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I was taking this picture of the sunset. I used auto focus, but the trees are not really that focused. Also, the red background is grainy.

Any tips if I get this opportunity again?

I was using a Canon XSi/450D with a Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM lens on tripod, ISO 400, 1/30, f/5.6, metering mode spot (newcomer mistake?), focal length 115mm, auto focus. The picture was saved as JPEG (would RAW make a big difference?) in sRGB color space.

sunset

magnification

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As to the trees being unsharp:

It is very difficult to tell, but I think that the autofocus decided to get the house, not the trees in focus. It really is best to specify a certain AF point (p. 61 in the camera's manual). Or, if shooting from a tripod, use LiveView's freely movable contrast AF (p. 95, 102-106) - or focus manually (p. 98). My second guess, as nothing really seems that sharp, would be that it is due to lack of sharpness. Stop down your lens (start with f/8) and see if things get better.

In general, the 75-300 f/4-5.6 III USM is not considered to be very sharp:

If you care about great image quality and sharp photos, the Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM Lens is not for you. And Photoshop cannot enhance details that are not there.

Source: the-digital-picture.com

The only positive feelings I have about [the 75-300 (Non-USM)] is that it covers the 75-300 mm range.

Source: chills42's answer on "How does the Canon EF 75-300mm USM III compare to the Canon EF 70-300mm USM IS?".

So if you have any other lens than that, it is perhaps best to switch to that as often as possible and/or to buy a decent lens (like - but not limited to - the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM).

Also, 1/30" could be a bit too long for trees - even very soft wind (soft enough to not be perceptible when wearing something long-sleeved) could move the leaves enough to become blurry because of motion blur.


As to RAW vs JPEG: This has been covered at length here at photo.stackexchange. Take, for example, this answer on "Good examples of RAW's advantages over JPEG?" by @jrista:

The value of RAW is not really in the end result, although it is possible for the end result created with a RAW image to be better than that created with a JPEG. The reason for this has to do with the workflow between snapping a shot and saving or printing a final image. RAW gives you headroom that JPEG can't come close to offering. You have the ability to recover highlights and shadows, apply alternative tone curves, rework old RAW images with newer RAW processing algorithms to get better results, etc.


As to metering:

p. 77 in the manual explains the differentiation between all the modes. As a rule of thumb, use evaluative metering as your default setting. It works well most of the time. I rarely use anything else, and if I do, I usually go for center-weighted average metering. In extreme rare cases, I used partial metering: That mainly helps when having extreme brightness differences between the background and your subject (e.g. black backdrop and flash-lit, white subject - or vice versa). I, for one, never seriously used spot metering.

As said, I usually (> 97% of the time) stay with evaluative metering. I usually either set the exposure myself (using M-mode) or let the camera decide on the ISO, and in the rare occasion that the metering is off, I simply dial in some compensation. With increasing routine, you might even learn to do that on-the-fly, e.g. when I see a dark background that takes most of the frame and a well-lit subject, I know that I need to set a negative exposure compensation. I could just as well use partial or spot metering, but then my subject would have to be in the center of the frame - and I would have to remember that only the center of the frame is evaluated (there is a reason why most cameras show an optional warning in the viewfinder when using spot metering). Your mileage on this may vary, but evaluative metering to me seems like a good default setting for anything, especially for non-studio shots.

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    For APS-C cameras the EF 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II or EF 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM offer essentially the same image quality as the 70-300mm varieties at a much lower price. – Michael C May 21 '18 at 2:31
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Shooting in low light will always be a compromise.

One way or another you have to get enough signal out of the sensor, that means a wide aperture, a slow shutter speed, a high ISO or some combination.

  • A wide aperture lets in more light per unit time but reduces the depth of field and makes lens imperfections worse.
  • A long exposure lets in light for a longer time (and hence more total light) but causes motion blur if anything (subject or camera) moves significantly during the exposure time.
  • A high ISO allows the desired signal to be achieved with less light but it comes at a price in noise. This is especially noticeable on areas of the image that should be flat color.

In other words if you stop down the aperture and make the shutter speed shorter as flolilolilo's answer suggests you may improve the sharpness of the leaves, but you will need to use a higher ISO to keep the exposure correct and that is likely to make the background noise worse.

Pick your poison.

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Any tips if I get this opportunity again?

As other answers point out, your problem basically boils down to: not enough light. So one thing you can do to get better sunset images (IMO; I have some here if you want to see where I'm coming from) is to have the sun in the frame, instead of capturing just the dark sky. Because the sun is basically the most powerful light source you can ask for, it will give you enough light to allow you to use at the same time a narrow aperture (so more of the scene will be "in focus") and a fast shutter speed (no motion blur) and still have enough light for the image to be satisfactorily exposed at base ISO.

Note however that your camera's meter will probably be confused by such scenes, so you would need to significantly "underexpose" (relative to what the meter thinks is correct); you can do that either by using negative exposure compensation or switching to M mode and fiddling with the exposure settings.

  • Ok, this is more a trees against red background then a sunset picture then. I like the idea with such a composition and if I get the chance again, I will try to make a good shot. Also, what a beautyful gallery you have from your country! – Anders Lindén May 21 '18 at 5:55

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