Why do my images print out fuzzy?

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by nsupanda, May 22, 2009.

  1. nsupanda
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    nsupanda New Member

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    First let me start off by saying that I am a VERY new beginner with photography. The problem I'm having is that I take the pictures and then I edit them with photoshop elements. They turn out pretty good on the computer screen, but when I get the actual prints in the mail they are fuzzy. Not too fuzzy that they're worthless, but they just don't look "professional". Now, I'm not expecting much here because I really don't know all the tricks of the trade, but I don't know why there is such a difference between on-screen and on-paper. My pictures are on my blog if you want to see my work so far:

    www.amandarealphotography.blogspot.com

    I'm using a Canon xsi with only the kit lens so far. I use mpix for printing services. I am also using the highest megapixels my camera offers (12 I think).

    Please let me know if you have any advice or comments. Thanks!

    Oh! I also must add that I only use RAW files and then save that RAW file to a .tiff file to stop any loss that may occur after processing.
  2. Big Mike
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    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member

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    Hi Amanda,

    Can you tell us the details of the images that you send to print lab? What size (in pixels) are they? (have you resized them in processing?)
    What PPI (resolution) do you have them set to?
    Do you apply any sharpening while processing?
    Do you send those TIFF files or do you save a JPEG copy for printing?
  3. nsupanda
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    nsupanda New Member

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    Well, now that I'm seriously thinking about it... I'm looking at the original files and they're sort of fuzzy on screen when I zoom in closer... So it's probably not the processing... it's just me and my lack of knowledge.

    How do you guys all get really clear photographs? Is it the lens? Like I said, I'm using the kit lens, and I'm using both manual and auto focus. I'm not trying to go about this the wrong (or quick) way, but I just can't seem to get it right. I have the potential to take good photographs, but I'm not doing well with the technical aspects of photography.

    I tried using the tripod, but lugging that thing around all the time is annoying. I see professional portrait photographers at the park and they're not using a tripod (or any other accessory that I can see).

    :confused:

    wah wah wah
  4. mrodgers
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    mrodgers New Member

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    One more question for you. Where are you sending them for print. There was a drastic difference in quality in the same exact file that I sent to Adorama, MPix, and Snapfish. Adorama and MPix were sharp, clear, and very good quality while Snapfish was pixellated enough to notice it in a 4x6 print. Again, that was the exact same file uploaded to each of the printers.
  5. nsupanda
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    nsupanda New Member

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    Well the original and post-processed files are both set to 240 ppi. I always print using the .tiff files, but I save a .jpg file for posting on the blog.

    I don't resize the images, I just crop for different sizes so that mpix does not crop it for me (i hate how they turn out when that happens).
  6. nsupanda
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    nsupanda New Member

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    So far, I have only used mpix, and I really like them. I pretty sure it's not them, it's just something I'm doing wrong.
  7. LarryD
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    LarryD New Member

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    Much of the time, a photo in RAW needs a touch of sharpen or it appears soft in the final version..

    Have you given your photos a degree of sharpness before saving them to TIFF.

    Are you using the sharpness "unsharp mask" or other sharpness tools in your Elements software as your last post processing step before sending your TIFF image off to be printed..
  8. linpelk
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    linpelk New Member

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    I have the same problem!! Maybe one in 100 pictures of my kids is spot on. Even with a fast shutter speed, even when they are sitting still for a brief moment. It is so frustrating when you've exposed properly, caught a cute expression, the light is just right and then...bummer a tiny bit out of focus. it ruins everything!!
  9. nsupanda
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    nsupanda New Member

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    Actually, I do use the unsharp mask a little. I'm afraid to use it too much because then it might look grainy. I create a layer and apply the unsharp mask but then I set the opacity of that layer to 20% (I'm using Scott Kelby's advice for editing portraits in his photoshop how-to book). I then merge all the layers and save it as a .tiff file.
  10. zsparks
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    zsparks New Member

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    Have you tried finding your focus point then flipping to manual as you adjust other things so that you don't lose it?

