Blurry group photos backlight/low light wondering what you would have done.

Started May 17, 2012 | Discussions
radiatorcat
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Blurry group photos backlight/low light wondering what you would have done.
May 17, 2012

Hi,

This group of young musicians had just finished playing their gig yesterday and one of the moms asked me to shoot a group photo. I shot a similar group last month in very low light and the focus was soft due to slow (1/30 on 85mm 1.8) shutter speed. This time I used a 50mm 1.4 with 9.5 aperture and AGAIN 1/30 shutter speed. I'm feeling ill when I look at how blurry this one is...

I know I should have used the tripod - which I had, but the kids were in a hurry to get going so I was rushed. I didn't check my settings carefully, otherwise I would have stopped down for a faster shutter speed. We were inside a fire station, 7:00 pm sunshine pouring in the doors. I put them under the canopy with the sun behind. Question: Should I have posed them inside the station with the sun at my back? (far enough in so that they wouldn't have to squint)? Any tips you could share? My son is one of the players so I'm likely to be in this situation again.
Thanks much.

AnthonyL
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Re: Blurry group photos backlight/low light wondering what you would have done.
In reply to radiatorcat, May 17, 2012

What a lovely photo that could have been. I'm sure others will comment but broadly your exposure seems right eg skin tones are ok, so the primary problem seems to be camera shake. At 50mm with no IS you should be looking at a shutter speed of 1/50th at least and preferably around the 1/125 mark. If you can't arrange them to have more light then up the ISO two steps. The risk of a bit of noise is better than everything blurred. You probably could have opened up the aperture 1/2 stop, to f/8. You'd need to to the DOF maths knowing your distance to subject but you've kept everyone reasonably in the same plane.

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kward
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Re: Blurry group photos backlight/low light wondering what you would have done.
In reply to radiatorcat, May 17, 2012

radiatorcat wrote:

Hi,

This group of young musicians had just finished playing their gig yesterday and one of the moms asked me to shoot a group photo. I shot a similar group last month in very low light and the focus was soft due to slow (1/30 on 85mm 1.8) shutter speed. This time I used a 50mm 1.4 with 9.5 aperture and AGAIN 1/30 shutter speed. I'm feeling ill when I look at how blurry this one is...

I know I should have used the tripod - which I had, but the kids were in a hurry to get going so I was rushed. I didn't check my settings carefully, otherwise I would have stopped down for a faster shutter speed. We were inside a fire station, 7:00 pm sunshine pouring in the doors. I put them under the canopy with the sun behind. Question: Should I have posed them inside the station with the sun at my back? (far enough in so that they wouldn't have to squint)? Any tips you could share? My son is one of the players so I'm likely to be in this situation again.
Thanks much.

A couple of things. Your F-stop is 9.5, your ISO is 250 and your shutter is 1/30, what mode was your camera in??? Those don't sound like anything an Auto
mode would select.

Regardless to get higher shutter speed, you can lower your F-Stop and or increase you ISO, but those things generally require the use of less 'Automatic'

modes. But what ever mode your camera was in, didn't allow it to automatically do these things and take advantage of the quickness of your lens.

For a group, to get all in focus, you can probably go to f5.6 or even f4.0, lower
might not have enough depth of field, so increasing ISO too will help with the
shutter speed.

ken

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digitalization
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Re: Blurry group photos backlight/low light wondering what you would have done.
In reply to radiatorcat, May 17, 2012

Since the tent roof looks more-less ok i'd suggest that your focus was off - either you were in MF, overruled your focus by hand, set the focus on something else before framing (AF-S mode?) or your camera had it's focus point set way off (do any cameras have focus point on the extreme edges of the frame?)

This is one of the reasons i usually shoot in AF-C (cont. focus) and burst mode.

With more than a few people you always get an odd expression or closed eyes with just one shot. Murphy's Law, after all.

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ptl-2010
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Re: Blurry group photos backlight/low light wondering what you would have done.
In reply to radiatorcat, May 17, 2012

I think you could have taken the photo at a higher ISO and lower F-stop to get a higher shutter speed. It's recommended to use a minimum shutter speed equal to the focal length your using.

