Blurry images while using my speed light

vivienne forte

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Hello everyone, Ive never posted on a forum before so please bare with me if i'm not doing this correctly but i really could do with some advise regarding a problem I encountered on the weekend.

I used my speed light on top of my Nikon and unfortunately at least 50% of my photos are out of focus and i have no idea why. My shutter was set on 1/80th or above mostly 1/100. It was a very dark rainy /cloudy day so my iso was very high but i used shutter priority so it never went below 1/80. Could it be the lens i used ? a 50mm?

Hopefully someone can tell me what i did wrong so this doesn't happen again. i am so confused because some of the images came out clear and then on the same settings the next image would be out of focus?
Please any advise would be appreciated! I have added an example of one image.
 

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480sparky

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Looks like the camera moved. There's enough ambient light to create a decent exposure without the speedlight and the camera moved during exposure.
 

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I agree with Sparky on the camera movement. If the camera was on a tripod, make sure the VR is off on the lens.

This is a good example of why you should shoot in manual mode when using the flash. You should set your aperture for desired depth of field and control the ambient light using the shutter speed. Your flash will do the rest. You can set your flash for manual as well and control it's intensity on the flash or in the camera, if your model supports this. You don't tell us what camera model or flash model so I am not sure if you can use HSS. However, you could also shoot in TTL mode (flash and camera) and set your camera's shutter speed at the flash sync speed and set your aperture for the desired depth of field, and then you could compensate the flash intensity using flash compensation in camera if desired. There are other methods and lots of videos on YouTube to get a firm grasp. It is really easy to do, just have to understand the concepts.

It really helps to have a TTL cable made for your particular brand of camera and get the flash off of the camera. Velo is a good brand of cable and reasonably priced. You would hold the flash in your left hand at a 45° angle from the subject and preferably elbow above the lens, to the left. There are other methods to trigger the flash as well but this is probably the cheapest alternative to bump up the light quality.
 
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vivienne forte

vivienne forte

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I agree with Sparky on the camera movement. If the camera was on a tripod, make sure the VR is off on the lens.

This is a good example of why you should shoot in manual mode when using the flash. You should set your aperture for desired depth of field and control the ambient light using the shutter speed. Your flash will do the rest. You can set your flash for manual as well and control it's intensity on the flash or in the camera, if your model supports this. You don't tell us what camera model or flash model so I am not sure if you can use HSS. However, you could also shoot in TTL mode (flash and camera) and set your camera's shutter speed at the flash sync speed and set your aperture for the desired depth of field, and then you could compensate the flash intensity using flash compensation in camera if desired. There are other methods and lots of videos on YouTube to get a firm grasp. It is really easy to do, just have to understand the concepts.

It really helps to have a TTL cable made for your particular brand of camera and get the flash off of the camera. Velo is a good brand of cable and reasonably priced. You would hold the flash in your left hand at a 45° angle from the subject and preferably elbow above the lens, to the left. There are other methods to trigger the flash as well but this is probably the cheapest alternative to bump up the light quality.
Looks like the camera moved. There's enough ambient light to create a decent exposure without the speedlight and the camera moved during exposure.
Looks like the camera moved. There's enough ambient light to create a decent exposure without the speedlight and the camera moved during exposure.[/QUOTE
So if you think at 1/100 im still getting camera shake , is this too low & what would you recommend i shoot at to avoid this happening again? .... I didnt realise i had such an unsteady hand :-(
 
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vivienne forte

vivienne forte

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I agree with Sparky on the camera movement. If the camera was on a tripod, make sure the VR is off on the lens.

This is a good example of why you should shoot in manual mode when using the flash. You should set your aperture for desired depth of field and control the ambient light using the shutter speed. Your flash will do the rest. You can set your flash for manual as well and control it's intensity on the flash or in the camera, if your model supports this. You don't tell us what camera model or flash model so I am not sure if you can use HSS. However, you could also shoot in TTL mode (flash and camera) and set your camera's shutter speed at the flash sync speed and set your aperture for the desired depth of field, and then you could compensate the flash intensity using flash compensation in camera if desired. There are other methods and lots of videos on YouTube to get a firm grasp. It is really easy to do, just have to understand the concepts.

