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I recently got a Canon T5i and I took some pictures of my nephew. However, they're very poor quality - they look very "pixel like". Is the poor quality because it was a RAW file, the lighting or was I focused badly?

Note: Due to privacy concerns the images accompanying this question have been removed. The images were taken with a Canon EOS Rebel T5i and the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM kit lens. Focal length was at 35mm and 37mm respectively, shutter speed was 1/500 second, aperture was f/5 and sensitivity was at ISO 12800. Focus appeared to be missed slightly in both images.

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    Why were the images edited out of the question? They are an essential part of making it clear what the question is about. Without them this question serves little useful purpose for future users. – Michael C Dec 8 '15 at 22:10
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    i did take them out because parents didn't want them up – Gabbs Dec 9 '15 at 15:47
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Your main problem is that there was not enough light in the scene. The settings were the same for both images but one is darker than the other. I suspect there was more lighting in the first shot because of the bright highlights visible in the eyes.

f/5.0 was wide open at 35mm or 37mm focal length so you could not open up the aperture. Your choice of 1/500 for a shutter speed means you had to use ISO 12,800 which causes the "noisy" images you see.

You could have slowed the shutter speed 2 stops to 1/125 and that would allow you to decrease the ISO 2 stops to ISO 3200. ISO 3200 would produce a much "cleaner" image but it is still not ideal.

The next step is to add more more ambient lighting or use a flash.

  • They were moved to the original question for awhile but they are gone now. I edited them into my answer again. Maybe someone can put them back into the question again. – Mike Sowsun Dec 8 '15 at 23:29
  • No problem. I understand some people may not want their photos shown. – Mike Sowsun Dec 9 '15 at 21:03
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Your images both suffer from excessive noise, created by the very high ISO setting you used (12,800). This causes the photo to look out of focus and pixelated. For best images, try to keep the ISO below 800.

You might wish to review the exposure triangle, so that you may understand the relationship of ISO, shutter speed and aperture: What is the "exposure triangle"?

In your case, you may wish to reshoot, but set the ISO to 400 or 800, open the aperture to its maximum (3.5 hopefully with your lens). Depending on the movement by the child, you may need to keep shutter speed above 1/250th or so. A flash might be helpful.

EDIT: to @mattdm comment: indeed, the image does appear to also be out of focus. If you zoom in, and look carefully, the only item that appears to be nearly in focus is the white bow behind the child. An additional suggestion is to pay careful attention to where the camera is choosing to focus, indicated by the flashing dots in the viewfinder. For the best results, choose single point focus, and put the point on the child's eyes. In 'green' modes on the Canon cameras, the camera often chooses multi-focus, finding several points that are in the same plane. However, this often does not work well with the scene, so the recommendation is for you to choose the focus point, rather than rely on the camera. Look in your manual for how to choose focus points.

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    A little hard to tell, but I'm pretty sure it's not just the ISO, and the images are out of focus; at least especially the first one. – mattdm Dec 8 '15 at 13:43
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In my opinion, your biggest mistake was this:

Exposure Mode - Manual

Why did you choose to use manual mode? As has been noted elsewhere, 1/500s is a much faster shutter speed than you need for this photo, and it's the overly fast shutter speed which has forced the camera to choose a very high ISO, and the high ISO is at least part of the problem here. It's probably best to stick to one of the semi-automatic modes (P, Tv or Av) until you understand a bit more about your camera.

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There is a beginner aversion to using flash indoors. This is exactly what pros do, so why beginners think they don't have to is a mystery to me.

In any case flash does two things for you in these shots :

  • It adds light and hence lets you use a low ISO settings.

  • It freezes motion, as flash bursts are very fast and as the flash burst is the dominant source of light motion blur is effectively eliminated.

But flash can also help you in another way, as it is often used by cameras as a focus assist lamp, which will emit lower power bursts to help get a better focus lock in low light. This may be relevant here as focus is not great. Remember that your focus system needs light to work properly. Suggest you check your manual to see if your flash can provide this feature or if your camera has a dedicated focus assist lamp, as some do.

In short, cameras like lots of light ( and so do photographers :-) ).

If you're unhappy with direct flash from the built-in flash, then try an external flash. They are more powerful and if you get one that can be used to bounce light ( e.g. from a ceiling ) it will give a softer effect than your built-in flash.

  • The stroboscope effect from the af assist function of the built in flash would likely ruin the scene with the child, though. – ths Dec 8 '15 at 17:58
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    Built in flash for indoor photos will give terrible quality almost all of the time, so its correctly avoided by beginners. The real suggestion is "get an external flash" and then use that indoors for much better pictures. Because of the poor quality from built in flashes, beginners don't think of getting a external flash. – JPhi1618 Dec 8 '15 at 18:40
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Aside from ISO way too high, have you calibrated you lenses to your camera body? I see the bows in focus, so it may well be that your lenses need some micro-adjustment in the body if you were in fact focused on the eyes for example. Not all lenses are perfect, especially non-pro grades.

  • -1: the T5i does not have MFA. – Philip Kendall Dec 8 '15 at 17:46
  • Is there an entry level DSLR that does have micro adjustments between the lens and body for such calibration? – JPhi1618 Dec 8 '15 at 18:41
  • Right, sorry. I guess I am too used to my full frame bodies and did not realize the T5i does not have micro adjustment. There is a really great page at 'photographylife.com/how-to-calibrate-lenses' that will help you determine if your body has a focusing problem, or if it is the lens. If it is the body and it is still in warranty, I would get it serviced. – Gmck Dec 8 '15 at 18:52
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    No Canon entry level cameras have Micro Focus Adjust. These "Prosumer" and "Pro" cameras all have it: Canon EOS-1D Mark III Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III Canon EOS-1D X Canon EOS 5D Mark II Canon EOS 5D Mark III Canon EOS 5DS / 5DS R** Canon EOS 6D Canon EOS 7D Canon EOS 7D Mark II Canon EOS 50D Canon EOS 70D – Mike Sowsun Dec 8 '15 at 23:44

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