed, iso, focal length, as well as aperture.

    When you've done that, have a look at the RAWs in Canon's DPP (the software that came with the camera) because I think, like the Nikon software I use, it can show which focus point(s) were in use and all the other stuff to answer Colin's questions.

    Welcome to the CiC forums from ...

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    Re: Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    Thanks so much for all of the replies!

    I'm definitely going to read through the articles posted and I'm going to install the Canon software to see where my focus points were (if I can).

    Most of my shots are in one-shot, with center-af, focusing and then recomposing. Most of the time my subjects are moving and quite a bit and I'm not the steadiest person in the world, I'm wondering if I should just invest in a monopod of some sort.

    Thanks again for all the replies and I'll definitely be active in the community.

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    Re: Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    If you are focusing and recomposing, Josh, are you definitely holding the focus while recomposing? And how long is the recomposing taking? I'm just thinking about the main subject moving out of the focus area while you are thinking about the composition.

    And what camera setting? I'm not sure about that camera but a lot only hold the exposure settings when Evaluative Metering is used.

    Possibly using AI focus or AI servo (if available with that camera) will help to retain focus on moving targets; but not if you recompose the scene.

    A monopod or tripod won't do any harm except possibly slow down your reactions to those quick action scenes. But providing your shutter speed is sufficient you should be able to obtain reasonable images without them.

    ps. I suppose a basic camera test might be worth doing. Try to place the camera on a solid surface, or a tripod, and shoot a page of print from a magazine which is pinned to a vertical wall (use nails at your own risk!) and view at a magnified size.

    If your camera is OK the print should be reasonably sharp.
    Last edited by Geoff F; 16th February 2011 at 08:52 PM. Reason: extra paragraph

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    Re: Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    I've read that the technique of using the centre focus point to focus, and then recomposing the shot, is actually not a good technique to use, as your main point of focus is then thrown out of focus when you have recomposed. I imagine if you are using a wide aperture this will make the error even worse. The auto focus article linked above makes brief reference to this in the final section.

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    Re: Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    Hi Josh,

    There is plenty of good advice here but I htink the issue you have is probably best summed up by Colin in Post # 5. Have a look at your camera settiings. I use Nikons but I think in Canon it is something like Manual Focus One Shot or Single Point.

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    Re: Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    Quote Originally Posted by DH59 View Post
    I've read that the technique of using the centre focus point to focus, and then recomposing the shot, is actually not a good technique to use, as your main point of focus is then thrown out of focus when you have recomposed.
    Hi Diane,

    It depends on whether or not the focus plane changes. As a rule I normally suggest selecting the closest AF point to whatever it is one wants to focus on, but on older cameras even this can cause issues because AF points other than the centry usually aren't cross-type AF points.

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    Re: Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    Just my $0.02, but I'm assuming that all your shots are taken with the 50/1.8 II at or near wide open. The 50/1.8 II's sweet spot is around f/4-f/5.6. So if you really want critical sharpness, stopping down into the f/2.8-f/4 neighborhood might work better for you. This will also give you more DoF to work with and make precise focusing a little less critical.

    The EF 50mm f/1.8 II is a great lens, but it's low-cost. It lacks a USM focus motor, so it's going to be a little slower locking in. Help it out by giving it a high-contrast target (ideally, where black meets white with a sharp line between the two). Waiting until the AF catches up with you is a good skill to learn, if a frustrating one. Check for the AF confirmation dot lighting up (or use the beep).

    Secondly, are you absolutely sure it's a focus issue, and not slower shutter speed causing camera shake blur? If you're pushing longer shutter speeds, you do need good handholding technique, knowledge of how to brace yourself, time your shots with your breathing, and what's a fast-enough shutter speed to use. Some folks can mistake camera shake blur for misfocus. And the 50/1.8 II is not an IS lens, so the "shutter speed faster than 1/focal_length" rule of thumb comes into play.

