Newbie: E-PM1 & very blurry night portrait :(

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by urcindalo, Aug 6, 2012.

  1. urcindalo

    urcindalo Mu-43 Rookie

    Aug 6, 2012
    Almería, Spain
    Hi everyone and thanks for helping me!
    I just bought an Olympus E-PM1. I upgraded from the compact world, having owned previously a Finepix F30 and a Panny DMC-ZS7.
    I used the camera for the first time at a home party this weekend and tried to take some night portraits. So I set the E-PM1 both to iAuto and "night portrait" Scene modes, upped the flash and shot. Unfortunately, to my surprise, the camera always tried to collect light for a few seconds whilst the ISO was automatically set at 200, so the pictures ended up very blurry for both modes :(

    I discovered this would happen whenever the camera automatically detected and focused on people's faces. If no face is recognized in advance, like focusing on a bottle, the picture is OK.
    So, two questions:
    1) Is my camera faulty and should I return it? (I don't think so)
    2) How am I supposed to take a "night portrait" and not ending up with an extremely blurred image?
    Thanks in advance.
  2. sokar

    sokar Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 30, 2011
    Hi urcindalo,

    I own the EPM1 and use both the kitted small flash and the FL36R via the hot shoe, and by RC mode. I have never struck this problem, however I have never used either Iauto or the night portrait modes. 99% of my shooting is in "A" mode so that I have control of the DOF.

    I have the ISO set within the range of 200 - 1600 mostly, but when I am in night mode I will set the ISO to 200 and the flash to either "fill" or "auto". I use the 17mm and 45mm Oly lenses and have found that the kit flash has ample power for the longer range of the 45mm lens. For portraits with the flash on camera the TTL setting works quite well and is easily controllable via the SCP.

    A suggestion would be to try "A" mode and see how your results are. With the camera in "A" mode, flash set to either auto or fill, and the ISO at base of 200 should yield consistent results. With the face priority I have found that if I am using the 45mm lens at some distance, with more than one face in the picture, and wide open at F:1.8, the face priority cannot work as the DOF is too narrow to allow the face priority to work. If this occurs, stopping down the lens to F:2.2 or more will provide sufficient DOF for the face priority to function.

    Hope this is of assistance.
  3. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Your camera is not faulty. can you please post some examples? Possible explanations are:

    The subjects are too distant and the flash too weak
    Are you sure you were on auto ISO?
    Fast moving subjects.

    I'm guessing you are using the kit lens? That's a tough one to work to success in low light situations.

    Sokar suggestion of A mode is a possible fix, but post some examples. No need to post multiple examples of the same thing, but if you have different types of failed pics, post those and we can figure out what's going on.
  4. urcindalo

    urcindalo Mu-43 Rookie

    Aug 6, 2012
    Almería, Spain
    Thanks for your help (both of you).

    Here are some of the photos to illustrate what I mean.

    1) "Night portrait" or iAuto, I can't remember. You can see the blur. They are sitting next to me.

    2) Pointing downwards immediately before the picture in 1). Actually, it was a mistake, I didn't mean to take this picture. The orange shoe belongs to the boy in 1), big feet are mine: P7040025-1.

    3) "Night portrait":

    4) Almost the same photo as in 3), but not letting the camera focus on any face: P7040033-1.

    What am I doing wrong? Are you able to reproduce these issues?
  5. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    I just ran a couple of super-quick tests on my EPM1. I used night+portrait mode. I got the same effect you found

    After shooting, I looked up "night portrait mode" (I'll call it NPM for short). This is the wrong mode for your use case.

    NPM is for taking pictures of a person in front of a scenic nightime vista. See Night Portraits and Big City Lights

    It's assuming that the ONLY thing that will light up your subject will be your flash. There is no other light on them at the time. It's also assuming that the background is far away and will not be lit by the flash. Finally, it's assuming you are keeping the camera steady -- most likely on a tripod. So, it's opening up the shutter for a long time, to get in the background. Then it pops the flash at the end, to light up the foreground portrait.

    Your issue is that your subjects are already well lit. So, while the camera is opening up a long time for the background, it's also getting a ghost image of your people. Then it pops the flash, and gets a strong image of the people. You end up with this ghosting image. (by the way, when I shot my EPM1, it strobed the flash. Most likely to get a meter reading off the subject in the foreground. This would likely confuse your subjects if they aren't aware of it, causing them to move, and increasing the ghosting because of the existing strong lighting. You can see that in the first image where everyone moved quite a bit).

    For flash use, especially at casual parties, I almost always use straight-up P mode. Sokar is right, in that you can use A mode, as well, but I find P mode works well. Then, I play with the flash exposure compensation, based on the results I'm getting.

    Hope that helps, and sorry for your first mis-fire. You will learn a lot if you just keep shooting and asking questions.
    • Like Like x 7
  6. sokar

    sokar Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 30, 2011
    On a side note, WT21 who responded to your original post wrote a review some months ago on the EPM1. It is worth a read to get to know your camera better.

    This is a great little camera and delivers quality results for such a small package. It will take a little time to get the menus / functions sorted, and for you as a user to become comfortable with the Oly menu structure.

    Activating the SCP (super control panel) is a must. This makes the EPM1 much more capable and prevents the need to continually search into the menus of the camera for simple setting changes. By activating the SCP you can easily adjust the flash power to maximise your results.

    In either "P", "S" or "A" modes the function wheel controls everything. Once you become comfortable with shooting outside of the auto modes, you will see the benefits of manually controlling things.

    Line up a family member and experiment. The more you use it and experiment the quicker you will master the functionality. For me, M43 was my first step up from bridge and compacts, apart from an older EOS SLR in the film days.

    My first M43 body was an EP1 and the EPM1 has some advantages over the older Oly bodies. The Auto WB on the EPM1 is excellent and rarely needs to be adjusted; the EP1 was another case altogether. The focus assist lamp and the quicker focusing of the EPM1 also make a big difference over earlier M43 bodies.

    As I posted earlier, the kit flash with this camera is powerful enough for most applications, especially at parties etc. It is also a wonderfully small and pocket-able camera for parties and nights out that delivers quality results.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. Photodan1

    Photodan1 Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 26, 2012
    Nashville, Tennessee, USA
    Real Name:
    What he said - that mode is good if you are shooting a portrait in front of a nice low light scene in the background. Even then, make sure you use the image stabilization or a tripod. If you want to pick up some background detail, try metering for the scene without flash then putting in a little fill flash. You can also open up your aperture or bump up the ISO to get that same effect. For handheld, even with a flash, you will want to shoot at over 1/60th of a second. From a close distance it doesn't take much.

  8. urcindalo

    urcindalo Mu-43 Rookie

    Aug 6, 2012
    Almería, Spain
    I'm been out of town for a few days. Sorry for not thanking you all properly on time. So, thanks everyone for the tips and advices. I'm so glad to have found you!! :2thumbs:

    I initially thought the upgrade path from the upper-compact world would be smoother, but I just realized the large extent on my ignorance.

    I sure would be popping up more questions, like this one ;)

    Again, thanks.