I would like to borrow your expert eye again, if that's OK. A few days ago I took a few pictures of the Moon ("a few" it's an understatement, but I won't say how many :) Most of them went to the recycle bin though). Right now I am processing them and would like to make prints for some that I like the most, but I am not sure I am getting everything right in terms of composition and post-processing.
For the first two pictures I can't decide I can't decide which one is better. The first one is the actual size while the second one is just a little cropped. It's funny that although there isn't too much of a difference in size, they almost seem like different pictures - at least to me. The first one seems to be about the clouds and the second one seems to have the moon as the "main character". Maybe because the moon is smack dab in the middle of the picture, which I realize is against the rule of thirds, but in this case I would say that's OK (?), since any other way to take this picture or crop it would have result in losing some of that cloud formation, which is pretty much the point of the picture.
Which one (if any) would you say looks better? And what do you think about the technical part of the picture. What I did was to reduce noise and increase sharpness.
I actually made a 10 by 12 print of the third one and I was very disappointed. First, the picture was grainy and second, the moon came out just a blob of light with no features. I didn't understand why the picture (actually all of them) would have noise, my ISO was down to 100 when I shot them. But them I googled it and found out that low light as well as slow shutter speed will result in noisy pictures.
Now a few things about the way I took the pictures: normally when taking pictures of the moon I would set the camera in such a way to let in less light in order to get the most detail of the moon's features, in which case the background will be all black. Only that when I took these pictures there were a lot of wavy clouds flowing over the moon, and the moon shining through these clouds made pretty amazing colors and sights. So I wanted to get the clouds in the pictures but also have a moon that showed some features and not being just a ball of light.
I found that an f4/0.3 or 0.6 or 0.8 would give me what I wanted, but it also depended on the moon being slightly covered by clouds or not. I didn't go with f5.6 because that would have meant an even slower shutter speed and I don't have a tripod, so I had to go with a hand held camera (keeping my breath every time I clicked on the shutter-release button - I was out for two hours and at the end of it I was out of breath, frozen and my fingers were clenched on the camera :)) Most of the pictures were shaken, some of them had a featureless moon (although many of the later had spectacular clouds), but a few of them came out reasonable.
A question here: is there any "trick" or another way to go to get clouds and a moon with some features in a picture?
So that's why my pictures had noise, but once I found the reason I also found the way to fix it by reducing the luminance noise and then increasing the sharpness since you loose details when reducing the noise. I was wondering what is technically this noise since I noticed that after reducing it the size of my converted files went down to almost half?
If you enlarge the third picture you can see that the moon is out of focus so obviously this picture is shaken (probably I forgot not to breathe :)). But I really like the shot and want to keep it, is there any way to fix this? (I don't have to much hope but it's worth asking). Also, what can I do for the moon features (as fainted as they are) to show in the print? I tried tweaking the shadow to make it a little darker, I am not sure if that would help. What I don't like about this is that I lose some of that red corona which I really like. Is there any other way?
Are there any things to keep in mind when post-processing a picture when you want to make a print? I noticed that the prints always come out different colors than the digital file, and that kinda makes sense since I don't think there are as many shades of ink as a digital file has. Is there a ideal shot resolution and a best file size when you want to print a picture?
I shot in high resolution so my raw files are very big, 18 MB, but I'm thinking that will give me more details and more room when I want to crop.
I have the raw files for these pictures but since they are so big I will upload the jpeg files. I made a flikr account but before I upload any pictures I just want to make sure I am doing the right thing in post-processing - I have a few picture that I think are OK but I have to work on them to reduce the noise. Once I do that I will send you a link to see the whole collection.
Sorry for the long message, I hope it won't take too much of your time (wishful thinking:).
OK, sorry for the long wait. Lots of distractions the past couple of days.
Anyway, I only found these two pictures in the upload bin, so I'll just talk about them for now. They're similar enough that its hard to choose, but I think I prefer the top one because of the cloud detail. I absolutely LOVE pictures of the moon (you've probably seen my video related to it... here:
I'm glad that you managed to get some detail and texture in the clouds; without them, pictures of a full moon are pretty dull. Nice work.
You're right, the rule of thirds should always be considered a suggestion, and if you have a good reason to abandon it, then you should. In this case, I really would like to have seen the moon elsewhere... I suspect it would have made the composition a little more interesting... but of course, I can't comment on what I haven't seen. I do like the way you've captured that "frame" of clouds", but perhaps zooming out would have allowed you to capture more of them and move the position of the moon around a bit. Because of the clouds (and a little softness from shake, probably), the detail of the moon isn't really the focal point of these images... so zooming out a bit might not detract from the image.
I suspect that the shutter speed wasn't entirely responsible for the amount of noise you ended up with. True, long shutter speeds can make a difference... but usually only when it comes to durations in excess of 1 second... not hand-holdable speeds... it may have been post-processing related. Keep in mind that when you shoot RAW, you have to apply noise-reduction yourself, and if you adjust the exposure UP at all, to make the clouds details lighter, for example, that will increase noise dramatically in the shadows... and applying sharpening without masking (see my Sharpening in Lightroom video), you'll also get more noise. If you get familiar with a workflow in Lightroom (or something similar) that includes noise reduction, you'll probably find that you get consistently better results.
Anyway, the problem with taking pictures of the moon is that it's so much brighter than the background/surrounding detail. A camera's sensor just can't capture that much range all at once. You actually did the perfect thing; if you get some cloud in front of the moon, it makes the moon darker and the clouds brighter, which helps you capture more... within a limit.
