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Help with grainy photos


I have a Canon 80 D with a Canon 70-200 f2.8 is iii lens. I have been shooting my daughters gymnastics meet which tends to have poor lighting. I am struggling with getting the appropriate setting to get clear shots. They either have a lot of blur or are super grainy. 


I attached an example. This is post processed in Photoshop to lighten up the image and try to reduce the grainy stuff

My setting are



IS on


ISO 2500 ( and this is typically dark right out of the camera)

Al Servo


any tips would be great. Im getting super frustrated!addy 2.jpg



You can make OOF areas look noisy by applying global sharpening. 


800% view of unsharpened OOF sky
no sharp sky.jpg


800% view of oversharpened OOF sky.over sharp sky.jpg


If you are using Lightroom avoid using global sharpening settings like 'Clarity' that also 'sharpen' OOF areas.


The way to avoid this is to use Masking to apply a heavy sharpening mask in Lightroom so you don't sharpen even areas.


lr 1.jpg


By pressing and holding the 'ALT' key, while moving the 'Masking' slider you can see what is being masked. Black areas will not be sharpened.


LR sharpening 1.png


Smooth unsharpened bokeh.


LR sharpening 2.jpg


Typically when using a heavy mask I set sharpening to 100. By using a heavy mask I can keep my noise reduction settings lower. My Noise Reduction settings are usually Luminance between 10-25, Contrast is set to match, i.e. 10-25, and Color is set to twice the Luminance value i.e.  25-50. I leave Detail and Smoothness at their defaults. 


@EJean82 wrote:


My setting are



IS on


ISO 2500 ( and this is typically dark right out of the camera)

Al Servo


any tips would be great. Im getting super frustrated!

Use Manual mode with Auto ISO. You don't want to underexpose your photos. With Canon cameras it is better to boost the ISO than it is to increase exposure in post processing. Don't be afraid to let your camera use high ISOs (6400+). The photo below was taken with a 7D Mk II at ISO 12800..


Increase the shutter speed as necessary to eliminate motion blur. Remember IS only eliminates blur from camera shake not from subject movement. 


Canon 7D Mk II, EF 100-400 L IS II + 1.4X TC III, 560mm, 1/800, f/8, ISO 12800


Processed as described above.
LR Sharpening 3.JPG

'Clarity' was left at 0

Thank you!!!! 

Thats one hell of a great picture (of the hawk) taken (at max reach?) with your EF 100-400 L IS II and 1.4x extender.  I'm still thinking about purchasing the 1.4X extender for my kit.  I like what you've done with the sharpening and masking in Lightroom which I don't have.  Hopefully the same can be accomplished with photoshop of which I'm still learning on.



I am not a tel-con fan. I don't recommend them at all.  If you must get one, though, make sure it works with your lens or the lens you intend to use it with.  They do not work at all with some lenses. They are always a compromise.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

I will be mounting the extender (if purchased) on my 5D Mark III with the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Len. Would appreciate any tips from anyone similarly equiped.  I hope to spend some time at Bald Eagle nest this summer with enough reach to the nest.


Keep in mind beside losing some IQ you will lose a full f-stop.  That means you will be an f8 lens at 400mm. Neither is a big deal, you just need to be aware of it.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

Be sure and use the micro AF calibration setting to calibrate your lens with the extender in place at both ends of the zoom range before heading for the eagle nest.


I use a slightly modified version of the Canon AF calibration procedure to speed setup.  I use their specified micro focus adjustment process EXCEPT I initially take a set of test photos at the -8, -5, -2, 0, +2, +5, and +8 points and examine those carefully on the computer screen and that will let me zero in on the setup with high confidence with one additional set of test shots.  For example if the proper offset looks like it is at or very near +5 then I will take a second series at +3, +4, +5, +6, and +7 and check these on the computer so basically with two sets of test photos I will know exactly what the calibration adjustment should be and this can be easily done in 10 minutes total.


A tripod will be EXTREMELY beneficial for your eagle photos this summer.  With the extreme focal length, stability is critical and with some loss of IQ from adding the extender you want to be able to run your camera as close to its base ISO as possible to preserve the greatest detail and a stable camera perch will allow you to use the slowest shutter speed that doesn't introduce subject induced motion blur.



EOS 1DX M3, 1DX M2, 1DX, 5DS R, M6 Mark II, 1D M2, EOS 650 (film), many lenses, XF400 video




You shot isn't all that bad.  Here it is with just auto levels applied in PS.  I quickly removed the distracting thing on the wall, You can do a better job if you want.




"My your setting are



IS on


ISO 2500 ( and this is typically dark right out of the camera)

Al Servo"


My settings would be


f2.8 or f4 (you might try using Av mode, too)

IS on


ISO 3200 (don't worry too much about "right out of the camera")

One shot



I have been talking lately with some of my pro sports buddies that are still in the business, and most are using Auto ISO.  I never did and I don't like it.  I want to know where my ISO is set and I want to control it myself. But today's cameras are so munch better at higher ISOs that I can see it should be, might be, OK.  BTW, I would remove the apparatus and person on the right side of the shot too. Maybe put the blue BG all the way across?

Another thing to keep in mind is, don't be afraid to try other settings during the event.


EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!


I've been shooting gymnastics for about 13 years.  Everyone is going to have great advice, so this is just mine, FWIW.  


1) I never worry about the white balance.  I shoot everything in RAW and adjust those as desired in post processing.  Trying to get that right with those fluorescent lights is too much work for me. 


2) For the first few years,I *obsessed* over noise.  Then I realized I seemed to be the only one who actually cared.  I'd show the pics to my daughters and their teammates, parents, etc., and everyone was just super happy to have quality shots.  


3) A little de-noise in Lightroom goes a long way, and while it softens the image a bit (depending on how much you apply) it turns into what most would consider a pleasing effect on the overall look.  


4) Unless they allow you to be the "official" photographer, you're going to constantly be fighting innumerable factors that are going to make that perfect action shot really challenging.  It's just hard to get to the right spot among the chaos of an event. College is soooo much better in that regard!  Even in the shot below, the framing is rubbish because I've got the heads of the people on the beam, the scoreboard in a terribly distracting spot, etc.  Yet another reason to focus on my final point... 


5) Get a few good action shots, and then focus on the emotional parts.  The gymnasts talking to their coaches for corrections, or that special hug after they peeled off bars, or the high-five with the teammates racing to meet them coming off the mat.  That, and the "pretty" shots where they are posing during the routines seems to be what they love once they get the few "that's badass" shots of them in mid air, like below.  But, for many of the action shots (especially when they are flipping) their faces look like they're an alien because of the force on their skin and eyes!  


Took me a lot of years to accept point 4 because I love action shots as a photographic challenge.  Also, as a former football player in college, then high school coach, I know the action shots football players love.  I didn't know from gymnastics, so they had to "teach" me over the years about the ones they loved.  


Screen Shot 2020-02-28 at 6.39.09 PM.png