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Thread: It is the camera, or is it me??

  1. #1

    Default It is the camera, or is it me??

    I have a Canon EOS digital Rebel (8 megapix). I bought it because so that I can used different lenses on it.

    Whether I put it on fully automatic ([] setting) or the automitic where you can still adjust ISO (P setting), the pictures come out looking like it's overcast outside, even when it's sunny. Not clear, crisp, and vibrant colors like in real life. Had lots of photos on the water at Columbia Glacier this summer, plus some good wildlife shots that just looked bad. My wife has a point-and-shoot Canon digital camera that takes pictures that beat mine hands down.

    Any suggestions on what to check? I've tried using (in the "P" setting) the settings (cloudy, sunny, etc.) for white balance, etc. with little luck.
    I probably should look into some editing software, although my Dell has some on it already that kind of helps. I'd like to fix the problem at the camera level and not at the computer software level. Any help would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Member alaskan winmag's Avatar
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    Default Might be a solution

    First off I am about as far away from an expert with dslr's as you can get. Do you have the same problem when the camera is set to manual? My friend had a similar problem with his XTi and what we concluded was that the problem was what subject he had the camera do its auto-focus on(the half click before picture). If he auto focused on certain objects the camera assumes that is what you want and adjusts accordingly. Do you have a lens shade? It might be that it is too bright for the things you are focusing on, so the camera has to adjust so it can clearly get a picture of whatever your focusing on. for example we were at the san francisco zoo and he was trying to get a picture of the tigers under a tree. Every time he would try to auto focus on the tigers in the shade it would either make the sunny areas on the trees too bright, or if he focused on the trees in front it would make the shade too dark. Try focusing on other objects (of different brightness) at the same distance then return the focus to whatever subject you want and see if that helps. Good Luck!

  3. #3

    Default

    I'll give that a try. There are different ways to have it focus....spot, average (something like that), etc. I'll experiment some more. But there have been scenes where everything in the viewfinder was pretty much the same brightness (and the photo still came out looking like it's a cloudy day (even when it was sunny).

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    Are you making sure the lens is set to Auto? It's very easy to forget the lens switch in the "M" (Manual focusing) position.

    Also, why don't you take a picture with the camera set to "P" and mounted on a tripod? Be aware than on "P" you can change most of the camera settings to your liking, not only ISO.

    Another possibility is a lens that needs calibration, or a camera the needs calibration. Did you buy a new or used camera?

    Finally, make sure you are using the correct white balance (WB). You can check or change the WB with the camera set to "P" mode by pressing the WB button on the wheel by your right thumb (when you are holding the camera). You will notice that there is a WB for shade, daylight, clowdy, etc. Just match the WB to the ambient conditions.

  5. #5
    Member Hunt'N'Photos's Avatar
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    Default

    Are you shooting in Raw or JPEG mode? I think you may have some of the settings confused as to what they do or are used for. If your near Anchorage and have time to meet up I can give you a hand and check out the camera and make sure everything is good to go.
    US Air Force - retired and Wildlife photographer

    To follow my photography adventures check out my facebook page

  6. #6

    Default

    I have it set to JPEG and not RAW. It's set to auto focus, unless the light is dim and I have to focus manually. The photos aren't fuzzy (i.e. out of focus), just rather dim and drab looking. The camera was purchased new, and the lens (also new) came with the camera although I also have a zoom lens.

    I've just started experimenting with the sunny, cloudy, etc. settings that you can use in the P mode. With the camera set on auto white balance (AWB), should the photos not already turn out pretty much correct, or is it normal that you have to set the white balance (to cloudy, etc.) for each lighting condition? Because it's too dark when I go to work and too dark (mountain's shadow) when I get home from work, I need to find a time when I can experiment while the sun's out.

    I always use a polarizer, although I'd think that the camera would compensate for this added "darkness".

    Hunt'N'Photos...I may take you up on your offer if I can't get this figured out. Thanks.

  7. #7
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    Default

    The polarizer shouldn't hurt, and should reduce some types of reflected glare. However if the lighting gets dim I would take it off because it eats 2-3 stops of light and will force a very slow shutter speed.

    Since it has 8MP you have a Rebel XT. That's a whole lot better than the plain jane digital Rebel.

    OK, some things to try:

    1) Setting the white balance to auto should get it close, but not quite right. Unless you're shooting in RAW set it for the conditions to make it more accurate.

    2) Make sure you have not set the camera's color space to to shoot in Adobe RGB. You want sRGB unless you have some specific reason to change it. Unless your system is set up for Adobe RGB all your images will look dull, with low contrast and reduced color saturation. (Sounds suspiciously like what you are seeing.) The camera's color space can be accessed from the menu.

    3) Adjust your exposure compensation. Go to your camera manual and find out how to adjust it. Also, consider turning on the histogram in your LCD. That should tell you if the exposures are consistently underexposed. (Probably are if they look dull.) Then take a shot, check the histogram to make sure all the data graphed is between the left & right sides, without any large piles on either extreme. If your image has more data on the left, increase exposure compensation and shoot again. Repeat until you get it right. You may find that your camera needs positive exposure compensation on most images, so you will just leave it on except for special exposure problems.

