View Full Version : Grainy digital images

26-01-09, 14:07
After a suggestion from yelvertoft, here goes;

I'm getting what I consider to be grainy images from my new Canon 450D SLR, is it just me or am I getting something wrong?

I use a EF 75-300mm lens, sorry I can't remember all the other technical details as I took these photos using the sports setting on the camera, the one thing I do know is that the longer the focal length, the worse it gets.

The first image 01 025, I was reasonably close and for the most part this image looks OK

Image 01 088 I'm a bit further away and in my eyes there is grain appearing.

Finally Ian (our reserves team manager), this is a crop of a long distance shot of him at the full 300mm and it looks awful!

Is all of this down to the pixels or is there something I can do to help prevent this from appearing?

All thoughts most welcome

26-01-09, 14:23
Trevor to me its looks like motion blur but need a bit more information on what ISO, f stop and shutter speed you took them at, there is no exif data for me to check out.

gordon g
26-01-09, 14:55
No1 has some motion blur, but there are focussed bits in the image, and it doesnt intrude. No2 nothing is quite in focuss - not sure if this is a ocus issue or camera shake. No3 some camera shake, but also some pixelation evident - perhaps because of the crop.
EXIf would help a lot to help us help you.

26-01-09, 15:21
OK, I've found the exif details, I didn't know it was downloaded along with the image :rolleyes:

Image 01 025
Exposure 1/200
Focal length 135mm

Image 01 088
Exposure 1/160
Focal length 300mm

The original of the Ian crop is the same as image 01 088

Image blur is something I notice I have on a lot of these action photos, something I plan to practice. I have also bought a monopod as a tripod is far to cumbersome at games, perhaps this will help with motion blur

26-01-09, 15:52
Reading the exif data , I would say the speed at 1/200s and 1/160s is far to slow for action shots you need a minimum speed of 1/500s. If you can't get that speed then keep going up with the ISO, you will get more noise at higher ISO but that can be corrected in a good noise reducing program. With plenty of practice with higher speeds and good technique you will have more keepers.

26-01-09, 16:07
OK Thanks Saphire, as I've already mentioned besides it being a new image format for me the kind of photography is also unexplored territory. Plenty to learn and practice I think

At least I'm not wasting rolls of film in the process :)

26-01-09, 17:25
Right! The last hour has been very interesting thanks to the above pointers.

Instead of using the camera basic feature for sports I've been playing about with the Tv and it's settings. Already much better images coming through though I've only been shooting the traffic coming along our road (they must think I'm an undercover traffic cop because they've all been slowing down as they near me :D)

Still much to learn but I can already see vast improvements, thank you

gordon g
26-01-09, 17:46
That's the joy of digital Trevor. With your camera, dont be afraid of pushing the ISO to allwo a quick enough shutter speed - you should be getting quite acceptable results all the way up to ISO800.

26-01-09, 19:09
Finally Ian (our reserves team manager), this is a crop of a long distance shot of him at the full 300mm and it looks awful!

Is all of this down to the pixels or is there something I can do to help prevent this from appearing?

All thoughts most welcome

You appear to have focused on thew wall behind Ian, which doesn't help. The primary reason for Ian looking so awful (I mean this strictly in the photographic sense) is because he is moving. As Christine (Saphire) says, you need to bump up the shutter speed to freeze the motion. You can do this by upping the ISO as has already been suggested, or opening up the aperture unless you're already wide open with the lens you have used (which I think is the case here).


26-01-09, 19:30
In the twilight hour that I had a play this afternoon, I just adjusted the shutter speed, varying from 1/250 right through to 1/800, setting the camera to auto detect the ISO and had much better results in fairly low light compared to the images above which were taken in much better, though still low, light conditions.

I have Wednesday pretty much to myself and as long as there is nothing my wife needs me to do I might just get out there and play some more, this time using different ISO setting as well..

The other feature I'm trying to get used to and this is why Ian's picture possibly looks so poor, is the spot auto focusing, I'm not used to it on any of my old 35mm cameras and have really just been trying to get used to these new features.

