Sharpening best practice for a portrait?

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by Zuri, May 18, 2016.

  1. Zuri

    Zuri Mu-43 Regular

    156
    Apr 20, 2016
    Hi,

    I got a very nice portrait of my daughter I took the other day, but it's not as sharp as I wished for. I used the 42.5mm 1.7 lens with aperture set to 1.7 with my GX7. I wish I've used 2.0+, it would be better I assume.

    What are the best practice for sharpening this photo? I guess using lightroom? Any recommendation?

    Thank you

    Sent from my SM-G935F using Mu-43 app
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2016
  2. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    Lightroom comes with a preset for portrait sharpening called "Sharpen-faces". Just use that as a starting point. If you want a bit more skin texture try reducing the masking setting and/or increasing the detail setting. If you want a bit less skin texture try decreasing masking and/or increasing the detail setting. You can also adjust the radius setting and decreasing it will tend to bring out skin detail while increasing it will suppress it but for portraits you probably want a setting around 1.4 which is what the preset uses, and you don't want to reduce the setting below 1.0 unless you really want to start to bring out lots of skin detail. Play with amount as well.

    Make sharpening and noise reduction adjustments at a 1:1 zoom setting because that gives you an accurate view of what your adjustments are doing.
     
    • Informative Informative x 2
  3. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Lorenzo
    The 42.5 improves when stopped down, like about any lens, but is perfectly usable wide open with good results. In practice the shot should be plenty sharp with the default in camera sharpening. So I think the problem may be different.

    Maybe a slight focus error? Like the focus on the nose tip rather then on the eyes? Or the far eye is in focus rather then the near one? Or maybe a little motion blur ((from subject or camera movement) caused by a shutter speed too low ? A sample could help.

    If the photo is "blurry" and you want to "save/fix" it is a different matter from sharpening. In this case I would try downscaling (about half the size) and apply sharpening. Or...it depends.
    Any editor is fine: Olympus Viewer 3 (free), Lightroom, Darktable (free), Rawtherapee (free).
     
  4. Zuri

    Zuri Mu-43 Regular

    156
    Apr 20, 2016
    Thanks for your input. Here's the sample: Yahoo - login

    Sent from my SM-G935F using Mu-43 app
     
  5. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Lorenzo
    The image on Flickr is a downscaled version with all the EXIF data removed. Yes, it looks a little soft. I think the shutter speed was fast enough (very fast): you were outdoor, wide open, the hairs are still even with the wind. Focus seems correct.

    Sharpening it in Darktable with default settings brings it to life. I suspect that the downscale (to about half the size) canceled the default in camera sharpening leaving you with a blurry image(*). Sharpening should always be the last thing you do because other edits can easily cancel it, most programs do this as the last step by default.

    The original one from the camera should look better. If it doesn't...what was the shutter speed? Is only this picture or every one? Did you changed the default in camera sharpening level?


    (*) recompressing a jpeg to a different size also corrupt the image a little, but I'm splitting hairs here.
     
  6. spatulaboy

    spatulaboy I'm not really here

    Jul 13, 2011
    North Carolina
    Vin
    I looked at the photo. It's a focus issue and nothing to do with sharpness. The camera had focused on the hair on the side of her face, which is on a focal plane a few mm behind her eyes. You can use the adjustment brush in lightroom to sharpen up her eyes. It will help a little.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  7. Zuri

    Zuri Mu-43 Regular

    156
    Apr 20, 2016
  8. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    +1 Sharpening isn't very helpful in fixing technical flaws. I know. I've tried many times. :-(
     
  9. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    DOF or focus issue, not sharpness issue, really. Not much you can do.

    Usually you can try again with your kids, so a reshoot might work better than editing attempts. I've got thousands of pics of my kids, so I usually delete ruthlessly if there are any technical errors.
     
  10. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Cute daughter. And yes, it is a bit out of focus. For showing on a phone to family, it should work. But, your daughter is still young so you have lots of time to get that one perfect image to hang on a wall. And yes, stopping down not only usually give you a sharper aperture, it also give you a bit more DOF that can sometimes save you hide when you are ever so slightly off focus.

    Good luck,

    --Ken
     
  11. Zuri

    Zuri Mu-43 Regular

    156
    Apr 20, 2016
    Thanks for your input

    What aperture would you use here? 2.8? 3.5? How should I knew this before I take the shot?

    Sent from my SM-G935F using Mu-43 app
     
  12. pellicle

    pellicle Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 10, 2010
    Southport, OzTrailEYa
    pellicle
    no issues when I viewed it.

    I agree with @spatulaboy@spatulaboy's comment above. This is exactly the sort of thing which I keep reiterating. Using a narrow DoF lens at its widest aperture requires deft focus placement. You can not rely on a machine to make the choices you want it to make. If anything I'd probably put the focus method over to face recognition as I've noted that focuses better on the eyes.

    However I prefer to focus myself using the magnified view of the Focus Assist. The technique I use is to know my composition first and then "zoom in" and click as soon as its focused right. Works fast for me (and I use manual focus lenses too :)

    For instance I deliberately targeted the closer eyelash and the dummy center for my focus (and noone was holding still for me either)

    3792061600_8252498da5_o.

    get it right in camera and its then worth working on :)

    However I'd agree that using f2 may have given you better "fudge factor" and as well may actually look better ... why not try a few experiments? you know ... practice?