You can also take multiple exposures (auto-bracketing) and combine the detailed moon with the detailed clouds later, but some people don't like doing that much post processing work. Probably the best thing to do is use a tool like TPE (see the video) to figure out when the moon will be in the sky around sunset. While the sky is getting darker, but not too dark, there will be a happy medium point where you're able to get surrounding detail and the moon won't be too bright.
Otherwise, you can shoot for the detail in the moon (use your spot meter directly on the moon), and then post-process to bring up shadow detail... which, as I mentioned, gives you noise and also poor tonality.
Unfortunately, there currently isn't a decent way to fix pictures that have camera-shake induced blur. However, Adobe demonstrated a new sharpening plugin last year that WILL track the movement and fix blur. Nobody knows when it will be on the market... but probably with CS7 or cs6.5 . So, don't delete it... it may be fixable in the future.
There are a variety of different techniques to improve the highlight detail in your images, and improve the shadow detail, actually. If you upload one of the RAW files for me, I'll show you how it can be done in a video... it's too much to explain in text :)
Thanks a lot for the reply and all the tips and details. I just watched your Moon video and I remembered I watched it before, but it was good to watch it again, it reminded me to go look for that software. Thanks.
I surely need to learn/get familiar with a workflow in post-processing because I feel that now I am all over the place and am mostly doing guess work. Besides, I very often do just a little bit of cropping and then I have a hard time deciding which one is better (like in this case). I just hope that this will go away in time and once I get more experience and knowledge.
I am uploading the RAW file for the first picture, although it's a big one. I thought I uploaded the third picture, but obviously something happened and didn't go through, so I am trying again.
Thanks again for all the help,
PS: Only after your first reply I looked at my post and realized how long it was. I sure know how to blabber. :)
I finally had a chance to spend a few minutes making some changes in the RAW file that you uploaded. I made the edits in Adobe Lightroom 4.1, which is a lot less expensive than Photoshop and ACR, which is how I normally work, but both are equally good for this type of thing.
I hope that, if nothing else, this gives you a better idea of what you can do with your images in Lightroom.
Hi Matthew, thanks A LOT for the video with explanations, I just watched it and I actually got stuck there watching other videos as well (and now I know what sharpening really is:)).
I think I will get a Lightroom, the Canon software doesn't offer too much, there is no Masking and from what I see that's a great tool. Anyway, I think I am going to watch some more and come back to these videos quite often until I get everything. The picture looks quite different at the end :)
Thanks again for taking the time to make the video and help me, I really appreciate it. I think you are doing a great thing here, helping everybody who needs some help.
Today I got my Lightroom 4 so I am playing with it now. :)
Would you happen to know how to export a file of a certain size? For instance if I want my JPEG file to be say 5MB? I tried changing the "Limit file size to" in the export window, assuming that "k" stands for kilobytes. But it doesn't seem to work, although I tried different numbers. For instance if I go with 6500 I get a file size of 6.05MB, if I reduce it to 5000 the file size drops to 2.5MB. So now I'm thinking that I'm missing something?
i would like to ask a question regarding something that has been puzzling me for some time . i like to photograph the moon from time to time the polluted sky in nyc doesn't offer much more besides a few planets at times, i have many cameras, even full frames , the most success i have had has been with the canon 3ti, with it i have taken excellent photos some of which quite stunning, i have also ,bought at about the same time the nikon d3200,bought it thinking 24 mapixels would get better pictures than the 3ti's 18, not so, in fact not even approaching by a landslide the 3ti. the problem is that in the 3ti i enlarge the screen 5 or 10x and then fine focuse the image and shoot, the results are fantastic, the image on the screen is even better than the one that actually comes out on the photo but photos still come out excellent, it is the problem on the nikon that when i enlarge the screen 5 or 10x to fine focus i don't get an image with details to finefocus but only a blob of white light that can't be fine focused,i have tried diminishing the light,the speed,the mode,nothing works, i have asked some other blogs including a nikon one, they have offered theoretical answers, not good because they haven't worked, i would like to know from someone that has tried the same photo with the same camera and tell me if i am doing something wrong or if its the camera, by the way i also have the nikon 700d and the 5d mark2, both of them get decent photos of the moon but not as good as the ones from the 3ti, i haven't used them extensively as yet,probably in time i will do better,but the d3200 has been so far a big disappointment at least when it comes to the moon,for every thing else its ok.
Without knowing all of the details of each of your camera's settings, it's hard to pinpoint the exact problem, but there are a couple of things that come to mind. But let me begin by saying that I've never shot the moon with the D3200, so I'm probably just as bad as anyone else on the forums.
Probably the easiest thing to test would be to set the camera to "spot metering", and make sure that the moon is in the center of your frame (assuming that your AF point is in the center of the frame).
What happens normally is that a camera's exposure system will get tricked by all of the black of the sky, and it will try to brighten it up to make it grey... which makes everything that's already bright get WAY too bright. If you set the camera to spot meter on a bright part of the frame, it will darken that to make it grey (or mid-tone).
The camera should be set to aperture priority or some similar non-beginner mode.
If that doesn't work, then the next bet would be to use the exposure compensation. As you probably know, that's the (+/-) button near the shutter button. If you press that and set the camera to a - setting (-2 will probably do the trick, but it may require -3), that will darken the photo that you take... but unfortunately, with the D3200, it probably won't darken the live-view.
However, if you're shooting the moon, you should be able to use normal auto-focus through the optical viewfinder, as long as your AF points are on the edge of the moon. You might try that too.