Time and practice!

26-01-09, 19:49
Quick rule of thumb for telephoto work is that the speed should be the inverse of the focal length times 1.6 (for crop factor). For 300mm focal length, then 300x1.6 = 480, therefore speed = 1/480th second (as Christine advised).

26-01-09, 21:25
Thanks Mike, something else to jot down in the memory.

Is there another rule for low light conditions? I cannot use a flash for very obvious reasons yet I'd still love to take photos under floodlight conditions of around 120 lux. Would this mean a much better camera or dare I push the ISO to it's max of 1600?

TBH, I'm not used to having the luxury of setting the ISO for perhaps each and every photo taken and until it was mentioned above it never even entered my head I now have this readily avalable.

26-01-09, 22:06
Put the ISO up to 1600 in those conditions, it will be a bit noisy but far better than no shot or a blurred one. Spot focus is a real boon for wildlife or sports, most people who do that sort of photography use it all the time. Do not underexpose the shot at high ISO as this will increase the noise a lot.

26-01-09, 22:29
Thanks Mike, the club have a friendly game tomorrow (Tuesday) evening, I may just take the camera with me for a few test shots and see what comes from them. Until now I never had the equipment or money to throw away on conditions like this, a whole new world is opening before my eyes.

26-01-09, 23:22
Low light photography is best with a tripod and long exposures (provided that the subject is not moving). Bracketing the exposure is a good idea. Also, shoot in RAW: white balance adjustment is better than with JPEG and the dynamic range is a bit more.

26-01-09, 23:40
So much to remember, but I will definately give all options mentioned a try.

I will be taking along a monopod, my tripod is a bit cumbersome especially if I have to move out of the way in a hurry.

Sports photography is so very different from my usual comfort zone but I feel like a kid again and can't wait to test myself in this new arena

27-01-09, 00:30
Hi Trevor,

They're not bad shots as a starting point.
Yeah, definately a monopod if you need the support...never a tripod unless really want to cause much grief.
Digital is great, and experimenting is great. Take plenty of shots and be prepared to ditch most of them. Be ruthless.
I've just finished wading through over 3000 images taken at a football game last saturday. I've ended up with just over 100 shots I'm happy with just over a dozen the club can use for their own purposes, and just two I would be happy to include in a portfolio.
I don't claim to an expert football snapper, I'm learning myself, but know from others who are more experienced I've had contact with, that If 1 in every 10 shots taken are 'keepers', you're either one of the world's best sports snappers, or you're not being ruthless enough!.......anyone who's telling you anything different is telling you porkies! ;)

Some of the tips I've picked up from others, and some I've found out the hard way myself;

Always use single point AF....on continous AF mode (servo AF I think on canon?)

Set the camera to activate the AF with the back button only (* button on canon?)...not the shutter release button. It gives you more accurate control over AF...as the action isn't always bang on that centre point.

I use matrix metering and have a function button programmed up for spot metering. taking spot meter readings off the players is pretty accurate normally.

Unless it's a really bright sunny day, open up the lens aperture as wide as it'll go.

Try to achieve a shutter speed 1/400- 1/500 minimum. If you can't get this crank up the ISO. Players and ball are more likely to be blurry when travelling across the frame, so aiming at action travelling towards you could get lucky and get a shot off at nearer 1/250.

Try to antipate where the action will be.....try second guessing which team mate the goalkeeper is going hoof the ball too. Great to get some jump shots in the air :)
Likewise, tracking a winger down the line with the ball is ok, but swing your gaze to the centre box for the all important ball cross.

Positioning; It might appear a little anti-social to others, but get yourself sat low down somewhere between a corner flag and goal posts.......a great position for action shots.....However, murphy's law dictates your always at the wrong end of the pitch when something good happens! Try to fill the frame with action, wait for it to come nearer, as it'll save heavy cropping on the image.