    4) If you have your camera's ISO setting too high your images will look dull and grainy. The XT is pretty good in this regard, but try to keep your ISO to 400 or less. 800 should be fine when needed (low light situations), but 1600 should be avoided unless really necessary.

    5) Finally, I believe your camera has a menu option called "parameters" that is used to control contrast, saturation and sharpness. Normally Parameter 1 is chosen as a default, and this turns these three options to +1. Parameter 2 turns them all to 0, which will look kind of dull. There are also several "sets" that are like parameters but can be customized, and you should use one to turn the settings to +2. Then select that set to shoot with. You should see some nice changes to your images.

    BTW, if you are looking for the best in JPG image quality you will want to use a set to turn contrast, saturation and sharpness to -1, or even -2. Then in your computer's software adjust each quality as needed. By turning them up in the camera you are making things look more vibrant, but you are also loosing actual data to work with. Using RAW you have even more data to work with and the adjustments are easier to get right.

  8. #8

    Default

    Wow, what a difference. Since reading your suggestions, I haven't yet tried working more with the white balance, but have worked with the parameters and settings and can already see a huge improvement. The camera was already set on sRGB, so it was ok in that respect. And I always try to use the lowest ISO settings that lighting will allow. Your description of how to use the histogram was helpful, as the manual says little about it. I still need to play with the exposure compensation. The biggest difference was in changing the contrast, sharpness, saturation, and color tone. The washed-out look went away. I just need to work more with the settings to find out what works best. It's good to know that I can make my photos better, but I'm surprised that in the auto modes (i.e. [], portrait, landscape, etc.) the pictures don't look so great. Guess I'll need to use the program mode exclusively.

    The next questions is what software would you suggest that I buy that will allow me to "fix" the many photos that I've already taken? Is Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 good? I've read some good reviews, and it costs about $100. I'm running Windows XP. Thanks!


    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Strutz View Post
    The polarizer shouldn't hurt, and should reduce some types of reflected glare. However if the lighting gets dim I would take it off because it eats 2-3 stops of light and will force a very slow shutter speed.

    Since it has 8MP you have a Rebel XT. That's a whole lot better than the plain jane digital Rebel.

    OK, some things to try:

    1) Setting the white balance to auto should get it close, but not quite right. Unless you're shooting in RAW set it for the conditions to make it more accurate.

    2) Make sure you have not set the camera's color space to to shoot in Adobe RGB. You want sRGB unless you have some specific reason to change it. Unless your system is set up for Adobe RGB all your images will look dull, with low contrast and reduced color saturation. (Sounds suspiciously like what you are seeing.) The camera's color space can be accessed from the menu.

    3) Adjust your exposure compensation. Go to your camera manual and find out how to adjust it. Also, consider turning on the histogram in your LCD. That should tell you if the exposures are consistently underexposed. (Probably are if they look dull.) Then take a shot, check the histogram to make sure all the data graphed is between the left & right sides, without any large piles on either extreme. If your image has more data on the left, increase exposure compensation and shoot again. Repeat until you get it right. You may find that your camera needs positive exposure compensation on most images, so you will just leave it on except for special exposure problems.

    4) If you have your camera's ISO setting too high your images will look dull and grainy. The XT is pretty good in this regard, but try to keep your ISO to 400 or less. 800 should be fine when needed (low light situations), but 1600 should be avoided unless really necessary.

    5) Finally, I believe your camera has a menu option called "parameters" that is used to control contrast, saturation and sharpness. Normally Parameter 1 is chosen as a default, and this turns these three options to +1. Parameter 2 turns them all to 0, which will look kind of dull. There are also several "sets" that are like parameters but can be customized, and you should use one to turn the settings to +2. Then select that set to shoot with. You should see some nice changes to your images.

    BTW, if you are looking for the best in JPG image quality you will want to use a set to turn contrast, saturation and sharpness to -1, or even -2. Then in your computer's software adjust each quality as needed. By turning them up in the camera you are making things look more vibrant, but you are also loosing actual data to work with. Using RAW you have even more data to work with and the adjustments are easier to get right.

  9. #9
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    Default

    Personally, I think Photoshop Elements represents the best bang for the buck, but there are other options as well.

    PaintShop Pro costs about the same, a little over a $100, but with discounts commonly available. It has several more good features than Elements, and might actually be easier to use, but it has become even more buggy than before Corel took it over a couple years ago. Also their implementation of 16 bit processing and color management is pretty lame. I given up on it.

    Picture Windows Pro is another in the same price category, and in some ways it's one of the best of the low cost image editing programs out there, but it also lacks some features that frustrate some. It is, however, designed by photographers, for photographers, so it does get the job done without a lot of extra fluff to confuse you.

    Adobe's Photoshop Creative Suite 3 (CS3) is the cat's meow, but at $600 it ought to be. There are discounts available for it too. Photoshop has less than half of it designed specifically for photographers, and the rest for graphical design people. So one way to look at it is that you are buying a lot of program that most photographers will never use. It is the standard by which everything else is compared though.

  10. #10

    Default

    Looks like I'll be picking up Photoshop Elements tomorrow. Thanks to all for the help.

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