As photographers we all want the same thing; sharp pictures. And sometimes we don’t always get them, sadly enough. I’ve experienced more than my share of unsharp images but I’ve also used the tips below to help me combat the evils of blurriness to help me get better photos. They can probably help you too!
1. Increase Your Shutter Speed
The number one problem with un-sharp photos is that they are taken with a shutter speed that is too slow or not stabilized. Even though our camera is taking photos at a fraction of a second our hands are just not as steady as we think they are. We shake and the shakier we are the more blur shows up in our photos. It’s a pretty easy fix but one to do wonders for your photos.
2. Image Stabilization
Image stabilization is something you may have seen when you go to purchase a lens. Depending on the lens company it is called different things but they all do pretty much the same thing; the lenses have the elements of the lens suspended inside the lens and they are constantly moving to compensate for the movement caused by not holding the lens still. Many different lenses offer image stabilization but it is especially noticeable if you use a heavy telephoto lens because the weight alone can make enough of a difference. Now lenses that have image stabilization typically cost more than lenses without but when using telephoto lenses it is definitely helpful in getting sharper images.
Tripods are an essential part of photography, and a good tripod is something every photographer should invest in. There are plenty of times when we are shooting an image and we simply need a longer shutter speed. When these come alone we need a tripod that can produce a photo without any blur.
4. Timer or Shutter Release
Along the same lines of using a tripod I also highly recommend using a timer or shutter release. Often when we are taking stabilized images or set up on a tripod the act of pressing the shutter will cause our cameras to move just a tiny amount. By setting the timer or using a shutter release we can increase stability and get better photos.
4. Get a better lens
I hate to say it, but equipment makes a big difference in image sharpness. Buying new equipment is never going to make you a better photographer, but it certainly can increase sharpness and help you get a great image straight out of the camera. The sad fact is that most photographers start out with inexpensive lenses because that is what the camera manufacturers sell with their cameras. Of course it would be nice if we could go out and get the best lenses on the market but for most of us that isn’t and option. So save up and when you can invest in a better lens, do, and it will amaze you how professional lenses really do capture a better image.
5. Focus In the Right Place
Improper focusing technique can be a photo killer. Usually the problem is that the photographer isn’t as accurate in their focus as they should be. Pay attention to where you are focusing; if you are taking a photo of a person you should focus on the eye, not the nose or mouth. Now you may be saying that your camera doesn’t always have a focus point where the eye is. In this case use single point focus, find the eye, lock on by pressing the shutter half way down and holding it there, and then recompose the photo to the way you want. This is something you need to be careful of not to get too accustomed to doing as it can lead to problems down the road but is a good way to start out making sure you are focusing in the right area.
6. Use the Correct Focus Mode
Additionally, making sure you are using the correct focus mode is also very important. If you are taking photos of a stationary object use single point focus, but when photographing moving object always use continuous focus. This mode will track the subject and will constantly change with them allowing you to get a sharp photo throughout the movement as opposed to having the camera lock on and take the photo a fraction of a second after they have become out of focus.
7. Sharpen In Photoshop
Tragically no photo is ever going to come out of the camera as sharp as you want it to be. So for the best in image sharpness you need to sharpen your photos when post processing them. This is one area where shooting a photo in RAW is much better as the Camera RAW processor is much better when adding sharpness. Depending on what you are going to do with the image (print it large vs. small, put it on social media sites, display it in an online gallery), you will need to sharpen it more or less.
8. Depth Of Field is Too Shallow
We love using a shallow depth of field! It immediately tells the viewer what is important and what isn’t. However good this may be sometimes we can have too shallow a depth of field. For example, if you are taking a group portrait and you are using an f-stop of f/1.8 and are focusing on the front row of people, chances are the people in the back are going to be blurry. This can happen in tons of situations and it is difficult to tell on your LCD screen if something isn’t as sharp as it should be, so when in doubt increase your aperture. It’s better to have everything you want sharp than to have a super shallow depth of field and something important be blurry.
9. The Reciprocal Rule
Along the same lines as shutter speed, we also need to pay attention to focal length we are using on our lenses. If using a telephoto lens we need to increase our shutter speed to compensate for the movement caused by zooming in on something. A good rule is to have a minimum shutter speed that matches the focal length. So if shooting at 200mm on our lens the minimum shutter speed should be 1/200 sec. This however does not mean that you can shoot at 1/10 sec when using a wide-angle lens. Perhaps there are some people out there who can handhold a camera at super slow shutter speeds but the vast majority of people cannot. So don’t try and be cool and use a slow shutter speed, just increase it and get a good photo. Say no to slow shutter speed peer pressure.
10. Find Where Your Lens is Sharpest
This may sound odd, but the hard truth is that lenses are sharpest at certain f-stops and it varies for every lens. Lenses are typically not as sharp when shooting with very wide-open or very closed apertures but somewhere in the middle, around f/8. An easy test for this is to take photos of something close up while using a tripod and adjust your aperture for every photo and decide where it is the sharpest for you. Your lens has a sweet spot and finding it will allow you to get sharper pictures.
© 2014, Tony. All rights reserved.