From what I have seen on review sites the d7000 could have easily snapped a detailed photo at ISO 800, or even 1600. Just a bit of noise reduction and sharpening in post.

You always have to weigh your options, and I always say I'd rather have grain than a blurry image.
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Deleted1929
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Shutter speed too slow
In reply to radiatorcat, May 17, 2012

You've got motion and shake blur.

If you need to force a reasonable shutter speed then use shutter priority ( which lets you choose a shutter speed ). However on aperture priority you could still get a good shutter speed by raising ISO - your D7000 can be pushed very high for large prints.

You might want to read up on these topics :

http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/camera-exposure.htm

http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/depth-of-field.htm

Moving inside would not have helped you as the fault here was not checking shutter speed. Always check shutter speed regardless of what modes you use.

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radiatorcat
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Re: Blurry group photos backlight/low light wondering what you would have done.
In reply to ptl-2010, May 17, 2012

I always shoot with aperture priority. Because I had blown the last group photo with a smaller aperture (or so I thought), I was careful to choose a higher ap. Obviously I need to study up on what is appropriate! And, of course, now that you all point it out, I should have upped the ISO. I've been disappointed in my indoor shots of these groups because of high noise so I lowered it....basically I just wasn't careful and didn't check my settings because of the hurried situation. Total rookie mistakes. But still....wah! I want to cry...:)

Thanks to all for the replies. I'll keep listening and learning if there are more suggestions!

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ptl-2010
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Re: Blurry group photos backlight/low light wondering what you would have done.
In reply to radiatorcat, May 17, 2012

When doing things like this I would suggest to go full manual. You will get much better results, unless you're in a situation where the lighting is changing constantly. Then shutter priority would maybe be better.

Once you get used to it, the adjustments can be made super quick. I can adjust my shutter, ISO, and aperture, and only have to move my face away from the camera for a split second so I can push the AV button. Our cameras are smart, but they can't read your mind. This will give you a much better chance of getting images that have the right DOF, no motion blur, and the lowest noise possible in the conditions you're in.
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radiatorcat
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Re: Shutter speed too slow
In reply to Deleted1929, May 17, 2012

Wish I could go back in time and check that shutter speed! Yes. The good thing about mistakes is that we can learn from them, I guess. Thanks for the website links; I'm reading them now.

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radiatorcat
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Re: Blurry group photos backlight/low light wondering what you would have done.
In reply to ptl-2010, May 17, 2012

The ironic thing is that when I bought my first camera 25 years ago I made sure to buy a fully manual so that I would learn it all. After digital came out I dropped that camera and couldn't afford to make the leap into all the technology so I documented my kids' lives with a small point and shoot. Now that I'm getting into it I realize how much I have forgotten about the settings.

I bought my mac last August, the camera in January, lightroom and photoshop somewhere in that time frame. Trying to learn it all as quickly as possible but boy, there's a lot!

Loving every minute, though. Thanks again for all the shared knowledge, advice, and friendly remarks.

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Art Jacks
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Re: Blurry group photos backlight/low light wondering what you would have done.
In reply to radiatorcat, May 17, 2012

Would a bit of balance fill in flash helped ?
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Wally626
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Re: Blurry group photos backlight/low light wondering what you would have done.
In reply to kward, May 17, 2012

f/4 would have been OK, for this lens she was about 25 ft away which would give a DoF of about 6 ft at f/4 with a small CoC of 0.01mm.

I do this all the time myself. More worried about getting everything is the right spot and framed and do not double check the settings, so end up with too slow a shutter speed or too high an ISO etc. Get everything framed then check the numbers to see if they make sense.

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tclune
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Re: Blurry group photos backlight/low light wondering what you would have done.
In reply to Art Jacks, May 17, 2012

Art Jacks wrote:

Would a bit of balance fill in flash helped ?