    Thirdly, are you sure the camera used the right AF point? The reason most folks recommend the single center point is that this is going to be the best-equipped AF point you've got for going solo. It's typically a cross-type sensor with higher sensitivity at wider aperture settings, so it's got a better chance, particularly with a fast lens, for grabbing some contrast by which to focus. But simply selecting the appropriate AF point will often work better than letting the camera's AF system choose the point, because you know what the focus point of the image is; the camera is just guessing (and face-detection algorithms can be less than perfect). Opening up a misfocused image in ZoomBrowser and checking on which specific AF point was used for that image can also help you pinpoint if the AF system grabbed the wrong spot.

    And just my opinon, but I don't think going to manual focus is likely to give you much more precision, simply because your focus screen may not be rendering DoF accurately if you're shooting wide open, and the 50/1.8 II's manual focus ring is such a royal PITA to use with any accuracy. Unless you're shooting through something (window, water, fence etc.) or a manual focus wizard, I'd stick with AF. But I would also urge you to try it and see. Everybody's skillz are different, and the free advice you get on an internet messageboard is often worth what you paid for it.

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    Re: Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    Quote Originally Posted by inkista View Post
    And just my opinon, but I don't think going to manual focus is likely to give you much more precision,
    Just to clarify Kathy - I do use Nikon and the focus mode I am suggesting is Single Servo (for Nikons) but in Canon it is still auto focus but the setting is Manual Focus - One Shot or shomething like that. It gives you the ability to choose what you want in focu, like a childs eye, and not have the camera choose the points of focus it thinks you want.

    If you look at image #4 the strips on the girls top (around the belly) are in focus but the face is not. The camera has focused on the closest thing to it and with such a shallow DOF and the face on a diffrent focal plane (further away) and hence is not as sharp.

    I do believe this is a focus issue and caused by the options in the camera set up. What we see here is the standard camera set up and it is not really all that helpful. I see it all the time when teaching students new to photography and doing close up work.

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    Re: Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    Thanks Josh for posting your pictures and questions- this thread had great information that I too could use. Looking forward to seeing more of your work,
    Krisztina

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    Re: Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Ryan View Post
    Just to clarify Kathy - I do use Nikon and the focus mode I am suggesting is Single Servo (for Nikons) but in Canon it is still auto focus but the setting is Manual Focus - One Shot or shomething like that.
    Ah, gotcha. For us it's "One Shot" (AF-S); "AI Focus" (AF-A); and "AI Servo" (AF-C)... Unlike you guys, we have no "Manual Focus" mode on the camera--just the lens switch.

    ... If you look at image #4 the strips on the girls top (around the belly) are in focus but the face is not. The camera has focused on the closest thing to it and with such a shallow DOF and the face on a diffrent focal plane (further away) and hence is not as sharp.

    I do believe this is a focus issue and caused by the options in the camera set up. What we see here is the standard camera set up and it is not really all that helpful. I see it all the time when teaching students new to photography and doing close up work.
    Yes, misfocus is the most-likely explanation, especially since in all those shots, something else in the frame looks sharp and in focus, but I wanted to cover all the bases, since it can be hard to tell having only websizes and no EXIF to judge the issue by.

    Josh, one more point that nobody's really addressed directly (probably because it's overly obvious), but when taking portraits, having the subject's eyes in focus is the key (as you can tell from your "good" examples) to making the shot feel in focus. Note how, in the shot of the dog, more of your subject is actually out of focus than in your "bad" examples.

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    Re: Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    Thanks Kathy,

    Can you briefly explain the focus modes in Canons for me, as I have a number of students and do need to understand exactly what the options do in Canons?

    I should add I understand one shot know and AF-C. Can you explain (AI Focus) AF -A?

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    Re: Focusing, need help - not satisfied.

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Ryan View Post
    Can you briefly explain the focus modes in Canons for me, as I have a number of students and do need to understand exactly what the options do in Canons?
    Hi Peter,

    Basically AI Servo / Servo just continually focuses, where AI Focus will focus like single shot, but will refocus if it detects that the scene has changed.

    In the 1D series they did away with the latter - so it's either 1-shot or servo.

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