It seems that some pictures I’m taking just aren’t tack sharp, I’ve been shooting in Aperture Priority and I’ve made sure to avoid camera shake and such. Based off the picture below what would be a reason on why the face isn’t as sharp? I’m shooting on a 6D II with a 85mm lens. My focus point is on the face and yet still no sharpness, I’m not using the center point as I feel that recompositioning results in blurry images and instead I’m moving to the point closest to the face.

enter image description here

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    One-Shot or AI Servo? Single Point Spot AF or Single Point AF or Zone AF? – Michael C May 22 '18 at 8:56
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    ISO? Av? Tv? Noise reduction and JPEG compression settings? – Michael C May 22 '18 at 9:17
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    Single Point & One Shot. I’m using an 85mm 1.8 not L lens. Yes I do have a lens hood. My ISO was at 200 @ 1.8 – Christopher C. May 22 '18 at 22:10

I don't think you're lacking in sharpness: at full size, the image you post shows sharp eyelashes and teeth. If you are using a large aperture (<F2), that explains the unsharp ears.

When you reduce the size at which the image is displayed, apparent sharpness tends to decrease. To get the impression of sharpness back, you'd have to apply some sharpening after downsizing.

Another factor is the contrast of the face, which in this case is rather low. That also tends to give the impression the image isn't sharp. Local contrast enhancement can be useful in such cases.

I wrote "impression of sharpness", as the usual sharpening techniques increase the contrast at edges in the image, which increases the acuity. It does not increase the resolution of details in your image.

There are some methods that can increase the level of detail in your image (up to a point), by using Fourier or wavelet transforms. Those methods are rather complex, slow, and can easily give rise to (very ugly) artifacts, but when applied with caution they can give you extra detail.

In summary: you could use a smaller aperture to get better depth of field, and do some editing (mainly sharpening, perhaps Local Contrast Enhancement) to counteract the effects of the low contrast and size reduction. (Even your full image as shown here isn't 26 megapixels).

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    Good answer. Not a pro but to me the light and EV setting washes out some "apparent focus" as well. Some flash or light source would help, and then you can tack a few notches up on the exposure compensation to get better contrast where you want it. – Stian Yttervik May 22 '18 at 9:13
  • Wouldn’t the flash light up the subjects face too harshly? I shot at 200 iso with the sun right behind the subject which caused alittle bit of the halo. Would would have been my best approach if any when taking this shot? – Christopher C. May 22 '18 at 22:15
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    "Wouldn’t the flash light up the subjects face too harshly?" Not if the flash is off camera, set at a low enough power, the correct color to match the low angle sunlight, and properly modified to shape the light the way you need. – Michael C May 22 '18 at 22:35

Looking at the example image at full magnification, it seems that the sharpest part of the boy's face is the tip of his nose. If you look at his left hand (camera right), you see that the area from around his fingers' first knuckles back almost to his wrist is the sharpest part of the entire photo.

This could be due to:

  • You placing the AF point on his nose.
  • The PDAF system is slightly out of calibration and your camera is front focusing slightly. This can be corrected using in-camera AFMA (Auto Focus Micro Adjustment).
  • You are correctly focusing on his eyes, but then you or he are moving slightly between the time you lock focus and the time you take the photo.
  • You are using 'Zone AF' with nine points enabled and expecting it to work like 'AF Point Expansion' on other Canon cameras, where the center point is given priority. With 'Zone AF' all nine points are given equal priority and the camera will usually focus on the nearest object within the area of sensitivity.

Most 85mm lenses have fairly wide maximum apertures anywhere between f/1.2, f/1.4, and f/1.8. At those apertures and your shooting distance Depth of Field (DoF) will be razor thin. If the camera is focused on the tip of his nose, the parts of the face further back will be progressively blurred fairly quickly.

But beyond that, you might be confusing 'sharpness' with 'contrast'. Even when two subjects are equally "sharp" in terms of absolute resolution, the object with higher contrast will look "sharper" to our eyes. There's not much contrast in your subject's face. This is mainly due to the strong backlight in the scene. To make the subject's face "pop", it needs some light shining on it from an angle that allows it to illuminate the front of the face.

Remember those parts of his left hand that look the sharpest? They're being illuminated by some reflected light from the sides that give them more contrast than the center part of the same hand that isn't getting any texture defining light - just like the middle of the face.

enter image description here

  • Could there also be some diffused lens flare, reducing the contrast further? – Eric Duminil May 22 '18 at 12:03
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    It doesn't look like there is much, if any veiling flare. It's all about what parts of the subject are not getting any good light, not about any bad light being present. – Michael C May 22 '18 at 12:05
  • I admit on placing the focus point in the nose mainly because I didn’t want to recompose up to the eyes. You think the contrast may have been lost due to the sun being behind my subject and the focus point being on the nose? I shot the image at 1.8, you think I should have gone a stop higher? – Christopher C. May 22 '18 at 22:27
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    If you don't want the tip of the nose to be sharper than the rest of the face, then don't focus on the tip of the nose. With portraits you almost always want the eyes to be the sharpest part of the face, so you need to focus on the eye closest to the camera. Re: shooting with the sun behind your subject: It only takes a well placed reflector to bounce some of the sun's light onto the face at an angle to give the face plenty of definition and contrast. If you choose to use a flash instead, it helps if you match the color of the flash to the color of the sunlight via a filter on the flash. – Michael C May 22 '18 at 22:32

If you shoot your 85mm f/1.4 or f/1.8 wide open at a close distance - you DoF is quite tiny (http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html to the rescue). It's really hard to tell looking at the small example image, but the eye lashes and eye brows seem in focus to me. Are you using your OVF (optical viewfinder) or the LV screen? If the first one - run a calibration test to make sure there is no play between your lens, the PDAF array and the sensor. I use Reikan FoCal, but there is a bunch of free DIY or cheap alternatives. You may also try to use the LV focusing (with or without face detection), which employs Canon's dual pixel AF. it's always accurate but probably not as fast as PDAF. And finally, different lens produce different sharpness. The sharpness is always at its lowest point when you shoot wide open regardless of the lens. For an average f/1.4-f/1.8 lens the best sharpness would be around f/4 - f/5.6, which probably won't give enough background blur, but your subject will be perfectly sharp. After f/8 (depends on the sensor pixel size) the sharpness will also degrade due to diffraction.

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