+1

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Mark9473
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Re: Blurry group photos backlight/low light wondering what you would have done.
In reply to radiatorcat, May 17, 2012

radiatorcat wrote:

I always shoot with aperture priority. Because I had blown the last group photo with a smaller aperture (or so I thought), I was careful to choose a higher ap. Obviously I need to study up on what is appropriate! And, of course, now that you all point it out, I should have upped the ISO. I've been disappointed in my indoor shots of these groups because of high noise so I lowered it....basically I just wasn't careful and didn't check my settings because of the hurried situation.

You need to learn to look at the information displayed in the viewfinder. The low shutter speed should have been a warning. If you want to use aperture priority - it basically is a good choice anyway - then put your camera on auto-ISO.

What could have also helped is to shoot a short burst of 3-4 frames. Usually it's the first that suffers most from motion blur.

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radiatorcat
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Re: Blurry group photos backlight/low light wondering what you would have done.
In reply to Art Jacks, May 18, 2012

Thanks again for all the replies. I know nothing about flash but it's on my list. I never did use flash with my film camera because I just liked natural light but I would like to do some studio work down the road.

Coincidentally, I met a young man at the park today (15) who also has a d7000. He picked mine up and started playing with the controls like it was a gameboy. He was showing me how to control lighting for movies in live-view and recommended manual mode. After I walked away (feeling old and rather thick) I was determined to try out manual for my stills and had an "aha" moment after a couple of minutes. It all came back! Yes - the info is right there in the viewfinder....sheesh....I'm feeling WAY more confident tonight than just this morning thanks to that kid and all of you.

Much appreciated, all the advice. I know that it is valuable time out one's day to check these forums and reply.

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Barrie Davis
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Hmmm... NOT camera shake.
In reply to digitalization, May 19, 2012

digitalization wrote:

Since the tent roof looks more-less ok i'd suggest that your focus was off - either you were in MF, overruled your focus by hand, set the focus on something else before framing (AF-S mode?) or your camera had it's focus point set way off (do any cameras have focus point on the extreme edges of the frame?)

I agree. Although the shutter is a bit slow, Image Stabilisation should have taken care of it. And yes, the ceiling is sharper.

If it was camera shake, everything in the image would be blurred, and by the same amount.

It's a great shame! It would have been a cracking shot....

... (you could warm your hands on those smiles!)
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Baz

"Ahh... But the thing is, they were not just ORDINARY time travellers!"

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Barrie Davis
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Re: Blurry group photos backlight/low light wondering what you would have done.
In reply to radiatorcat, May 19, 2012

radiatorcat wrote:

Thanks again for all the replies. I know nothing about flash but it's on my list. I never did use flash with my film camera because I just liked natural light but I would like to do some studio work down the road.

Coincidentally, I met a young man at the park today (15) who also has a d7000. He picked mine up and started playing with the controls like it was a gameboy. He was showing me how to control lighting for movies in live-view and recommended manual mode. After I walked away (feeling old and rather thick) I was determined to try out manual for my stills and had an "aha" moment after a couple of minutes. It all came back! Yes - the info is right there in the viewfinder....sheesh....I'm feeling WAY more confident tonight than just this morning thanks to that kid and all of you.

Much appreciated, all the advice. I know that it is valuable time out one's day to check these forums and reply.

Make no mistake, you do NOT get some kind of "better exposure" because of using Manual Mode. The correct exposure is an effective combination of shutter speed and aperture for the shot in hand...

... meaning that one 1/125th @ f/8 is exactly the SAME an any other 1/125th @ f/8 no matter which mode you use to arrive at it...

Moreover, it is much easier to master the Auto modes first.... so much so that you may never need Manual, ever! (Dammit, I'm a 50-year pro and my cameras rarely come off 'A' mode.)
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Baz

"Ahh... But the thing is, they were not just ORDINARY time travellers!"

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Barrie Davis
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Correction.... not ALL camera shake.
In reply to Barrie Davis, May 19, 2012

Barrie Davis wrote:

digitalization wrote:

Since the tent roof looks more-less ok i'd suggest that your focus was off - either you were in MF, overruled your focus by hand, set the focus on something else before framing (AF-S mode?) or your camera had it's focus point set way off (do any cameras have focus point on the extreme edges of the frame?)