    I don't do that all the time but I occasionally find it quite useful. I hate when autofocus fails me.
  11. Big Mike
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    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member

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    First thing first...can you post some examples (maybe cropped sections of large photos, so we can see them without having to be resized)...also include the EXIF data so that we can see the settings you shot them at.

    Also, I really don't think there is a need to send TIFF files for printing. This may be part of the problem, because TIFF files can be very large, so they may be getting automatically resized or compressed at some point. It's OK to work with TIFF files, but when you save for printing, just save them as JPEG files. There will be some information loss because JPEG is a compressed format...but you certainly won't notice it. You don't want to be continually saving and opening JPEG files...but saving them once is certainly nothing to worry about...I'm actually surprised they accept TIFF files....99.5% of people probably send JPEG.

    As mentioned, files from RAW do usually need some sharpening. Sharpening can be a confusing subject. The ideal amounts are different, depending on what your final product is and what your workflow is like. For the most part, you can sharpen to a point that looks like too much on the monitor, but it will look good on a print.
  12. KmH
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    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish

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    From the Mpix Support pages:

    "How to prepare your files for printing

    Please save your files in sRGB color space in 8-bit color, not 16-bit, to achieve the best print results. Also, please do NOT embed any profiles. Please - no CMYK, Grayscale, RAW, PSD or LZW compressed files, and if you work in layers, be sure to flatten the file and remove any extra channels before sending. We print from JPEG format files. Lossless or highest quality JPEG compressions are more than adequate for high quality printing. In the early days of digital that wasn't always the case; however, the compression algorithms have become very sophisticated and it is nearly impossible to distinguish a JPEG print from a TIFF print with the naked eye."

    To summarize they require your image files be JPEG, sRGB, 8-bit color, minimum 100ppi.

    Here is the link to the entire page.
  13. nsupanda
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    nsupanda New Member

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    Wow, thanks for that link!!! :thumbup:
  14. Montana
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    Montana New Member

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    You may also want to do more searches on unsharp mask. If you are barely using any on a RAW file and also using it as a 20% opacity layer, it sounds like too little to me. Of course it depends on many things and print size being one of them, but there are some good online "how-to" reads that are worthy of checking out. I am not on my personal computer at the moment so unfortuneatly, I cannot provide links.
  15. Dwig
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    Dwig New Member

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    Well the original and post-processed files are both set to 240 ppi. ...
    I don't resize the images, I just crop for different sizes so that mpix does not crop it for me...[/QUOTE]

    You appearantly are a bit in the dark about the meaning of PPI.

    PPI is, by itself, meaningless with regards to image quality. You must also specify the image size in inches for it to have any meaning.

    If you initially import the image, via some RAW converter, at 240ppi there is some size assiciated with that PPI value. The real size of the image is measured in pixels. The PPI (Pixels Per Inch) mearly is a scaling factor to be used by other software when importing the image. What is important is the effective PPI at the final printed size and not the PPI at some arbitrary size.

    After you crop you images to shape you need to check the image size settings in your editor and see that it spec's the image size in inches to your desired print size. Only then can you use the displayed PPI to judge quality.
  16. In2daBlue
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    In2daBlue New Member

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    Just a suggestion, but you might try and rent a higher quality lens. I am not sure what kit lens you are using but there is a reason the top-level lenses are so expensive and it's not just the fact that they allow you stop down lower. Rent a higher quality lens and bring it out to the park on your next shoot. Set up a tripod and then take the same photo with the rented lens and then with your kit lens. If you see a difference after the fact you will know where your problem is.

    Some of the kit lenses work well in terms of clarity. The Nikon 18-70mm 3.2 has nice clarity when you're shooting between 50-70mm. The barrel distortion on it is pretty bad at wide angles and you lose some sharpness at 100%, but it's still a good lens for a beginner despite its shortcomings. In the end though, a $1,800 piece of glass is going to give you nicer images at the extremes (including when at 100%).

    Just a thought.
  17. samleo
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    samleo New Member

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    If you are just using a basic kit lens check that its not back - focusing; its a common problem!

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