Our first case study was submitted by our regular visitor Dennis, who lives in Singapore. Here is the description of his problem:
Hi Nasim, I have tried night shots using 35mm f/1.8G. It is a landscape shot with river reflecting street lamps. I do it handheld, aperture mode, f1.8, shutter 1/5sec, ISO 1600. Strangely despite a dark black sky, the shot came out reddish sky and the center focus point have some reflected light that shouldn’t be there. I tried to shoot other night shots on sky, it appeared to have this reflected light. The pattern is random, depends on what I shoot. I don’t understand why. Do I have to take out the UV filter attached on it? I have read through these tips, but couldn’t understand what causes this to happen. Yours look sharp!
Dennis sent me the following picture as an example, which was taken in a public park in Singapore:
Here are my comments on the photo, along with the solution to the problem:
- Since the image was shot at 1/5th of a second @ ISO 1600 (I looked at the EXIF Data), there are clear signs of camera shake and noise when the image is viewed at 100%. Photographing scenes like this hand-held is not recommended, because you not only introduce camera shake, but also unnecessary noise due to high ISO. The camera shake happened because the hand-holding rule was not followed. If you put your camera on a tripod or some other stationary object, you could have used ISO 200 and a very slow shutter speed without introducing camera shake.
- Another problem is that you shot the scene at f/1.8 or “wide open”. It is understandable that there was not enough light, but when you take a picture of a scene like this at maximum aperture, due to the small depth of field, your nearby objects will all appear out of focus.
- In a night scenery like this, it is tough for the camera to guess what the right white balance is, due to a mixture of natural and artificial lights. If you shoot in RAW, you can change white balance in Lightroom later.
- The image is not leveled. When you take images of straight objects or horizon/reflections hand-held, always try to align the horizontal grid inside the viewfinder with the horizon or straight line. Although it is easy to level an image in Lightroom, you would lose a significant portion of the image, because Lightroom would have to cut off from all sides to properly level the image.
- The spots you are seeing in the sky and in the water are lens ghosting/flare. This might have also been due to a filter that you have in front of the lens. Did you buy a quality filter? Is it an MRC (multi-coated) filter? Try a test next time, go to a similar location with lots of light, take a picture and if you see ghosting like this, remove the filter and take another picture. Then compare the two to see if it is the filter causing it. In this case, it is very simple to remove the ghosting spots in Lightroom, but I bet you do not want to deal with it. Unfortunately, many lenses suffer from ghosting/flare and it is quite normal to have these kinds of issues when shooting against bright spots of light. Only the expensive, ultra wide-angle lenses are capable of producing images with minimum flare…
So, what would I have done if I took the same scene with your camera? I would have either put the camera on a tripod (ideally), or put it on something that does not move, then set ISO to 200 (Auto ISO: Off), set aperture to f/8 or f/10 and shot in RAW. If flare spots were caused by the lens, I would have to deal with them in post-processing. Removing those spots in Lightroom does not take much time…