Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sharpening Notes

Since I splurged on Bertha last October I have been trying to get to a place where I'm happy with my images. Shooting with a full frame sensor was a whole new ball of wax, and not something I completely appreciated or comprehended. What I learned right away is that I can shoot with an ISO of 3200 resulting in very little noise—a huge plus in low light. When shooting birds, a high ISO is a must in order to freeze action with a fast shutter, even in bright light. Still, I have been less than happy with my images, feeling they were not as sharp as they should be.

This morning a lightbulb went off. I wondered if the noise reduction techniques I was employing in Lightroom might be the culprit. After 6 months of disappointment and with help from Google, I finally learned that over-applying the noise reduction feature in Lightroom does indeed result in loss of sharpness. The Noise Reduction slider has two choices: Luminous and Color. I was using the Luminous slider at 100 when it should have been 50 or less. Yes, I got some dreamy backgrounds; however, I failed to notice that it was at the cost of my subject. This is how I learn, by doing the WRONG things! Sigh.

These are some shots I took during the month of March, applying less rigorous noise reduction. Although some noise may be present, I am more satisfied that the images appear sharper. A little noise is preferable to loss of sharpness. N'est-ce pas?
Carolina chickadee



Downy woodpecker, male

Northern cardinal, female

I apologize for the technical nature of this post for those that don't get into all that, but I hope I help someone out there that might be struggling with the same issue. If you have any questions about Lightroom and the Noise Reduction panel (or any other feature in LR), please do not hesitate to ask me!

A question for those technically inclined: should I turn off Image Stabilization if my camera is mounted on a wobbly, flimsy tripod?

Sharing with Weekly Top Shot.

30 comments:

Nancy said...

I loved reading all the technical stuff since I am so new to photography. It would be wonderful to have you as a teacher....Your photographs are always so amazing and now I know why.....you know all the information about the camera and processing....WOW I have so much to learn...but it's fun being outside with a camera.....

Nora at Island Rambles said...

I think you could leave the stabilization on if you are not on a strong stable tripod, best would be to get a new tripod. The info I have read though says to turn stabilization off when on tripod. And by the way your photos are AMAZING!!I think it is the tiny motor movement for stabilization that is best off when on tripod.

TexWisGirl said...

ah, good for you! i do not use lightroom, but glad you found what was causing the problem! :)

Chatty Crone said...

I like the one with a little red in the hair - I had my hair done that way for awhile. lol sandie

Amy Burzese said...

Your shots are great either way. The tiny hairy feathers show up great on the little guy. Why don't you do some testing with identical shots using your tripod, with IS on and then IS off? Even if your tripod is not the most stable, it probably isn't moving unless the wind is high. Use of a remote shutter will help also.

Shug said...

I can always use help in the technical field. I only hope to someday be as good of a photographer as what you are....enjoyed these sweet photos of birds..
hugs

hootnonny said...

Glad you had an epiphany. Everything I read says no IS when on tripod. But my tripod is in the closet, so what do I know!

Have a great weekend, my friend.

beth said...

oh sheesh, i wish i had known your problem, or maybe i did but was thinking it was camera related, as in my LR class, that was something that was taught right away....don't overuse the noise reduction. dang, i could have saved you the headache !!

love the cardinal....love love love !!

my "stabilization" is built into my camera, so i never have to worry about my lenses, so i say, leave it on no matter what....but that's just me :)
xo

Kerry said...

These images look very sharp and beautiful. What you had to do to achieve this seems kind of counter-intuitive, but I guess that goes to show how poorly I understand technical stuff. It's really good to know these things, though, so I appreciate it anytime a photographer shares.

bailey-road.com said...

I LOVE the Cardinal shot!

Gone Country said...

I always love your images and these are stunning!

I just purchased LR so I will take note of that feature when editing. (I have a ton of them from a recent trip to the Grand Canyon to go through.)

I also appreciate the tip on using a higher ISO for shooting birds. I didn't realize you could go that high without tons of noise.

Terri said...

Very nice pcs (from one who just got brave enough to move the dial off of "auto" on her new camera).

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

You were not happy with your pictures while I was marvelling at their crispness.These look great and I guess if you are happy with them,that's all that matters.I too,keep on learning,at a slow speed,I might add.

Rambling Woods said...

Wow..love these.. Michelle

Linda said...

I think these are all lovely. But then you already know I'm a fan.

Brian King said...

Beautiful photos! There's a give and take both in the initial settings and in processing. You usually have to sacrifice something, even a minor sacrifice, to get the main objective. In my book, sharpness trumps digit noise every time. Modern cameras do a great job of handling noise at high ISO's and the sensors keep getting better. People could get the shot they want if they would get past the fear of higher ISO's. I still want to use the lowest possible, but if the lowest possible is higher than normal, so be it. Noise isn't always bad, either. In your second photo, the chickadee really pops against the background and in the third photo, the noise on the leaves gives it an artful effect.

Stewart M said...

Hi there - I wish I had started using LR years ago - its worth the money just for the tagging features.

I use sharpen, rather than noise reduction and always shoot at the lowest ISO I can get away with. My "default" setting is 200 for birds - and then I just fiddle if I cant get the shutter speed / aperture combination I want.

Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

PS, Nice pictures!

ladyfi said...

Wow - what sharpness and detail. Beautiful!

eileeninmd said...

Gail, these are awesome shots! And cute birds! Well done!

Linda R said...

Thanks so much for the wonderful tips. I love to play in LR. I just need a better camera. LOL... Your shots are fabulous. Crystal clear my friend.

Hugs~

She Who Carries Camera said...

I can definitely tell the difference, especially in the chickadees!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Of course you know that I'm not at all technical, but as long as you include these wonderful sharp images of beautiful birds no apology is necessary!

Patrice said...

Love it, Gail - it makes for much more natural photos!!!

Starla said...

I REALLY need to quit being such a hardhead and read up on how to do more than just the VERY basic editing I do in Elements! Not that it would help my photos, but it couldn't hurt them any!!

Catch up on the previous post: I am AMAZED at the quality of picture you can take with your phone!!

EG CameraGirl said...

Thanks for the tip! I'm a slow learner so anything you suggest will surely help me. :)

Rosemary Aubut said...

Loving the northern Cardinal! Great photos!

travelintoadventure@gmail.com said...

I gotta say your images have always been eye catching and stunning and and and well beautiful!! You are so cool in sharing your tip and ideas and even your mistakes -- but I find it all totally needed for me me me to improve some MORE -- and I am stuck -- in the between some level and I am trying to get beyond to a higher level-- and you have been a great HELP!
Hugs

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

They are beautiful to me but I have no clue what you're talking about lol.

maureen at Cottage 960 said...

Fabulous shots, all of them. I enjoyed reading the tech stuff, it's how we learn. At least it's how I learn, in little, easy to digest bits.

Georgianna said...

Hi Gail! Your photos are terrific and I'm really impressed that you are digging in with Lightroom and solving the noise/sharpening challenges. Really excellent!! (And I must say much better bird photos than I've ever gotten even though our property is full of birds.)

As for the image stabilization, generally it's not intended for tripod use but if your tripod is wobbly, it may work. They might be fighting each other, though.

Have a great week!

G