It really helps to have a TTL cable made for your particular brand of camera and get the flash off of the camera. Velo is a good brand of cable and reasonably priced. You would hold the flash in your left hand at a 45° angle from the subject and preferably elbow above the lens, to the left. There are other methods to trigger the flash as well but this is probably the cheapest alternative to bump up the light quality.

Thank you for your help, i really appreciate your advice. Ive just looked back on this particular family & i did shoot in manual mode and The flash was always on TTL. . My speed light is SB700 and camera is Nikon 7100. Can you explain how i set my cameras shutter speed to the flash sync speed as im thinking the sync may be off?
 

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1/100, which is what was used, is the synch speed. The speedlight is producing a shadow, so everything is right with shutter speed and synch. You're just moving the camera too much pushing the button.
 

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Blur in a shot which is in focus is typically going to come from one (or both) of two sources - movement of the camera and/or movement of the subject(s).

In this case the subjects are pretty still and the blur is fairly even over them all; so this suggests that the blur is most likely coming from the camera moving around. If it was motion from the subjects you'd expect natural variation between different subjects and you'd expect the blur to focus on areas of them which were moving - getting stronger in those regions.


So now we know the likely source is the camera end of the scale we can consider what might be the issue. With a shutter speed of 1/100sec and a focal length of 50mm this is within the typical "good hand holding" region of shutter speeds. The VERY rough rule is that shutter speed is equal to 1/focal length of the lens.

So with a 50mm you'd expect to be safe up to 1/50sec. So 1/100sec should be more than enough shutter speed.

Real world experience will vary this; eg going into very wide angle focal lengths 30mm and smaller) one can often find that you can hand hold steady at much slower than normal speeds; conversely once you go beyond around 200mm many often find that they need faster speeds than the 1/focal length guideline suggests.


That said you're still getting blur. This might then come down to your posture and physical condition/fitness. The rule of thumb noted above is only a guideline and assumes good posture. You might want to consider putting your legs apart a little, ensuring that the camera is held snug toward your face with your hands holding it firm and your elbows down and close to your body. Look up some videos/guides as there's a fair bit about good posture out there.

If that doesn't yield reliable results then consider using a faster shutter speed. Now as you're using flash this might get a bit more complex. Flash units have a maximum sync speed, which is the fastest shutter speed they can fire at whilst giving a uniform spread of light. This varies camera to camera but its typically around the 1/200 to 1/250sec speeds. Check the manual of the flash/camera for specifics. Any faster and the camera shutter system itself moves its lower shutter curtain before the upper has fully finished opening; so instead of the whole sensor seeing light at once, only a section of it does at any one time. Faster and faster speeds this sliver gets thinner and thinner. If you add flash during those speeds you get thick black bars which is where the shutter curtains are moving and shielding that part of the sensor from the split second of flash light.
Now many flashes have "high speed sync" mode which uses less power, but fires the light in pulses so that as the shutter curtains move each segment of the exposed sensor gets its own little blast of flash light. Of course this means the flash can't output as much power. It's good for fillflash where you just need the flash to lift the light in the shadows of the shot; but its not good for flash dominated lighting where the flash is providing the majority of the light for the shot.

Looking at your example shot I'm guessing the flash is more providing fill than main light. If it was providing main light you'd likely not have the blur issue (because the only light contributing meaningfully to the exposure would be the splitsecond of flash light - so you'd not see any blurring that results from a longer exposure of light - which is what the natural light is giving you).


So in summary - consider reviewing your posture, fitness and shooting stance. Then consider faster shutter speeds up to the sync speed of the camera/flash. If that fails consider using faster shutter speeds in conjunction with highspeed sync mode on the flash (if it supports it).

As noted above you can also use a tripod which will eliminate handshake as an issue in general. If you want to retain more mobility and speed when shooting you could meet that half way and use a monopod.
 

wfooshee

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I would disregard the pre-flash blinking warning from the previous post. The pre-flash for metering is quick enough that it's not distinguishable by human eye from the main flash. As for blinking when they see it, people will blink at a flash, but the preflash is quick enough that human reflexes won't blink by the main exposure.

Cats, on the other hand... I can't tell you how many flash picture of cats I have with the eyes closed!

