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Author Topic: Sharpening  (Read 4998 times)

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« on: March 03, 2008, 11:01 »
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I am having trouble with different agencies acceptance/rejection and have somewhat come to the conclusion that much of it has to do with sharpening and how much to use, if at all.

For example SS rejections for out of focus - not they were not, they were unsharpened.  Sure a smidge soft at 100%, put a usm of 100, 0, 2 on it and it is tack sharp, at 200%.

On the other hand, IS has essentially rejected everything (including my test images that were accepted for the test), all for artifacts.  1 was unsharpened, the others had less than 100, 0, 2 sharpening, and I suspect that sharpening was the reason.  On a sidenote though my most commercially viable image was accepted, and it was sharpened more and had more "artifacts" than any image that I have submitted.

If I was a designer I would probably prefer completely unsharpened images because of the higher quality of heavily editing an unsharpened image vs. a sharpened one, but I fear that they all will be rejected for "out of focus" some places.  To completely process different for each site is absolutely ludicrous IMO.

If the artifacting came from something else, I really am at a loss.  I always overexpose half a stop then recover in RAW editing to maximize the low-noise portion of the sensor.  I keep the NR levels in ACR set at lum 70%, Cr 50%, is this too high?  Rarely do I do much editing aside from some clone stamping (aside from isolations and creating a clipping path) outside of the RAW editor.  What else could generate an artifacting rejection on a 100% unsharpened image?  I always LAB sharpen on the lum channel to avoid sharpening colorization.

Do you sharpen your images, if so, how much, and do you produce copies with different levels of sharpening for different sites?
« Last Edit: March 03, 2008, 11:09 by Waldo4 »


« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2008, 11:56 »
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I  think you're being paranoid.  A good shot, straight out the camera, with no added sharpening will be accepted at all the agencies.  You should never sharpen.  Reviewers know that images look slightly soft at 100%.  If you are getting lots of these rejections it may be time to review your technique, or do a few lens tests to check the focus.

« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2008, 12:39 »
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I have checked my lenses with the inverted meterstick test, they focus perfect, though my 50mm plainly has absolutely awful corner sharpness at less than f/5.6.  It may be perfect in the center, but get out to a corner with fine detail and it is blurry at 100%.  Even at f/5.6 it is noticeable, it really takes the f/8-f/10 band to be in peak performance, which means it requires ungodly amounts of light to handhold a shot no matter what (no magic hour shooting by hand).

Thing is, if it takes an unsharpened 50mm prime shot at f/8 just to be good enough, how on earth does anybody with a PnS or non-L zoom or prime ever get a shot accepted?

Could be though that my 50 is just a piece of crap and I need to get a new one though, my 70-300 has noticeably superior IQ in every respect.

One thing I noticed with respect to noise, is my camera's (350D) red channel is pure garbage.  With a circular polarizer on the red channel is essentially noise, and I took a shot that finally confirmed what I have suspected.  Whenever manipulate the tone curve at all, I typically get muddy gray halos around detail in high contrast areas, yesterday I took a shot that confirmed that it is nearly 100% isolated to the red channel.  The color was bleeding all over the red channel.  In a straight camera-raw-CS2 conversion (no changed settings at all (the shot was frustrating me so I wanted to check it out)) the green and blue channels were perfectly sharp in the greyscale of the channel, the red was just a bunch of bled blobs of color with almost no detail.  it was some Cherry blossoms set against the blue sky, any attempt to enhance the sky just enhanced the gray blobs surrounding all of the blossoms that came from the red bleed over.  Is this known to be a common XT problem?  It seems like this would be caused by poor interpolation of the pixels by the processing chip, so this should be present in all Canon digic II cameras unless somehow my chip is a piece of crap too.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2008, 12:51 by Waldo4 »

« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2008, 16:25 »
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For SS, since there's no difference in royalties based on size, I just find it easier to downres if something gets rejected for focus.

Part of the issue of SS to me seems the reviewers don't get selective focus.  If the center area where they default zoom isn't sharp, they seem to reject the whole thing, even when a different area is meant to be the sharpest.

« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2008, 16:48 »
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I think you're getting too involved with the technical aspects of your photography.

Sure, images have to be technically good in order to be accepted, but in order to sell they need to convey some sort of message and/or have emotional impact. If an image is strong enough in these areas it will be accepted and sell (almost) regardless of technical merit. Conversely, it's not uncommon for technically excellent images to be rejected or reside in the huge pile of accepted but ignored images - this is not where you want to be.

If you want to be successful in this industry, you're going to have to abandon your inverted meterstick tests (whatever they are), corner sharpness measurements, and red channel noise analysis in favor of thinking up concepts/marketable ideas and using your photography skills to illustrate them. Once you get the hang of this, getting images accepted will no longer a problem. Once you get good at it, selling images won't be either.