With later floodlit games I've been using f/2.8 wide open, ISO 1600 and 3200 and still only getting a shutter around the minimum of 1/400- 1/500. So good luck with the game tommorrow!....I might be inclined to try and get some 'pan' shots with slow shutter speeds...stood on the sidelines and players running past with the ball, they'll not be sharp but they use the slow shutter blur creatively, maybe?

Hope this helps?

good luck tommorrow


Rudra Sen
27-01-09, 03:46
Since youíre at it Trevor, try few more options.

Joe has already mentioned in his post about AI SERVO. Set your camera to AI SERVO mode and preset your focusing points. You can save your focusing points as your custom function (CF). AI SERVO mode wonít give you any focus confirmation as beep or light as itíll focus continuously and lock just before you press the shutter for capture. Shooting with AI SERVO mode needs some practice. AI SERVO mode also eats up battery faster than normal shooting. So keep spare batteries handy.

Members like Canis Vulpes and nigelblake can give their experienced viewpoints here.

If you have any so called protective filter on your lens, remove that and try out. Chances are that youíll get better/sharper shot. Longer focal length lenses donít like regular filters. I canít give a scientific reason for it but thatís what Iíve noticed.

More from big gun gurus here.

27-01-09, 10:49
I've attached a few pictures I took last saturday, to try and illustrate my suggestions.

The first one was taken as a penalty was taken. It gave me time to prefocus (exactly as Rudra suggests above) on the ball, and frame the shot ready for the player to run into shot and kick it. Bonus is you know the ball is going to be sharp, but watch out for the players 'kicking' leg...that's gonna be the first thing to go blurry. Set piece moves where you know that the ball and/or players are going to be in a set place really helps increase the chances of getting sharp images......Rugby Union is a much easier field sport to photograph in this respect! American football is a sport I've not but I'd love to photograph because of this too.

The second illustrates my point about filling the frame with action. I took this as action got quick close to me. It can be a bit hit and miss regards the framing and crop, so have your motor set to continuous shooting. Would also say take plenty of shots, as the chances are the action you see in the viewfinder has already been and gone by the time the camera mirror flips up and shutter opens!....try and press the shutter release slightly before the action happens (sounds mystic, but gets easier with practice).

The third shot shows what you'll probably be getting as the light goes and the floodlights switch on. Shadows get harsher, light isn't as bright, and shots get more 'grain'/noise on them. I've tried to reduce this on neat image program (photoshop has a similar 'filters' function), but the tendency is for everything to go a bit smudgy and soft if it's filtered too much (I'm guilty as charged!) notice also, the ball getting abit blurry, a result of slowing down the shutter speed due to poor light levels.

I hope this helps?


27-01-09, 18:02
I really appreciate both Joe's and Rudra Sens' input and advice, sadly I don't have a lens that I can get open to f/2.8, f/3.5 is the best I've got with the smaller lens, I might give this a try tonight and hope that some of the action comes my way. I wish I did have a f2.8 lens and may have to convince my wife that I need another lens at some point in the future.

Anyway, it has been a beautiful day here so I took myself off to the coast to practice a few shots in what are my usual comfort zones. I just set the ISO, let the camera sort the f stop and I manually focused, although not action I'm delighted with todays results.

Here are two photos that show the difference after taking some of the previous advice. The first swan is the jpeg after convertion from RAW, the second is a crop of the same picture, the same goes for the second two images. I feel much happier with my investment this evening after feeling quite depressed about it on Sunday before I joined this forum. Thanks one and all.

28-01-09, 16:33
To finish this off for now I've inculded a couple of shots I took last night, I tried the zoom lens with no results at all, then I put on the short lens and although I got a couple of decent landscape images I just couldn't up the apeture to the required f stop to get decent action pics even when it was close to me. The other thing was even at ISO 1600 I was still limited to a 1/250 shutter speed at best, the results soon diminished when I tried 1/500 and faster

I think for now I will leave my football photography to daylight only and might revisit floodlight photography when I can afford a lens to suit the conditions.