One thing in the previous post I absolutely agree with: the background is better focused. Even the blue shirt is sharper than other areas of the picture. I really can't tell if that's motion blur or focus blur. The camera may be focusing behind the subjects for some reason. The EXIF data on the image shows 1/100 at f:5.6 with a 50mm lens. If you're too close, your depth of field may be too shallow to include the closer subjects.

The D7100 will synch flash up to 1/250, so try a faster shutter speed; that's as easy enough thing to do.
 
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vivienne forte

vivienne forte

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1/100, which is what was used, is the synch speed. The speedlight is producing a shadow, so everything is right with shutter speed and synch. You're just moving the camera too much pushing the button.
Okay thank you for your help. I will work on trying to keep my camera very still while shooting. Thanks !
 
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vivienne forte

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Blur in a shot which is in focus is typically going to come from one (or both) of two sources - movement of the camera and/or movement of the subject(s).

In this case the subjects are pretty still and the blur is fairly even over them all; so this suggests that the blur is most likely coming from the camera moving around. If it was motion from the subjects you'd expect natural variation between different subjects and you'd expect the blur to focus on areas of them which were moving - getting stronger in those regions.


So now we know the likely source is the camera end of the scale we can consider what might be the issue. With a shutter speed of 1/100sec and a focal length of 50mm this is within the typical "good hand holding" region of shutter speeds. The VERY rough rule is that shutter speed is equal to 1/focal length of the lens.

So with a 50mm you'd expect to be safe up to 1/50sec. So 1/100sec should be more than enough shutter speed.

Real world experience will vary this; eg going into very wide angle focal lengths 30mm and smaller) one can often find that you can hand hold steady at much slower than normal speeds; conversely once you go beyond around 200mm many often find that they need faster speeds than the 1/focal length guideline suggests.


That said you're still getting blur. This might then come down to your posture and physical condition/fitness. The rule of thumb noted above is only a guideline and assumes good posture. You might want to consider putting your legs apart a little, ensuring that the camera is held snug toward your face with your hands holding it firm and your elbows down and close to your body. Look up some videos/guides as there's a fair bit about good posture out there.

If that doesn't yield reliable results then consider using a faster shutter speed. Now as you're using flash this might get a bit more complex. Flash units have a maximum sync speed, which is the fastest shutter speed they can fire at whilst giving a uniform spread of light. This varies camera to camera but its typically around the 1/200 to 1/250sec speeds. Check the manual of the flash/camera for specifics. Any faster and the camera shutter system itself moves its lower shutter curtain before the upper has fully finished opening; so instead of the whole sensor seeing light at once, only a section of it does at any one time. Faster and faster speeds this sliver gets thinner and thinner. If you add flash during those speeds you get thick black bars which is where the shutter curtains are moving and shielding that part of the sensor from the split second of flash light.
Now many flashes have "high speed sync" mode which uses less power, but fires the light in pulses so that as the shutter curtains move each segment of the exposed sensor gets its own little blast of flash light. Of course this means the flash can't output as much power. It's good for fillflash where you just need the flash to lift the light in the shadows of the shot; but its not good for flash dominated lighting where the flash is providing the majority of the light for the shot.

Looking at your example shot I'm guessing the flash is more providing fill than main light. If it was providing main light you'd likely not have the blur issue (because the only light contributing meaningfully to the exposure would be the splitsecond of flash light - so you'd not see any blurring that results from a longer exposure of light - which is what the natural light is giving you).


So in summary - consider reviewing your posture, fitness and shooting stance. Then consider faster shutter speeds up to the sync speed of the camera/flash. If that fails consider using faster shutter speeds in conjunction with highspeed sync mode on the flash (if it supports it).

As noted above you can also use a tripod which will eliminate handshake as an issue in general. If you want to retain more mobility and speed when shooting you could meet that half way and use a monopod.
This has been really helpful. I have already looked up posture images and will try to be slower when pressing the shutter on my next shoot. Something i hadn't considered before so thank you.
 
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vivienne forte

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I would disregard the pre-flash blinking warning from the previous post. The pre-flash for metering is quick enough that it's not distinguishable by human eye from the main flash. As for blinking when they see it, people will blink at a flash, but the preflash is quick enough that human reflexes won't blink by the main exposure.

