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I tried taking some photos during an office event and noticed that they are all blurred. Can someone suggest what can I do avoid/reduce this ?
A sample Picture is given below: Sample Picture

**Larger version at

I don't want to use a flash. I cannot move around with a tripod in a party. I had Auto-ISO turned on. I obviously had to shoot with the slowest shutter speed but nor the ISO or the aperture were compensating the exposure.

I'm pretty disappointed if its something wrong I'm doing. Please suggest how to improve without a lot of post-processing.

EXIF: ƒ/5.6 32.0 mm 1/8 5000

Equipment:

Canon EOS REBEL T5i
EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
Settings: ƒ/5.6 32.0 mm 1/8s ISO 5000

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    Honestly, for that particular photo, I'd say embrace the blur. I think it dramatically improves the photograph by showing the dancers' movement. Without the blur, they'd just look like they were standing in bizarre positions. – David Richerby Dec 20 '15 at 22:48
  • @DavidRicherby I would have, if the faces weren't blurred either. :-( – deppfx Dec 20 '15 at 23:53
  • Tell them to, er, dance with their heads still. ;-) – David Richerby Dec 20 '15 at 23:53
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    Is there any chance you'd be willing to upload the example photo directly into your question here? That way, we could be sure that it won't disappear later, leaving your question useless. – Ilmari Karonen Dec 21 '15 at 1:19
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    @deppfx I have edited-in the image you have given in the question, if you do not like it, you may roll back the edit. – RogUE Dec 21 '15 at 3:38

10 Answers 10

25

The blur is caused by the people moving while you were taking the photograph with a slow shutter. Honestly, I think it improves this particular photo a lot: it shows that the people are dancing, rather than just standing in weird positions.

If you want to, the only way to avoid it is to use a faster shutter speed. This necessarily involves compromises. If you use a faster shutter without changing any other settings, the photo will become dark. If you use a higher ISO, you'll get more noise. If you use a wider aperture (smaller f-number), you'll get less depth of field.

If you want to do a lot of party photography, it would probably be worth investing in a faster lens, i.e., one that allows you to use a wider aperture than the f/5.6 you were using. Fast zoom lenses can be very expensive – e.g., $1,500 for the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 – so you might want to look at a fast prime lens. For example, a 28mm f/1.8 lens (Canon's is around $450) wide open would have let you shoot at about 1/100s without increasing ISO, but the depth of field might be a bit thin.

You should also seriously consider using flash. Good flashes aren't actually all that intrusive – as long as you don't use the camera's built-in flash, it doesn't need to do those annoying red-eye reduction flashes, and it shouldn't need to pre-flash for autofocusing. It's even less obtrusive if you're able to bounce the flash off the ceiling since, then, the bright bulb isn't pointed into your subjects' eyes. Further, basic use of a flash is straightforward and doesn't require much learning at all.

  • Great! That's exactly what I wanted to make sure that its time for me to upgrade from my kit lens. Thank you for explaining it. – deppfx Dec 20 '15 at 23:35
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    Yup, faster shutter speed, but the reason that I voted for this answer is that you make an excellent point when you say that the blur really helps this particular photograph. OP might want to consider that. For the same reason, it is nice to use along shutter speed for flowing water. Once you have taken what you think is the shot, consider trying a little variation. After a while you will begin to develop an eye for when such things are possible and desirable. – Mawg Dec 21 '15 at 10:17
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    The dancing from motion was most of the problem, but shooting hand-held with a 1/8s shutter speed is asking for some blur even with an IS lens. Another emergency option is underexposing the shot to reduce blur. The underexposure might be recoverable in post, but the blur will not be. – JPhi1618 Dec 21 '15 at 15:19
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    @deppfx f/5.6 to f/2.8 is two stops. It will help, and you'll probably be happy with your purchase in general, but the difference will not be as dramatic or cover as many situations as much as you might imagine. There's a reason pro indoor photographers use flash. – Whelkaholism Dec 21 '15 at 15:47
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    @Whelkaholism Sure but my answer suggests using something like a 28mm, which is slightly wider than was used for this photo (a zoom lens at 32mm). I just edited my answer to add something about flash, since that's a great point. – David Richerby Dec 21 '15 at 16:01
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Honestly, the biggest problem I see in your picture is not the blur, but the badly clipped highlights. Next time, try shooting at, say, -1 EV (which will also reduce the exposure time, and thus the blur, a bit) and adjusting the exposure afterwards to get softer highlights. This does increase noise in the shadows a bit, as if you were using a higher ISO value, but it's a small price to pay for a scene with such a high contrast range as yours.