    IMO the ultra narrow shots are really hard to pull off.

    To answer the question selective sharpening is the "best practice" so sharpen only the things like eyes and eylashes but not so much the skin on the face as women seldom want to see wrinkles or pimples in exquisite sharpness... IMO subtle is better than "rock and roll" (nobody wants granny saying "well that looks over sharpened to me" without her glasses on and from across the table)
     
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  13. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Pellicle provided much of the answer in the post above. Wide apertures will give you shallow DOF in front and back of the focus point. If the situation calls for it (artistically and/or a need of additional light), then you can use a wide aperture. As somebody who is just starting out, I would try to stop down your lens one or two stops depending on how bright is the subject you are photographing. In the 4/3rd's format, you are generally good to f/8 (and yes there are situations where you can go narrower and not have significant diffraction, but that is for another discussion). I suggest that you put your camera in either A mode and set the aperture at f/4 with Auto ISO enabled. This will give you a bit more DOF and the camera will hopefully keep the shutter at a reasonable speed for the lens attached. And, try the face detection focus to see if you like using it. It is not great for fast moving children, but it does pretty well with portraits and other compositions with less subject movement.

    Good luck,

    --Ken
     
  14. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Lorenzo
    The depth of field here was not razor thin. You can use tools like these to get a general idea:

    Bokeh simulator & depth of field calculator
    A Flexible Depth of Field Calculator

    Here you were at about 1-1.5 meters from the subject so the DoF was about 3-7 cm. The pink hair band is out of focus, the hairs on the front are in, seems like you missed it just by a few millimeters.

    So I wonder why did this happen:
    1) you moved the camera after you half pressed the shutter, getting closer, maybe to find a better framing or just finding balance while crouched. Or the subject moved in the mean time.
    2) you used an automatic focus box that chose the wrong element.
    3) you used a fixed focus box too large. So the camera was able to choose freely any element inside the box. The safer way is to use a small box, placing it exactly on the eyes before taking the shot, without moving the camera.
    4) you used a fixed small box in the wrong place

    The "correct" aperture depends on the subject distance and on the focal length so there is not a simple rule. With 2.8 and a single subject you have some margin. For group shots you may go up to 5.6 or more, depending on the placement. Of course with smaller apertures you also get less blurry background so it is a balance depending on the specific shot.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2016
  15. spatulaboy

    spatulaboy I'm not really here

    Jul 13, 2011
    North Carolina
    Vin
    I shoot a lot of portraits, and unless you and or your subject is perfectly still, you will miss a shot or two. That's just how it goes. Here the subject is a little girl, and what looks like in mid-movement. He might have had the focus perfectly at her eye but since she's turning at the moment of shutter release, it missed the shot. Shooting at a smaller aperture will give you more 'wiggle room'. Children are unpredictable subjects, so I would just shoot bursts. You are bound to get one in focus. lol.
     
  16. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Good advice, and if I may add, when possible, keep your shutter speed up so you minimize any blur possibilities from their movement.

    --Ken
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  17. Zuri

    Zuri Mu-43 Regular

    156
    Apr 20, 2016
    I think the issue was I used a large focus box and it chose the wrong element inside the box... I wonder if I were to set face recognition would it solve the issue in this case?

    I guess in any case I should use 2.8 when I'm doing portraits.

    I'm most of the time in manual mode because I love the feel of a total control over everything.

    +1 for the bursts I'll definitely start using it a lot more.

    Sent from my SM-G935F using Mu-43 app
     
  18. pellicle

    pellicle Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 10, 2010
    Southport, OzTrailEYa
    pellicle
    Hi

    probably, and I think it would (in that order)

    I still suggest shoot a few (doesn't need to be "keepers") and then look carefully on your screen at home. Us A and set the lens to f1.7 and shoot a few, then set to f2.8 and shoot a few. Take a look at them on the screen and see if you think of the background in each ...

    also it depends on distance from the subject how much DoF there is at the subject

    I understand that view, and most certainly if the light isn't changing you'll get the most consistent frame to frame exposures because changes in background brightness won't alter how your subject is rendered (so I agree with that).

    For the purposes of what I suggested above I don't think it matters M or A ... cos A is what you'll be looking for the effects of.

    This is a couple of meters (across a wide table) with the Oly 45f1.7 @ f2.8 (no specific sharpening applied)
    15719382033_f741d768fd_o.

    That's shows you still that critical focus is quite short at that range ... and yes, that was face detect (my default setting, cos even if it can't find a face it does "multi zone" anyway)/
     
  19. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 7, 2010
    Zuri, lots of good points made here. As far as the photo goes, yeah, it could be sharper, but it is still a great shot imo. Technical details are trumped (should we still use that term?) by special shots of the kids.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  20. pellicle

    pellicle Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 10, 2010
    Southport, OzTrailEYa
    pellicle
    @Zuri@Zuri

    this point is not to be underestimated...

    ... after all do you want shots in the picture frame where people go "oh wow, man that's sharp" ... or do you want shots where people say "oh, that's a beautiful shot of your daughter"

    In my desire to answer your question's specifics I've failed to take that step back and look at the fundamentals. Always remember ... the viewers aren't photographers nor competition judges and that its the memories of our kids which is the goal.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2016