Lurker needing help

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TracyF's picture
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Lurker needing help

Hi everyone,

I am a long-time lurker who is a rank amateur and lurks to get inspiration from you all!

I've been taking a zillion pictures this summer and am really getting frustrated that the focus is always a bit off on my photos. I'm just shooting with a point-and-shoot, but it's a good camera (Canon PowerShot S5) and I really can't figure out why I can't get sharp focus on faces. I do as I had been taught, which is to focus on the person's face and then re-frame the picture, but the focus is always soft. As a couple of examples from this morning... these ones are better than some of my shots, but if you were to look at the original, the features of the face and the hair is a tiny bit blurred.

So my question is, is this a camera issue, or a photographer issue? If it's the latter, how on earth do I do this better? (I know you should be minimum SS of 1/125, so I did that today, but even when my SS is high with my kids, I still have the same problem.)

Settings on all of them are in the general range of SS 1/125, AV 5.0, ISO 200

Thank you so much for your advice!

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The powershot usually has a face detection that you can you, or set a focal point. Also, are you halfway pushing the shutter button down to lock focus, then pushing to click it?

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"maricopamom3" wrote:

The powershot usually has a face detection that you can you, or set a focal point. Also, are you halfway pushing the shutter button down to lock focus, then pushing to click it?

Definitely pushing the shutter button down to lock focus, yes.

I don't use the face detection much, but I do set the focal point on the face of the person I want in focus, and then reframe my picture.

P.S. I realize it sounds a bit odd to ask if it's a camera problem, but honestly, after you take so, so many pictures and they are all just ever-so-slightly out of focus, you begin to wonder! I know it's far more likely it's still something I'm doing wrong, though.

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You might need to do some tests to see if it's the camera or the photographer ...

I would suggest taking pictures of things that don't move for these tests.

I would take pictures in different situations. For example. Let's say you're taking a picture of a teddy bear or something.

I would take one picture where I don't recompose the shot after locking in the focus. Then I would take another picture where I locked in the focus and then recomposed.

Check to see if your focus is off on one shot or another. If it is off in both, the problem may well be with the camera and I would see about getting it looked at.

If the focus is off in BOTH of them, I would have it looked at.

If the focus is off in only the shot where you recompose, then I would try using the face recognition or other setting (like using a different focus point) and see if that helped.

If you are shooting in manual mode, you could try increasing your aperture value (closing down the aperture opening) to somewhere between f/8 - f/11 (or AV 8.0 - AV 11.0). A lot of people consider that a sweet spot in that most of your photo should be in sharp focus in that range. You won't get as much of that nice blurry background, but it might help with your focus issues.

GOOD LUCK! And let us know how things go.

Best,
GiGi

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F 1/125 is the minimum I'd try with my wiggly four-year-old son! You might play around with faster SS to see what you get. I like how you've captured the action in your photos!

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Oh, doing some tests like you suggest is a GREAT idea! I would really love to know if it's me or the camera.

Doing higher than f/8.0 is impossible with this camera as that's as high as it goes, but I should probably try to do that more often. I just really love the nice blurred backgrounds, so I often go on the low end and probably that does not help the situation!

1/125 is about as high a SS as I could get in the light in the sample photos that day without bumping up the ISO too much, but yeah, I have found that the faster the SS the better for my kids!

I will try to do some tests soon and see what happens and report back. Thank you for the suggestion! Smile

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GiGi had a great suggestion to practice on non moving objects! I took a natural landscape photography class and I was so happy with the way my pictures came out. I felt so confident that I had learned so much.... until I tried using what I learned on my moving 16 month old girls! LOL! WAY different. It's great to practice on non moving object to get a good hang of it. Now only if I could find the time and take that bit of advice! LOL!

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So I did some test shots of a stuffed toy and a basket. I think the basket shows things best. Settings were SS 1/13 (camera was sitting on a table), f3.5, and ISO 200.

Both are cropped so I can show what things look like at 100% size. The first was taken by locking in focus and then taking the picture as is; the second was taken by locking in and then recomposing. The first is clearly sharper, which is helpful to know. I'm sure that using the face detection setting for my kids would help me a little bit, given this test.

Even though that's helpful, I'm wondering about the first shot, though: it still seems to me it is not "tack sharp". I seem to recall a picture I took with my Canon PowerShot S1 of a squirrel, where you could make out the distinct hairs when you looked at the picture at full-size. Or am I dreaming? Is this as good as it gets for most point and shoots? There seems to be a lot of noise for ISO 200 too, but maybe that's normal too. I'm no expert so I really don't know. Thoughts are appreciated!