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What went wrong!?!

Posted: Sun Jan 03, 2016 6:12 pm
by TomCofer
What went wrong!?!

From beginner to professional, we've all had the experience. We see something with our eyes that we think would make a fantastic photograph. We grab the camera and take the shot. Then we look at the photograph with anticipation and excitement, only to be disappointed to find that the photograph falls far short of what we saw with our eyes.

Sometimes the problem is easy to see and easy to fix, a simple adjustment to a camera setting, and we're back in business. At other times, we're left scratching our heads, uncertain what to do or where to start.

I'm starting this thread with the hope that we can turn it into something of a photo-fixing, problem solving group. My thought is that we can post our photo fails here, and we can help each other figure out what went wrong and how it can be fixed or what can be changed “next time” to get the shot we wanted.

My intent is not to create an, “Edit my shot” thread, (even though we may do a bit of that too) but rather a problem solving thread to help each other figure out just what went wrong and how it may be fixed next time. I'd like the focus to be on in-camera fixes, trying to get it as close to perfect in-camera before moving on to editing fixes. I'm placing it under the “Tutorials” topic because I believe the results may be helpful to others in figuring out their photo problems.

Please feel free to post you photo fails here. Include as much information as you can about the photo and your camera settings. We'll put our heads together and try to figure out what went wrong and make suggestions on how it may be improved. All photos are welcome, from cellphones and tablets to high end DSLR's.

I'll try to post a couple of examples during the upcoming weeks.

Example #1

Posted: Sun Jan 10, 2016 8:40 pm
by TomCofer
Example #1

I thought I'd start this off with a photo that had several problems. The in-camera result looked nothing like what I saw with my eye, or least not what I saw in my mind's eye.
I saw a colorful Bluejay outside my window. I grabbed my camera and took a shot of it.

Shot with a Canon 50D with an EF-S55-250mm IS lens. Shot handheld thru a dirty window with an after-market storm window (two panes of window glass that are about 5" apart).
Shot Shutter speed Priority at 1/200 sec.

Auto ISO (320)
Lens maxed at 250mm
Evaluative Metering
RAW format setting


Example #1 - Self evaluation

Posted: Sun Jan 10, 2016 8:43 pm
by TomCofer

1. Shooting through the window.
Shooting through windows can cause several problems, especially dirty ones. It can cause the autofocus to have difficulty in obtaining correct focus. I've found that it also tends to give photos a softer focus and a bit of a washed out or flat look. Other problems can come into play too such as distortion and light flares. When shooting through car windshields, the tinting and curved glass can add to the problem.

Fixing options:
a. Step outside, eliminate the problem
b. Clean the window
c. Switch to Manual Focus
d. Have the end of the lens as close to the window as possible and shoot with the lens/camera perpendicular to the window.

2. Shooting hand-held
The combination of shooting hand-held with the lens at 250mm and the shutter at 1/200 sec. can cause a bit of blur even with an IS (Image Stabilizing) lens.

Fixing options:
a. Use a tripod
b. Use a stable platform. Lean against a solid fixture, rest the camera on one, or have a solid stance when shooting.
c. Increase the shutter speed and adjust the other settings.

3. The photo lacks contrast and looks over exposed.
Keep in mind that the photo was shot in RAW format. No post editing was done other than cropping for the web. When photos are shot in RAW format, it's a given that some editing will need to be done. Still, some things may be done to get better in-camera results.

Fixing options:
a. Switch to Manual Mode and reduce the exposure by changing the shutter speed, aperature, or ISO settings.
b. Change the metering mode from Evaluative to Spot, Partial, or Center-weighted.
c. Adjust the Exposure compensation.
d. Increase the contrast and saturation in post-production.

4. The eye is not drawn to the subject.
Even with the lens set at 250mm (max), the subject (bird) can get a bit lost in the background.

Fixing options:
a. Get closer to the subject.
b. Re-compose the shot using the rule of thirds, placing the subject in a better location.
c. Fix in post. Use cropping contrast, and sharpening masks to draw the eye to the subject.
I'm sure that some of you folks can find additional problems and possible solutions. Please feel free to join in and add your thoughts.
Since I couldn't simply re-take the shot, here is the results of my post editing of the same shot.


