Get that flash but blurred effect under control
September 22, 2009
What to do when a mode designed to save people pictures in low light ruins them instead.
Today’s Fix the Pix photos were shot with a Canon Powershot SD940 IS Digital Elph and a Pentax E70.
OK, so you followed my advice and switched to Night Portrait mode, but the picture came out screwy. Sure, you can see the subject's face nice and sharp, but why are there streaks and lines all over the place—with some even blocking that nice, sharp face? This is a case where the camera moved during exposure. The result, effectively, is a double-exposure. One exposure is of the subject lit by the flash, the other, of the background exposed during a long exposure as the camera accidentally moved.
Fix this! I shot my daughter’s 8th grade graduation processional in night portrait mode, shake reduction off, at ISO 80. Low light and low ISO setting meant a really long exposure, causing a ghostly blur behind her.
Keep your camera's shake reduction mode on, since the longer exposure could lead to camera shake. Also, consider boosting your ISO to up to 400 (with a compact camera, you may lose image quality if you shoot higher than that). Increasing the ISO is especially important if your subject is in motion, as with our example here. If you don't have shake reduction, use a tripod or lean the camera against a table, post or doorway to give it support and reduce shake.
Fixed: By the recessional, I’d solved the problem. Shake reduction plus a modest ISO boost to 400 eliminated shake while keeping the background relatively light and the quality of the light more natural even though subject was moving.
Get creative! Photograph a moving subject while in Night Portrait mode for some really bizarre effects! (Above: I photographed my daughter’s cool new sneakers with the camera in Night Portrait mode while deliberately moving the camera in an arc motion, knowing the shutter would be open for around half a second under that light, and the results would be interesting. Right: same subject with straight flash mode, camera held still.)