As for avoiding blur in low-light settings in general, you really need either a good flash (an external one, preferably bounced to soften it; the built-in one in your camera isn't good for much except as a basic fill flash) or several, and/or a faster lens. If you prefer to shoot using ambient light (as I generally do), the faster lens is the only option. You should be able to find a fixed focal length ("prime") lenses down to f/1.8 or possibly even f/1.4 at decent prices. The lack of zoom does limit your composition options a bit, but that (or money) is the price you pay for a wide aperture. Remember that you're using an SLR, so you always have the option of changing lenses as needed, as well as cropping your photos afterwards.

Also, as others have noted, you do want some motion blur in a picture like this, to show the movement of the subjects. The only "trick" I know for capturing the movement of the dancers like that without blurring their faces is to time your shots well and shoot lots of pictures (e.g. in burst mode), so that you can pick out the ones where the limbs are moving but the heads are momentarily still.

5

I don't want to use flash

Why not ?

It's what flash is for. Get a good external flash and learn to love it.

Learn to bounce light from the ceiling or using a bounce card or similar. Easy technique, great results.

I would, however, agree that blur is useful in these shots sometimes. There's no other way to give a sense of motion.

I disagree with the suggestions to get a wide aperture lens. This will just leave you with very little depth of field to work with and that will get you blur and focus problems of a different kind.

Flash is for exactly this kind of thing. It's just making things pointlessly difficult to try and avoid it.

Another minor point. It would probably not have saved you, but the shot is over-exposed so you could have grabbed a faster shutter speed if you'd be more careful with exposure.

I would also caution you about parties. From one too many experiences with madly flashing lights at parties with a DJ I have found that sometimes, regardless of what you try and what lenses, flash or technique you use, you just won't get anywhere with some lighting set ups. It's one problem or another. So learn to accept it when things won't work out despite your best efforts, because that will happen.

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    A wide angle shot like this, especially with the subjects all so far away, is fine at wider aperture. This could easily have been shot at F/2.8 without losing the subjects. This is doubly true on an APS-C body - getting any DOF effects at wide angle on such a camera really needs you to be right on top of your subjects, even at large apertures. – J... Dec 21 '15 at 12:00
  • The OP was using f5.6. An f2.8 gets him two stops, which moves him from a shutter speed of 1/8th to a shutter speed of 1/32. While that's better, it's not enough to avoid blur ( shake or motion ). To do that the OP needs a flash, where the dominant flash burst is of the order of 1/10000th of a second. A wide aperture lens is just not going to cut it, IMO. – StephenG Dec 21 '15 at 13:43
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    My point was restricted to the blanket statement that you would have DOF problems at wider aperture - this shot is an example where I really don't think that would be the case. At three meters distance (being conservative - OP looks further to my eyes), 35mm, F2.8, APS-C body you would have almost 0.9m DOF. Plenty to grab all the subjects, I think. – J... Dec 21 '15 at 14:10
4

The thing you see is called motion blur. The amount of it depends on: subjects move (eg. standing still or waving hands), camera move (how still you're holding a camera) and a setting called Shutter Speed.

I'd recommend you to learn how to use the last one.

What it is: Imagine a real shutters on a window. You open them, let some light in and then close them. The time the shutters have been open is called the shutter speed. Shutter speed is measured in seconds: 2’’ is two seconds; or, more often, in fractions of it: 1/15 is one fifteenth of a second. Short shutter speed (e.g. 1/1000 of a second) freezes your subject and a long one (1 sec) blurs its movements. The longer shutter speed is, the more light comes in. Beware that, e.g. 1/1000 is shorter, than 1/250.

  • TU. But like I said, if I increase the shutter speed, the exposure was going dark. So how can I improve the exposure without compromising on the shutter speed ? – deppfx Dec 20 '15 at 22:09
  • @deppfx, set the camera full manual and change the ISO and aperture till the histogram looks ok. – Dragos Dec 20 '15 at 22:11
  • You can't take photos with a fast shutter speed in darkness. If you want to stop motion blur you need to increase the ISO or add more light. – Mike Sowsun Dec 20 '15 at 22:14
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    If you don't like the noise you could shoot with a larger aperture. That can be expensive, and make for shallow depth of field, which can be a problem in itself. There is no magic that will allow you to shoot in dark conditions without making compromises. – Mike Sowsun Dec 20 '15 at 22:35
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    @deppfx, the internet is full of tutorials and "how to"s about historgrams. Here's one of them: digitalcameraworld.com/2013/06/27/… – Dragos Dec 20 '15 at 22:41
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To reduce the motion blur, you need to increase your shutter speed. To do that, you need to either increase the aperture or ISO or both until a shutter speed is obtained that can minimise the blur.

If the maximum F-Stop for your current lens is f/5.6 and the maximum ISO of your camera is 5000 giving you a shutter speed of 1/8 second which then results in a blurry image, then you need to consider purchasing an f/1.8 or f1.4 lens, specially if you are going to be taking more images in a similar environment.

For each click of the aperture, you will be able to double your shutter speed.