Cats, on the other hand... I can't tell you how many flash picture of cats I have with the eyes closed!

One thing in the previous post I absolutely agree with: the background is better focused. Even the blue shirt is sharper than other areas of the picture. I really can't tell if that's motion blur or focus blur. The camera may be focusing behind the subjects for some reason. The EXIF data on the image shows 1/100 at f:5.6 with a 50mm lens. If you're too close, your depth of field may be too shallow to include the closer subjects.

The D7100 will synch flash up to 1/250, so try a faster shutter speed; that's as easy enough thing to do.

I was standing quite far away and using a Nikon 50mm lens which i usually use for close up portraits but the light was really bad that day an it was a choice between my 18-200 or my 50mm which is my favourite lens so i used that one(my first time to use it on a group). Some of the images as you say did show focus on the subject behind rather than where i had actually pressed the focus on. This seems to be a problem with this lens quite a lot. I will focus close on an eye and then when i zoom into the final photo its the ear thats in focus.:-( Would i be better off using the 18-200 for groups of 3 or more people next time?
 
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vivienne forte

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Blur in a shot which is in focus is typically going to come from one (or both) of two sources - movement of the camera and/or movement of the subject(s).

In this case the subjects are pretty still and the blur is fairly even over them all; so this suggests that the blur is most likely coming from the camera moving around. If it was motion from the subjects you'd expect natural variation between different subjects and you'd expect the blur to focus on areas of them which were moving - getting stronger in those regions.


So now we know the likely source is the camera end of the scale we can consider what might be the issue. With a shutter speed of 1/100sec and a focal length of 50mm this is within the typical "good hand holding" region of shutter speeds. The VERY rough rule is that shutter speed is equal to 1/focal length of the lens.

So with a 50mm you'd expect to be safe up to 1/50sec. So 1/100sec should be more than enough shutter speed.

Real world experience will vary this; eg going into very wide angle focal lengths 30mm and smaller) one can often find that you can hand hold steady at much slower than normal speeds; conversely once you go beyond around 200mm many often find that they need faster speeds than the 1/focal length guideline suggests.


That said you're still getting blur. This might then come down to your posture and physical condition/fitness. The rule of thumb noted above is only a guideline and assumes good posture. You might want to consider putting your legs apart a little, ensuring that the camera is held snug toward your face with your hands holding it firm and your elbows down and close to your body. Look up some videos/guides as there's a fair bit about good posture out there.

If that doesn't yield reliable results then consider using a faster shutter speed. Now as you're using flash this might get a bit more complex. Flash units have a maximum sync speed, which is the fastest shutter speed they can fire at whilst giving a uniform spread of light. This varies camera to camera but its typically around the 1/200 to 1/250sec speeds. Check the manual of the flash/camera for specifics. Any faster and the camera shutter system itself moves its lower shutter curtain before the upper has fully finished opening; so instead of the whole sensor seeing light at once, only a section of it does at any one time. Faster and faster speeds this sliver gets thinner and thinner. If you add flash during those speeds you get thick black bars which is where the shutter curtains are moving and shielding that part of the sensor from the split second of flash light.
Now many flashes have "high speed sync" mode which uses less power, but fires the light in pulses so that as the shutter curtains move each segment of the exposed sensor gets its own little blast of flash light. Of course this means the flash can't output as much power. It's good for fillflash where you just need the flash to lift the light in the shadows of the shot; but its not good for flash dominated lighting where the flash is providing the majority of the light for the shot.

Looking at your example shot I'm guessing the flash is more providing fill than main light. If it was providing main light you'd likely not have the blur issue (because the only light contributing meaningfully to the exposure would be the splitsecond of flash light - so you'd not see any blurring that results from a longer exposure of light - which is what the natural light is giving you).


So in summary - consider reviewing your posture, fitness and shooting stance. Then consider faster shutter speeds up to the sync speed of the camera/flash. If that fails consider using faster shutter speeds in conjunction with highspeed sync mode on the flash (if it supports it).