Re: What went wrong!?!

Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2016 9:44 pm
by cyclohexane
Tom, I think the biggest problem here is that it was shot through a window. The glass used for windows tend to have properties very different from optical glass. :D

That said, I have lots of snapshots of critters shot through the window. Not a lot of photographic or artistic merit there, but hey, I saw it and took the photo! 8):

Re: What went wrong!?!

Posted: Wed Jan 13, 2016 3:18 am
by TomCofer
Thanks Michael.
Yes, you're right, the shooting thru the window caused the most problems. Unfortunately, there often isn't a choice and all we can do is try to minimize the effects. My frequent trips to the St. Louis Zoo have taught me that you can minimize the problems if you shoot with the lens close to the glass and as close to perpendicular to it as possible. Also, when using a flash, I get it off camera and have it pressed against the glass, a bit away from the camera. :)

Re: What went wrong!?!

Posted: Wed Jan 13, 2016 4:40 pm
by cyclohexane
Old Mamiya M645 lens hoods in E77 thread are great for reducing reflections, and fit most "professional" autofocus lenses, at least, those made prior to Canon (and others) moving to 82 and 86mm fronts starting with the 16-35 f/2.8L II.

Push the end of the hood up against the glass to block out the majority of your reflections.

The No. 1 model hood for 28-70mm lenses (retracted for 28mm, extended for focal lengths beyond 35mm; it will vignette even retracted at 24mm). The No. 2 model hood works perfectly for 70-200 f/2.8 lenses and 85mm without limitations, and the No. 3 model is perfect for 300mm f/4 lenses.

I believe the No. 3 should work with the 200mm f/2.8L and 180mm f/2.8D lenses, but I never confirmed this through testing as I've never seen anyone using them.

You can use step-up rings to adapt them for smaller lenses, but I don't have a lot of experience doing that.

The old Mamiya hoods are extremely durable yet pliable and can often be found in expensively in the used sections of local camera dealers, though there was a run on them when the NBA and some NCAA arenas started requiring rubber lens hoods in an effort to reduce player injury when they landed on photographers or remote cameras. I think I single-handedly made the things a "best seller" on :rofl:

The No.1 lens hoods actually also work with minimal vignetting on 16-35/17-35/17-40 type lenses, but I don't remember when the vignetting stopped... 20mm? We usually just left the hoods retracted with the hood visible in the corners of image to maximize the image area captured by a floor remote camera.

All of this vignetting talk is related to 135 format/35mm film and "full frame" sensors that share the 24x36 dimensions. Your experience will be different for other formats.

I digress, I digress. :oops:

One can get really sophisticated and make a gobo with pieces of black wrap/cinefoil, gaffer tape, and black vinyl tape (the adhesive side of gaffer tape will reflect into your photo when adhered to glass), but zoos and aquariums don't like it when you do this during public visiting hours. :D

Re: What went wrong!?!

Posted: Wed Jan 13, 2016 10:46 pm
by TomCofer
Creative thoughts Michael.
I would caution others to use care if placing the end of the lens directly against the glass/window. Doing so and engaging the auto-focus motor could damage the lens or motor if not cautious.

Re: What went wrong!?!

Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2016 6:05 am
by cyclohexane
I forgot to add "be gentle" and "use an internal focusing lens" that doesn't shift exterior bits when focusing.

Re: What went wrong!?!

Posted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 10:46 pm
by English_Wolf
In most cases what goes wrong between what we see and what we get resides in a simple issue...

Our eyes/brain adapt to almost everything from distance (look as something relatively far and think' oh! that would look good'. It will not. Our brain has isolated the good oart and simply ignore the distance and environment. The camera does no care it just reports.

This is why many are so disappointed. Glass, no glass, reflections of not do not change this simple fact.

Being a photographer is to learn to see 'as a camera', not as a 'human' and decide what corrective actions need to be done before or after taking a capture or simply decide to walk away.