I agree. Although the shutter is a bit slow, Image Stabilisation should have taken care of it. And yes, the ceiling is sharper.

If it was camera shake, everything in the image would be blurred, and by the same amount.

I modify my opinion. Closer examination examination reveals tiny highlights that have blur trails that are crescent-shaped open to the top. These tell-tale highlights are the same size all over the shot and at all distances, and indicate that part of the blur WAS camera shake, after all.

However, the total blur is less bad in the back row, which does indicate that focus was off, too , and set somewhere around the distance of the awning support structures behind their heads.

Also, at 1/30th there is some chance of subject motion contributing as well... especially a lively group of youngsters spontaneously reacting in the way they are.

It's a great shame! It would have been a cracking shot....

... (you could warm your hands on those smiles!)
--
Regards,
Baz

"Ahh... But the thing is, they were not just ORDINARY time travellers!"

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Regards,
Baz

"Ahh... But the thing is, they were not just ORDINARY time travellers!"

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beagle1
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Re: Blurry group photos backlight/low light wondering what you would have done.
In reply to Barrie Davis, May 19, 2012

Barrie Davis wrote:

radiatorcat wrote:

Thanks again for all the replies. I know nothing about flash but it's on my list. I never did use flash with my film camera because I just liked natural light but I would like to do some studio work down the road.

Coincidentally, I met a young man at the park today (15) who also has a d7000. He picked mine up and started playing with the controls like it was a gameboy. He was showing me how to control lighting for movies in live-view and recommended manual mode. After I walked away (feeling old and rather thick) I was determined to try out manual for my stills and had an "aha" moment after a couple of minutes. It all came back! Yes - the info is right there in the viewfinder....sheesh....I'm feeling WAY more confident tonight than just this morning thanks to that kid and all of you.

Much appreciated, all the advice. I know that it is valuable time out one's day to check these forums and reply.

Make no mistake, you do NOT get some kind of "better exposure" because of using Manual Mode. The correct exposure is an effective combination of shutter speed and aperture for the shot in hand...

... meaning that one 1/125th @ f/8 is exactly the SAME an any other 1/125th @ f/8 no matter which mode you use to arrive at it...

Moreover, it is much easier to master the Auto modes first.... so much so that you may never need Manual, ever! (Dammit, I'm a 50-year pro and my cameras rarely come off 'A' mode.)
--
Regards,
Baz

wow, a 50 year old pro that still uses auto mode

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Barrie Davis
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Re: Blurry group photos backlight/low light wondering what you would have done.
In reply to beagle1, May 19, 2012

beagle1 wrote:

Moreover, it is much easier to master the Auto modes first.... so much so that you may never need Manual, ever! (Dammit, I'm a 50-year pro and my cameras rarely come off 'A' mode.)

wow, a 50 year old pro that still uses auto mode

No. I'm not 50 years old... I was 66 last birthday.

It was 50+ years spent AS a pro...

...(52, to be more precise. I did my first commissioned job at age 14).

When I started there were no real Auto modes as we know them now. It was 10 years before match-needle manual TTL became commonplace, and then only in the latest 35mm cameras... (Pentax Spotmatic.)

In my first full-time job, aged 17, I shot sheet-film with a whole-plate wooden camera that had a brass lens... and no shutter at all, just a lens cap....

.... and with that I shot 1/1 plate transparencies of models hanging wallpaper.

That was hard, and hot, too, under incandescent lighting! I used the film sheath for a shutter... (exposure at 32-ASA .. 1/2-second between f/8 and f/11).
My pictures were used in mail order catalogues.

Now that it is available, lots of pros use 'A' mode for a high percentage of their shooting... You missed the whole point of my previous posting in that there is nothing inherently superior in Manual Modes.
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Baz

"Ahh... But the thing is, they were not just ORDINARY time travellers!"

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