Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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This is my image that is part of a pano I'm working on. How can I transform it to be similar to this amazing image especially when considering sharpness, noise, and the the light coming form the buildings and windows.

I would like to know any advanced techniques (post or in field) to take images that are tak beautiful sharp shots with minimal grain and noise, yet with the beautiful skyline/landscape that you see in the image i linked too.

This is another image that I like

My shot settings: my image is shot at 85 mm, f8, iso 100 with 20 s shutter speed. I shot it on a steady tripod with remote release. I had it set on MF

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What camera / lens combination are you using? –  Philip Kendall Dec 7 '12 at 14:44
1  
I don't think there's anything wrong with this question, but can we dial down the scale of the title? As is, it sounds pretty far into "Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much." territory from the faq. –  mattdm Dec 7 '12 at 14:46
    
@PhilipKendall Canon 600D/T3i with Canon's 17-85 lens for that shot. I had IS OFF and set to MF –  dassouki Dec 7 '12 at 14:47
    
@mattdm I agree about the question. I wasn't sure what to ask as I think the answer would fall under the category of "a little bit of this and a little bit of that". Any recommendations? Feel free to edit the Question as you see fit –  dassouki Dec 7 '12 at 14:48
    
Would "to make it look like a postcard or poster skyline" be a fair description? –  mattdm Dec 7 '12 at 17:06

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Whenever you see a truly breathtaking image, you can be sure that it's the culmination of doing a whole lot of things really, really well. In the examples you indicated, we're looking at images scaled to a size much smaller than the files produced by your camera, which suggests that at least some of the impact you're perceiving in the photos you're trying to emulate results from factors other than just sharpness and noise.

Still, a good, sharp image is an absolute prerequisite for a great finished product. You're doing a lot of things well already, including using a tripod with remote release. In addition to turning IS off, try using mirror lockup if you can. But first, swap out your 17-85 lens for your 50mm f/1.8 lens. I've used both of these lenses, as well as Canon's 15-85, and the 50 will blow the doors off all of them in terms of sharpness. No contest.

Next, you'll want to pay attention to the setting itself. As Itai indicated, you can't make up for great light, so shooting during "blue hour" will help balance the light of the buildings with a bit of ambient light, making it much easier for you to achieve the sort of exposure you're looking for. If you're shooting single shots, you might see some great results during "golden hour", as well, but if you're shooting a panorama, you should be shooting on "M", and you'll need to be aware that lighting conditions can change very, very quickly right around sunrise and sunset. This can produce some spectacular scenes, but you'll have to work quickly to make sure your panorama doesn't show lighting changes that occurred while you were shooting a set.

Itai also mentioned wind, with respect to tripod stability, but in your case, I think the biggest effect is actually on the reflections in the water. Part of the impact of the images you're emulating is that perfectly glassy reflection. Unfortunately, there's nothing you're going to be able to do, short of photoshopping in the entire skyline upside down, to produce that look if it's windy when you shoot. The good news is that the work you're doing to learn and prepare will help you nail the shot when you finally see the right conditions.

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Time of day is key. Go back to your location during the appropriate golden hour.

You need to figure out from the orientation of your skyline if that will be in the morning or evening. If unsure, try both! The second key for great photography is to keep trying. At that time of day, each minute things look different and depending on the lighting in the buildings and atmospheric conditions (if it is windy, come back another day, even buildings move with strong winds and your tripod too), things will balance perfectly at a different time.

You seem to know already that you need to shoot at a low ISO from a tripod to get images with low noise and good sharpness. You also seem to know to stop down the lens but not exceed the diffraction limit. Keep doing that. Adjust the metering down a bit because your shot is over-exposed.

Another thing to note is that things always look much sharper with less noise when scaled down properly. At 500 pixels wide, even if you shot at ISO 6400 it would look clean on most cameras if you made a panorama like that and scaled it down.

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I'd like to add that experimenting with HDR might be useful in handling the wide range of light you seem to have. I've used HDR for cathedral interiors where there were very bright areas (stained glass) and very dark areas in the same frame. –  BobT Dec 7 '12 at 16:32
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There's a lot of activity in the water, too, especially for a 20-second exposure. If it's wind-driven, then try again with better weather. If it's tide-driven (and it may well be), then you need to coordinate the blue hour with either high or low tide (ebb and flow will both have "dirty" water), but unlike the weather you can predict that well ahead of time. –  user2719 Dec 7 '12 at 16:39
    
Judging by the amount of over-exposure on the 500px shot, I would consider it an HDR failure if it used that! You can indeed do that kind of shot with HDR but I know it is a huge amount of work because of the water. People do it and then use masking to avoid errors with objects or reflections in t he water and then they add manual blur to make things smooth. –  Itai Dec 7 '12 at 17:20

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