As noted above you can also use a tripod which will eliminate handshake as an issue in general. If you want to retain more mobility and speed when shooting you could meet that half way and use a monopod.
This has been so helpful, thank you. Can i ask you, while i'm using my nikon 50mm lens should my subjects be quite close? is their a maxium distance they should be away before me before the image starts to look out of focus. For example the photo i opload here , are my subjects too far for that particular lens. Should i have used my 18-200mm? Sorry if i sound really dumb but im learning.
 

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Ok so your focusing problem sounds like two problems combined

1) Focusing itself. First understand that when you use focusing the camera doesn't know what you're looking at*; it basically uses all the focusing sensors (points) that you have told it to use and looks for the nearest point of contrast difference it can find to focus upon. This is why focusing can sometimes fail if you're shooting a bright blue sky or a white wall because there's no (or very limited) contrast variation for it to pick up.

Now if you've got all the AF points active and you are shooting a subject the camera won't know what part of that subject you want in focus; it just finds the nearest point. This is why many photographers will use 1 active AF point. This they can then point at the area they want in focus and the camera can lock into that area. Now for most cameras the centre AF point is the "best", however these days quite a lot of the other points, even in lower end cameras; are very good as well and for a static subject more than good enough. So read the camera manual on how to change your AF mode and points and how to move them around for different situations.

2) Depth of field. The area of the photo in focus and sharp. Think of it like a flat sheet of paper parallel to the front of the lens. The thicker the sheet of paper the greater the depth of field. This is important to keep in mind because if you recall point 1, many people will use that idea and "focus and recompose". Which means they set the AF to the central point; point it at the subject area they want in focus, focus; then move the camera (recompose) to get the composition they want. The camera doesn't "see" the subject so it just locked the AF position at a set distance. recomposing might move that parallel "sheet of paper" (depth of field) away from the original subject area.


Now the depth of field itself is affected by several variables (I only outline a few below).
First off distance, broadly speaking the greater the distance between you and a subject the greater the depth of field. Therefor with a shorter focal length getting you physically closer to the subjects the depth of field, if all else is equal, will be slightly less. This doesn't mean that long lenses are always best, it just means that you need to be aware of the variation.

Second (and often the most noted) is the aperture. The smaller the aperture (bigger the f number) the greater the depth of field. Your 50mm goes very wide whilst your 18-200 can't go as wide in aperture. Therefore what you're seeing as a difference between the two might well be that when you are taking the shot with the 50mm, esp in lower lighting, the aperture might be very wide (small f number); whilst the 18-200mm you might be doing the same things, but because the lens can't go as wide, you aren't going as wide with it as with the 50mm. Resulting in the difference in depth of field that you are seeing.
This is likely one of the bigger areas that you're seeing the difference with between your two lenses.



For a group with multiple points of focus and a general thicker "depth" to the subject you might well want a smaller aperture (larger f number). Don't be afraid of f4 or even up to f8 and such. Creating a thicker "sheet of paper" so that it covers each of your subjects.


*yes I'm aware some/many modern cameras do have things like facial recognition and such, but that's a set of features unto itself, for now we'll keep it simple
 

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The D7100 has the ability to fine tune focus on a per-lens basis. If the lens focuses behind where the camera is telling it to focus, am adjustment factor can be entered into the camera using its menus.

It requires some test subject setup, but have a look here.
 

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1/100, which is what was used, is the synch speed. The speedlight is producing a shadow, so everything is right with shutter speed and synch. You're just moving the camera too much pushing the button.
Okay thank you for your help. I will work on trying to keep my camera very still while shooting. Thanks !
Your title says 'while using speed light' If you're using flash the effective shutter speed is while the flash is lighting the subject typically under 1/1000s. It's unusual to get camera movement in such a short time.
In such cases I'd minimise the ISO (rather than using auto ISO) to make sure the flash lighting is significant. Outdoors with the wider apertures often used for portraits the ambient light can provide plenty of light so even with the flash 'on' it might be doing very little.

When flash is not in use a moderately experienced photographer should be able to get images with no significant camera movement when using a 50mm lens at 1/60s. When I first started as a boy I sometimes jabbed at the shutter release (especially if excited about the subject) which caused camera movement - as when handling people a gentle squeeze is much preferable to a jab :)
 

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