Need Help Getting Sharp Portraits With Olympus OMD

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by broncophil, May 13, 2013.

  1. broncophil

    broncophil Mu-43 Veteran

    May 23, 2010
    Need some help here.. What are people doing to get sharp photos with the OMD and, lets say.... the 45 1.8 (or longer lenses)

    I get good results with the shorter, primes like the 14 and 17.. but when I use the 45 or even the 40-150, the focus is a little off either front focus or extreme rear focus..

    I dont have examples with me, cause I'm at work, but I thought I would get a head start before I posted examples..

    I use face priority when shooting portraits? Is that strike one? Should I turn that off? Also, I'm using the EVF and the physical shutter button, I feel like I get better results using touchscreen but I dont like shooting like that..

    *****note***** I was using an ND filter wide open when I noticed I was missing a lot of shots.. could this be at fault as well?
  2. slothead

    slothead Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 14, 2012
    Frederick, MD
    From the conditions you mention (sharp with wide, not sharp with longer) it occurs to me that steadiness of the camera could be an issue. A wide lens will reduce the impact of camera vibration and a longer lens will magnify it. It is also more common for the longer lenses to be "slower" (although the 45/1.8 doesn't fit that model), thereby allowing a faster shutter speed with the wider lenses (and thus reducing the effect of camera movement). Is there any way for you to classify your good versus bad photos based on shutter speed, or the potential for vibration?
  3. ean10775

    ean10775 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 31, 2011
    Cleveland, Ohio
    I agree with slothead's assessment. To help ensure sharp pictures it often makes sense to use the old 1/focal lengh shutter speed rule. Taking into account the FOV crop that would mean that it would generally be good practice to shoot with your shutter speed at 1/100sec or faster. The IBIS of the E-M5 will help in situations where low light doesn't allow a shutter speed that fast provided your subject is stationary. However, if you are using an ND filter I'm assuming you are in bright light where 1/100sec or faster shutter speeds shouldn't be a problem. Also, keep in mind that wide open at f1.8 DOF will be particularly shallow if your subject is relatively close to the camera. If your subject moves or you focus and recompose you could be shifting the plane of focus causing it to appear as if the camera missed focus.
  4. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    With those fast lenses perfect focus is even more important.
  5. Liamness

    Liamness Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 20, 2011
    He said the problem was slight front/back focusing. He is misfocusing his shots, basically. An easy problem to solve, just needs to spend a bit of time learning how to prefocus properly and control depth of field. Face detection is a promising technology, but if it isn't working for you then the only recourse is to learn how to do it manually.

    If you don't like tap-to-focus, just select the focus area manually beforehand. Then you can focus on the eyes with a half-press, then recompose. Shoot aperture priority so you can stop down if you need to.
  6. broncophil

    broncophil Mu-43 Veteran

    May 23, 2010
    thanks for the responses so far.. another shot in the dark, if i turn the camera orientation does the IBIS change.. ie vertical / horizontal .. cause i have the IBIS set to 1.

  7. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 14, 2012
    New Mexico
    I never use face detection, so I don't know how much that might be a problem. (I have nothing against it; it just didn't exist when I was learning to shoot and the techniques I learned then still serve me pretty well.) I've shot a lot with the 45 f1.8 on the OMD, though, and both lens and camera always come through for me. If your subjects are moving, you might be able to focus and recompose faster than face detection can do it. Giving it a try can't hurt.

    good luck.
  8. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    Set your focus point manually (make it as small as possible) and aim at the eyes. And realize you don't always want to be shooting wide open - even with 'large' DOF of MFT, a head and shoulders portrait with the 45/1.8 shot wide open can still only mean one eye sharp and in focus, depending on the angle of the subject.
  9. cdmicha

    cdmicha Mu-43 Regular Subscribing Member

    Dec 28, 2012
    I think we'd really need to see the pictures to better assess what's happening. There are so many variables in non-sharp photos, I'd hate to even hazard a guess. I do know that the OM-D and 45 1.8 is a very sharp pairing, so something somewhere is amis.