PS - I rarely sharpen, and shoot at f/8 most of the time.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2008, 16:53 by sharply_done »

« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2008, 17:15 »
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IMO 50mm lenses are usually excellent value for money, that is not perfect but for the price a very good performer.   If you are talking a sigma / tamron 70-300 (which is another good value for money lens but usually not spectacular) you're 50mm should be significantly better.  I have some beautiful glass ie voigtlander 125 & 180's but I also have plenty of shots accepted from a 35-135mm zoom that cost $20 from the pawn shop :)

I have shots that are technically perfect, but boring get rejected while shots that I know are a bit noisy or not so perfect get accepted because they are 'good shots' (well I think they are :)

as for sharpening I leave lightroom on default sharpening,  I usually do a little hiroloam sharpen (between 8-15) and then if needed (often for my taste) I high pass sharpen anywhere between 0.5 and 1.2 depending on the image and subject, and I often use masks to just hit specific points.   So basically I do the first 2 stages.  Capture sharpen and then gentle creative sharp but leaving the final sharpening for the purchaser.  Doing it this way I never get oversharpened :)

Phil

« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2008, 17:44 »
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I agree with all that Sharply above has said!

DanP68

« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2008, 05:44 »
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Sharply pretty much nailed it.

Regarding sharpening...I don't.  My favorite sharpening plugin is Fred Miranda's Intellisharpen II.  It is great for my sports photography which is not intended for stock usage.  However despite its claims, it indeed introduces artifacts and halo (even with 0 halo chosen).  These things were not clear to me when I first started shooting stock.  Now they are obvious.  The effects of sharpening ruin the image in my eyes, when it comes to producing nice, clean stock.


« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2008, 05:55 »
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I have checked my lenses with the inverted meterstick test, they focus perfect, though my 50mm plainly has absolutely awful corner sharpness at less than f/5.6.  (SNIPPED BABBLE)

I had a 350D with a kit lens, and then I upgraded to the 50mm prime.  I don't think I ever got an image rejected anywhere for softness (a few for out of focus, but yea, they really were out of focus!).

Forget the technical metering tests or whatever they are.  You could shoot a whole portfolio of images with a second hand 350D and kit lens what would make you thousands a month.  That combination is sharp enough for stock.  In fact, I think the first half of my portfolio was shot soley on that combo!  Learn to USE your equipment before you moan about it.  The edge sharpness on the 50mm prime is more than adequate, I use it almost exclusively at f1.8 for my stock stuff.  It's the reason I bought it!

As for the colour / sensor issues, I've never seen them myself.  Perhaps you're doing something in post processing that's causing problems.  Could you post a 100% crop of the problem?

« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2008, 12:32 »
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Sure, images have to be technically good in order to be accepted


This would be the crux of my problem.  Sans having a studio to do any studio work or a model to do any shots with humans, I have been relying on shots out and around the town to this point ( :() or limited stuff that is possible with a single off camera flash (I figured out some great ways to fake a fancy studio with PS with multiple exposures and an off camera flash, but several hours of PP work per shot is way too inefficient to be reasonable).  I don't have a problem getting the studio type stuff accepted, but my setup is way too inefficient to do much with (very creatively stifling as well, all the creativity goes into faking proper lighting), but that will change shortly, I've got some studio lights on the way, so I can begin to act on my little black book full of ideas that has been filling up but has little checked off the list.

The meterstick thing is a means to test the focusing of your lenses (response to the first reply), tilt a meterstick, aim at the 18" mark with the camera on a tripod from about 5-8 ft away, let it AF with the lens wide open and take a shot.  If it is focusing correctly the 18" will be sharp, other #'s will be blurry, if it has front focus or backfocus problems a different # will be sharp.  I learned this with my first lens, which was a Sigma 18-200.  Darn thing could not take a sharp shot.  Checked it on the stick and it had a severe backfocus problem.   I didn't want to go through the hoopla of getting it fixed so I returned it and got a Canon lens (2 actually).  First thing I did with those is check them too to make sure the focus was correct.  Both were perfect.  My 70-300 is a Canon not Sigma or Tamron (I'll probably never get another 3rd party lens after the first Sigma incident).  I learned right away that some of the first shots with a new lens (especially an internet purchase) should be to test its focus, and this is a quick and easy way.