Here is an example of how this will work for you

f/5.6 @ ISO5000 - Shutter speed = 1/8 Second

f/4.0 @ ISO5000 - Shutter speed = 1/15 Second

f/2.8 @ ISO5000 - Shutter speed = 1/30 Second

f/1.8 @ ISO5000 - Shutter speed = 1/60 Second

f/1.4 @ ISO5000 - Shutter speed = 1/125 Second

Further reading of this link will also help in improving your images What is the "exposure triangle"?

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Not repeating the very good answers above: At f/5.6 its difficult to take photographs even in sunlight. You have a newer camera so it works much better at higher iso that cameras even a few years ago did.

I found the following very rough rule of thumb when taking sports photos of my sons soccer games:

If someone is moving their legs or arms very fast, e.g. kicking a soccer ball, and they are close to you (within 50 feet), then you need 1/320 to 1/500th of a second shutter speed or faster just to get an image without lots of blur.

If someone is running flat out, perpendicular to the camera (running past you), then you need 1/1000th to 1/1200th of a second to capture without blur.

In your party image, if the people are swinging their arms dancing, or clapping their hands, try 1/160th to 1/200th of a second shutter speed.

With indoor/party lighting conditions, your lens will be wide open, so you will need fairly high iso, maybe right at the edge of what your camera can provide. You can clean up a lot of iso noise with NoiseNinja, it works very well.

Tip: you can brighten an image if its too dark, in software. But you can't clean up image blur. So, favor a little darker images, using faster shutter speeds, and higher iso, with your setup. You can probably shoot 2+ stops too dark and still get good images with post in software.

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    "At f/5.6 its difficult to take photographs even in sunlight." As a general statement, that's completely false. In bright sunlight, f/5.6 will give an exposure of around 1/800s, even at ISO-100; even on an overcast day, f/5.6 is likely to give an exposure of at least 1/100s at ISO-100. – David Richerby Dec 20 '15 at 23:59
  • Good suggestions about the NoiseNinja and shooting at darker exposure but with desired (read higher) shutter speed. TY. – deppfx Dec 21 '15 at 0:00
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    Shooting 2 stops underexposed "just to be safe" is, in general, ridiculous. Boosting two stops in post is largely the same as shooting at higher ISO to begin with (ie ISO200 -> 800!), so it's immediately discarding quality that might otherwise have been there. For most situations, shooting RAW, there really isn't much need to shoot under, and for situations where you do want to meter under to preserve highlights, a third or maybe two thirds of a stop is usually all you need. – J... Dec 21 '15 at 11:58
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This is motion blur. This occurs due to a slow shutter. Since you were in the dim indoor environment its really difficult to have photos with movement without motion blur. If your main priority is to capture movement you might want to set your camera to shutter priority and set the shutter to something 50 and above. Always take test shots. This gives you a better idea of that your shutter should be.

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As noted by others (and me) you need to find ways to use a faster exposure time to reduce true motion blur. It is possible to use post-processing to make the image look somewhat sharper.
Whether this is an improvement is a matter of individual opinion.

The image below was "played with" slightly.
Very basic manipulation.
Colour balance altered.
Moderate "unsharp mask" sharpening used.

This is "different" - whether it is 'better' is up to your perception. The blur cannot be removed in this manner but using USM adds sharpness to existing boundaries and gives a generally crisper feel.

enter image description here

Larger version here

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One last comment: I noticed in your flickr image exif data that you shot at 32mm focal length. You can get a very good, very cheap 50mm lens like this one:

http://www.amazon.com/Canon-50mm-1-8-Camera-Lens/dp/B00007E7JU

that has a f/1.8 aperture. At 2.0 or 2.2 you can get a whole lot more from indoor photography than your F/3.5-5.6 kit lens, although this isn't a zoom.

You can get a little better one for about 300.00

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/12140-USA/Canon_2515A003_50mm_f_1_4_USM_Autofocus.html

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    You need a big room if you're going to get seven people into the frame with a 50mm lens on an APS-C camera! 35mm or 28mm is probably a better choice. – David Richerby Dec 21 '15 at 0:01
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One thing to note, when shooting under very coloured light, is that auto exposure tends to wash out the colours -- a strong red (e.g.) light looks dim on a B+W sensor, which is what a light-meter chip is (assuming you're using the viewfinder). For that sort of event underexposing is a good idea (1, even 2 stops). It also helps in spotlit situations.

If you're going to underexpose though, it's well worth shooting in raw mode (I tend to leave raw+jpeg on unless speed is an issue as for "family" type stuff I don't want to post-process, just send off for printing). Raw will give you some ability to lift the dark regions.

That would might well be enough to sharpen up the faces while keeping the arm movement (which itself might show up better against the background). You could afford to lose some depth of focus in this shot as well, by opening up the aperture (assuming you've got more, but f/5.6 isn't much for 32mm) -- look how far into the background static objects are still sharp. Opening the aperture would get you another stop or two.

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