    With that said, when I'm taking portraits with my 45, I often stop down to 2 or even 2.8 (if I'm close). I love how much detail you can get with this combo!
  10. darosk

    darosk Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Apr 17, 2013
    Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
    You can do "pinpoint focusing" by hitting magnify button (I have it set on Fn2 button) - which will bring up the magnifying box (which you can change the size - I make it the smallest, 14x). While the little green box is on the screen, AF will be locked to that small box - and you can move the box around anywhere in the screen. I find this is far more accurate then the main AF system when you really need to pinpoint your subject, which in this case are the eyes.

    If your subject is not moving, this mode is very useful. The normal AF mode does not do badly, but at speeds like f/1.8 it can sometimes miss, this is true.
  11. Pecos

    Pecos Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 20, 2013
    The Natural State
    I came to Olympus due to mis-focus issues with my DSLR; OM-D has been stellar in this area. On a rare occasion I've had mis-focused shots without clear explanation, but they've been very few.
    I use the smallest focusing point possible, focus on the eye usually, then recompose.
    I have had good luck with face detection - it's faster than the above, and accurate for me.

    I would agree we need to see images to help.
  12. broncophil

    broncophil Mu-43 Veteran

    May 23, 2010
  13. broncophil

    broncophil Mu-43 Veteran

    May 23, 2010
  14. broncophil

    broncophil Mu-43 Veteran

    May 23, 2010
    i can only use the super small focus box using touchscreen.. unless i am missing something..
  15. rozza

    rozza Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 2, 2013
    New Zealand
    I suggest you try S-AF + manual, set up to magnify when you move the focus ring. This will be very beneficial in situations such as portraits of people wearing glasses.
  16. rozza

    rozza Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 2, 2013
    New Zealand
    By the way, I don't think it matters that you can't use the super small focus box while using the magnify method. Seems sufficient to me.
  17. broncophil

    broncophil Mu-43 Veteran

    May 23, 2010
    thanks for the tip.

    i just tried this.. im liking this method already. the reason i didnt like using the manual/magnify alone is because it would zoom in... using this method it doesnt zoom in..
  18. abepak

    abepak Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 21, 2013
    SFV, CA
    It's CDAF, so it doesn't really front focus or back focus. Chances are, if that happens, you're mostly missing focus.

    It's probably easier for you to hit focus with the wider lens since the dof is significantly larger compared to a 45mm 1.8 wide open. You might not have noticed not hitting focus perfectly with the 14 or the 17, but depending on how close you are to the subject, you might have their face be slightly out of focus if you focused on their chest for example.

    If it slightly front focused, you probably focused on not their face but a something like their chest, or you slightly leaned forward when you finally took the shot. If it gave an extreme back focus, you probably missed and focused on something in the background.

    I don't use face recognition. I didn't find it to be very useful. I thought the recognition box was too large for my taste. It could be that the face detect box is too large and ends up focusing on the most contrasty item within the box. Try to turn that off and either try focus and recompose or move the focus point and take the shot.

    Also, note that the lens' sharpest aperture is stopped down a bit from wide open. So a shot at 1.8 may not be as sharp as a shot taken at 2.4. The ND filter should be okay unless it's causing reflection or is just made flat out bad. You can test to see if this is the problem. Set the focus on manual and take 2 shots, one with and one without and compare.
  19. yekimrd

    yekimrd Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 14, 2012
    Cincinnati, OH
    What works for me is I focus on the eyebrows (making sure the box doesn't overlap with the rim of the glasses).
  20. rich9cinti

    rich9cinti Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 23, 2013
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    I, too, am a fan of the half-press focus on the eye(s) then recompose (make sure you are in single image and single AF mode). Works fairly well but you will run into the softness at wide open aperture if recomposing takes the person's eyes to the edges. Light is always your friend, you need it to get crisp and clean portraits. Also, try to stop down to 4-5.6 to get more of the facial features sharper... you can still achieve bokeh if you have the subject closer to your lens and the background further away. You will have to fight through the shutter speed to FL rule though when stopping down to 4-5.6. Tripods help in that respect.

    For eye shots behind glasses can be tricky but doable. You will need to make the focal point small enough and be close enough to the person's face to get it right. If you are too far away to get the focus point isolating the eye, then the lens will catch the eyeglass frame. If you can't get close enough because you are doing a body portrait, the challenge is to find out what part of the person's face is the same plain as the eye... this differs obviously depending on facial feature.

    Oh, and face detection... ok for casual or street photography... works ok for me but I would not depend on it. It is a nice feature for casual shots.
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