28-01-09, 23:14
I like the second one. a familiar type shot like this works very well with the goal and netting in the foreground....especially if you either get the action at your end, or a bored looking goalkeeper looking round at you.

28-01-09, 23:26
Cheers Joe, I will take the camera along to evening games but I don't think I'll be using it that often, perhaps I'll concentrate on the personalities (like most non league football clubs, we seem to have more than our fair share) in the ground watching rather than what is happening on the pitch. At least I've have proved to myself that it can be done with my limited setup which I didn't believe before I joined up here

29-01-09, 14:32
Right! I took myself up to our local glider club this morning hoping to improve my technique, I ended up with very mixed results but in the main I'm disapointed with myself as I still seem to be suffering from blurring on a lot of the images.

To start with the first two pictures I reasonably happy with and from this mornings total of 170 shots taken I guess I have around two dozen that I would say are sharpe and in focus, I used the EF 70-300mm. Is the lack of focus down to the matrix system or is it still me?

PS: I've just found a piece of software on my PC that came with the other Canon software and it handily shows me the focus points on each image, I notice when the image is slighty out of focus only one of the AF points is on the target I wish to take the photograph of, perhaps I should reset this to focus from one AF point only rather than the nine which the auto AF uses as a default setting. My apologies if this is getting boring.

29-01-09, 19:47
What's the problem with these Trevor? They all look to be in focus to me. You've stripped the EXIF data from the files again, so it's more difficult for us to be able to advise what the problem may be. The third image is in focus, but the subject is distant and it's hazy. The perceived poor focus is more to do with the weather I think than anything wrong with your camera settings.

29-01-09, 22:25
The exif is still missing because I'm still using Photoshop 5.5 which I hope to sort out in the future.

It must be me concerning the last picture then, it wasn't that hazy but the glider was a fair distance from me, perhaps I should not be so paranoid ;)

04-02-09, 09:34
Some good advise given

You've stripped the EXIF data from the files again, so it's more difficult for us to be able to advise what the problem may be. .

yelvetoft the exif is there ,you just have to click on the image to put it on a blank page to read it. :)

04-02-09, 10:27
Hi Trevor.
They look good to me. A bit of creative cropping of your results could get some supperb results.
Yes, perhaps try single point AF as I suggested earlier. If you have that single point over the part you want in perfect focus, the results you get should be more predictable and hopefully less hit and miss. I think the bird photographers use this pretty much all of the time
Good luck

04-02-09, 10:37
Cheers Joe, I'm out most days 'practicing' mainly on static objects, buildings etc and I think I'm getting there. My main problem still seems to be composition and I must get round to trying a single point AF

04-02-09, 21:09
Tele lenses accentuate haze at a distance, I feel that a touch of levels would improve matters. Worth trying anyway.

17-08-09, 15:18
Old thread I know but here are some of my latest efforts (I posted a few different shots to my gallery on here as well).

I feel that my competence has improved no end though I still have some way to go but thanks to everyones very wise words I'm at last getting the sort of shots I want. Some of these will feature on a club website (the team in blue) which has pleased me no end as this is my ultimate goal. There seem to be very few competent toggers covering the football I watch and hopefully some of my pics will help encourage more to come along to games. I also hope to start togging my local Rugby team in the not to distant future which will offer new challenges I'm sure.

17-08-09, 20:38
Excellent shots there Trevor, no wonder you are pleased.

17-08-09, 22:04
Thanks Mike, I just have to produce the goods when the light isn't as good as it was last Saturday.

I have wasted hours this summer taking motion shots of just about anything that moves, I put what everyone said here plus anything I learned over the summer together and I had nearly twice as many keepers from my first football shoot of the season than I did at any stage last season.

A couple of lessons I have learned, because of my colourblindness (both red/green and the rarer blue/green combined which is really rare) I'm best shooting in jpeg because the minute I start messing with colour and saturation weird stuff happens to the images ;) The only treatment these photo got was a crop, auto balance in my old PS then a quick sharpen once resized