My 50mm though, taken straight on at a wall from 10 ft away on a tripod will be pure blur in the corners (RH side much worse than the left) and sharp in the center at less than f/5.6, so bad that all shots at less than f/5.6 have been rejected for focus.  Every landscape shot that I have taken has been rejected for this (landscapes are tough, the degree of technical perfection must be higher than a great idea in a studio).  I typically shoot landscapes when the sun is getting low, I can HH a 1/60 f/3.5 shot fine, but they will all be rejected for the corners.  I'll post some little example 100% crops of this and my red bleed later (I need to check if it is an ACR problem causing the bleed, might not be present if I use Canon's program).  I get the feeling though my 50mm is just a bad copy, heck it is an $80 lens, can't expect them all to be perfect, just have to stick to isolations with it until I upgrade, I'll have a superwide for the landscapes in not too long anyway.

The question that prompted the thread though has been answered.  Skip the sharpening.

« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2008, 12:54 »
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limited stuff that is possible with a single off camera flash (I figured out some great ways to fake a fancy studio with PS with multiple exposures and an off camera flash, but several hours of PP work per shot is way too inefficient to be reasonable). 

Like I've said before, almost all my "studio" / isolated shots in my portfolio have been taken with a single flashgun and a 350D with a 50mm lens.  If you put your mind to it, you can do it.  Sure, you can't shoot full shots of people with that set up, (although I managed a few head shots easily) but you can easily build a good isolated portfolio of smallish objects with a single flashgun.  Beats wandering around town hoping to get a shot, and a far more efficient use of my time!  My isolated shots barely need any processing, so I'm not sure what you're doing to need to spend hours in post processing!

« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2008, 13:19 »
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How do you get past shadows and the directional light of a flash?  Even bounced a flash leaves bad shadows (my current (soon to be obsolete) setup is a white sheet attached to a wall draped over a small glass top end table with attached white sides and a very low ceiling (the top almost touches it)).  If the object needs front light, the shadows are bad in the back, from above the shadows are bad in the front (plus the underside of objects are heavily shaded).  I shoot with the remote release on the tripod, move the flash around, then combine several exposures into one with layer masks and blending modes.  I get good results, but it is very tedious.

I'm switching to 2 strobes with modeling lights with a few light control means (umbrellas, softboxes, barndoors, grid) (really didn't cost too much either, they're fairly low power, cheaper than a 580 flash), dropping the sides on the setup, hanging the sheet from a curtain rod and getting a few other fabrics, and moving my flash under the table for isolations (goodbye shadows).  I'll be able to take my camera off the tripod and HH it so I can move around and take less sterile pictures, plus I'll have the light and space to do so much more.  Heck I've got the space, I've got an unused finished attic just waiting to be used for something (my studio).  Most of my ideas just aren't possible or are very difficult to pull off good with a single flash and camera tied to a tripod.  I've spent hours pondering how to pull off some shots, even then it is iffy so I haven't tried with the more challenging stuff (and failed on a few things to get results that I liked).  I always came to the same conclusion...if I only had proper lights and a less restrictive space.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2008, 13:22 by Waldo4 »

« Reply #12 on: March 04, 2008, 13:27 »
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I put a sheet of white posterboard on the table, and one propped up behind if I'm shooting something from a low angle, or something like flowers.  I the flash on a tripod next to the object, obviously out of shot, and aim it at the ceiling.  Full power.  The white ceiling bounces the flash around the room into a really nice diffused light.  Shoot at around ISO200/160 on f9 or so and you're onto a winner with images like this:






Both images taken as explained, with very little post processing.  I'm a fan of light shadows, but they could fairly easily be removed.  Some subjects would be easier than others of course!  You can always bounce extra lights in with silver foil around the base if you feel I need it.  But this way it takes me about a minute to shoot each object, and about another minute to process them!

I do have a pair of Elinchrom 400W stobes that I use on occasion for larger objects, but I just can't be bothered to set them up for small stuff.

« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2008, 13:54 »
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Would you use your big strobes if they were always set up and you had a dedicated studio?  Just takes a little repositioning (maybe, I figure there would be a standard small object isolation layout).  Then again, I don't have a huge amount of interest in just finding small objects around the house and isolating them, though a white or black background is key for most of my ideas.

« Reply #14 on: March 04, 2008, 14:20 »
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Would you use your big strobes if they were always set up and you had a dedicated studio?  Just takes a little repositioning (maybe, I figure there would be a standard small object isolation layout).  Then again, I don't have a huge amount of interest in just finding small objects around the house and isolating them, though a white or black background is key for most of my ideas.

Sure, if I had the space to set up a full working studio, but I don't.  I live in the UK, with some of the highest properties in the world.  It'll be another 15-20 years before I buy my own property with a room for a studio, and certainly a few years before my partner and I can afford to rent anywhere of a decent size.  So I make do.  Except in this case, making do is technically simpler than multiple strobes, no need to meter and it takes 5 mins to set up and gets accepted at all the sites.  Sounds like a winner to me.


 

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