This results in pictures that do not look as sharp as those shot by professional photographers. If I increase the ISO, the pictures turn noisy. Any solution? I am using a Canon EOS 550D. Currently I do not use a tripod.
Kadam Nair, via email
1. For wild life, shoot in RAW and try shooting at ISO 800. This will give you a 3-stop advantage over the most widely-used ISO 100, and your pictures will definitely be sharper. With the 550D, pictures should not be noisy at ISO 800.
2. Take time to focus. If necessary, press the shutter release button halfway more than once. Focus carefully on the subject’s eyes. Remember that with slow lenses, achieving autofocus is difficult. Autofocusing accuracy and speed also depend on the camera body. (Also read the article ‘Are you Autofocusing Accurately’ in
3. Instead of taking just one shot, shoot a fast continuous burst, of say, 3 frames. The second frame is likely to be sharper! This is because there is a greater chance of camera shake on the first frame (when the shutter release button is pressed down), and on the last frame (when you release pressure on the shutter release button).
4. If you are shooting in JPEG, set your Picture Control to Landscape. This increases the in-camera sharpness setting by one notch. You could of course set the in-camera sharpness much higher but there is always a chance of ‘jaggies’ when using JPEG, so be careful.
5. Use your lens’ optimum aperture (the aperture that provides the maximum sharpness at the focused plane).
A question of basics
I recently purchased a Canon EOS 550 D camera. This is my first SLR camera. I take photographs in auto and portrait mode but I am not happy since everything adjusts automatically.
I want to experiment by setting the aperture, ISO etc. I am regularly reading the user manual to understand but still can’t follow. Would it be possible to guide me?
Sumit Kumar Panja, via email
It is true that using a camera on auto modes may deprive you of some of the pleasure of photography. When you use the camera in manual mode (or semi-manual modes), you get the feeling that you are in control, and not the machine. To some users, this feeling is important.
It is necessary to learn the basics, step-by-step. The user manual explains all the steps a beginner needs to know about using the camera. If you do not understand what it says, please read it again and yet again, till you can make some meaning out of it. Open a page and cross-check the contents with the camera. This is the important part of learning how to use the camera. Sit with a friend who can help you.
Nikon D3100 kit lens in auto
Nikon D60 kit lens in auto
Nikon D3100 Images Not Sharp?
I am a freelance photographer. I have been using a Nikon D60 for last 2 years. I recently purchased a Nikon D3100 trusting the reports published in Smart Photography. Unfortunately, the photos captured in D3100 are not satisfactory. Sharpness is too low for a entry level amateur AF camera. Images seem like paintings. I am attaching some samples for your verification.
I am totally disappointed and the company has not responded positively yet. When I mailed some images taken with Sigma lens they said that they are not liable to give any assistance for third party lenses. Five of my friends too have bought the same model camera. All are made in Thailand. I am expecting your valuable suggestions on the issue.
I have checked all the images you have sent us. On the face of it, your D60 images appear slightly sharper than those from the D3100. But there is a reason. The D60 images have more contrast than the D3100 images, and because of that, the images appear sharper. This may be because the D60 images were shot at ISO 220, and the D3100 ones were at ISO 400.
Besides this, it is possible that both the cameras are set differently. The default settings may also defer. You can always increase the in-camera contrast as well as sharpness in your D3100 but if I were you, I would not do that. Instead, I would increase the contrast and sharpness when post-processing the images in any image editing program. The low in-camera contrast helps to prevent clipping of highlights and the low-in-camera sharpening helps to minimize the ‘jaggies’ in JPEG images.
I don’t think it matters where the camera is made. Manufacturers try and enforce the same quality control in every manufacturing plant. The reason for having manufacturing plants outside of Japan is to reduce the costs, so that you and I can get good equipment at reasonable price.
Sensor size and enlargements
Read the very informative article on ‘How large can you print?’ in the April 2011 issue. I have a query.
Sensor size of a point and shoot / APS-C D-SLR / full frame D-SLR are different. So what role does the sensor size play in an enlargement of a print? Or, will the print quality from a 14 megapixel point and shoot / APS-C D-SLR / full-frame D-SLR be the same?
Dr. (Major) L.M.S. Negi, Dehradun
We are glad you liked the said article.
Just as with film, larger the sensor, better the overall print quality (assuming that lens quality and care taken during exposing/processing is equally high). Larger sensors have larger photo diodes which capture more photons of light, which in turn provide better dynamic range and better noise control.
Hence for obvious reasons, there will definitely be a difference in print quality between a 14MP P&S, APS-C size D-SLR and full-frame D-SLR.
I am a regular reader of Smart Photography and I have to admit that I have learned a lot from SP. I have had no formal training in photography and this is my only source of knowledge. I have a Nikon D3100, a standard 18-55mm lens and a Sigma 70-300mm lens without image stabilization.
1. Is it true that a teleconverter cannot be used with my Sigma lens? Can it be used only with block lenses? Or is there any way I can make use of the teleconverter for extended zoom?
2. What is the shutter life expectancy (actuation) for Nikon D3100?
3. At 300mm, my zoom images seems to degrade in quality. Is there any way to fix this problem?
S. Pradeep, via email
1. I have checked Sigma’s website for the possibility of using a teleconverter with a Sigma 70-300mm F/4-5.6 APO DG Macro lens. Unfortunately, their Teleconverter Compatibility Chart does not mention that it can be used.
2. The shutter life expectancy of the Nikon D3100 is 100,000 cycles. This does not mean that it will die after that figure is achieved; neither does it mean that nothing can go wrong before that period!
3. Many zoom lenses do not perform equally well at their longest end, but this is more likely with zooms having an extended range. 70-300mm is just a bit over 4x and hence I do not feel that to be the reason for your problem. On your D3100, the maximum effective focal length would be equivalent to 450mm. This means nine times magnification over the normal 50mm lens. While this is nice, have you considered that even your hand-shake is magnified 9 times? I am reasonably sure that you are not using a tripod. And if you don’t use one, you have no reason to complain. Start using a good tripod and you’ll soon find a great improvement in your image quality. And by ‘good’, I don’t mean those frail, plastic tripods!
Think it Over!
With so much competition these days, is it possible to make money out of photography? By the time you earn enough to cover what you have invested, there’s a new camera model with better features. What’s your say on this?
Martin Dias, Bengaluru
You seem to have hit the nail on the head! Yes, it’s true that by the time you can earn assignments to cover the cost of the equipment, new models are available which tempt you to spend further.
Let me ask you a counter question. If you had an old car, would you want a new one even though the old one is working perfectly? I think your answer would be ‘yes’.
We need to differentiate between ‘need’ and ‘want’. ‘Need’ would relate to requiring equipment because we cannot survive without it or because, without it, we cannot progress. In other words, it is a ‘must have’. ‘Want’, on the other hand, is a superfluous urge or greed to possess something new (may be to show off to our neighbors!). I think manufacturers and advertising agencies thrive on our desire to keep wanting new things in life. I think they must be employing ‘psychiatrists’ who very well understand the working of the human brain!
So, coming back to your question, my answer would be “it depends”. It depends on your technical skills and knowledge about photography in general, your marketing skills (very important), your creativity, and your attitude towards your clients. I know of photographers with very limited technical skills, but who have wonderful ‘gift-of-the-gab’ who are ‘pushy’ without being offensive. I know for sure that they are earning more than their technically accomplished brethren.
Remember too that photography, like other things in life, requires ‘showmanship’. Clients feel better if they see modern equipment with you (wouldn’t you feel more comfortable visiting a hospital having the latest equipment?). You have to decide the limit; you have to draw the line between ‘needed’ and ‘wanted’.