Ever return home from an epic day of adventure filled with amazing photo-ops only to download the images onto the computer and realize your photographs don’t appear sharp? Unfortunately, that has happened to me more times than I’d care to admit. You’d think by now with all the photographs that I take, I’d know better.
Making our photographs sharp, clean and crisp is something most of us want, but isn’t always easily achieved. Camera shake, subject movement, and poor focus are usually the main reasons behind poor image quality.
So, let’s talk about some ideas to help capture sharper photographs.
6 tips for beginners to take sharper photos.
1. Is it me or the camera?
The first thing we need to consider is our vision. When was the last time you had your vision checked? Oh, how embarrassing to have learned this lesson the hard way. Amazing how much sharper my images appear with new glasses.🤓 Or consider the resolution on your computer screen. Computer screens can have a huge impact on how our images are displayed. So, let’s make sure it’s the actual photograph that isn’t sharp and not our vision or computer screen. Have someone else review your images and then check the images on different devices.
2. Holding the camera steady.
Camera shake is a common reason for blurred photos. While the best way to tackle camera shake is to use a tripod, there are times and situations where using one isn’t always possible … and then there’s lazy ole me who usually leaves the tripod at home. But there are other options such as holding your camera with both hands, keeping the camera close to your body, and using a wall, tree, or another solid object for support, all of which, can help steady and minimize shake. Also, be sure your image stabilization is turned on.
3. Make sure the equipment is clean.
Make sure your lens and sensor are clean of any dirt and dust. Eliminating smudges, dust, and grime can impact your photographs.
4. Exposure Triangle
Understanding the exposure triangle is huge; ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed. The first thing we need to think about in our quest for sharp photos is the shutter speed we select. I’d like to think the camera gets it right when we shoot in auto, but that isn’t always the case. Plus, if we want to improve our photography skills, we really do need to move beyond auto. Remember, the faster the shutter speed, the less impact camera shake will have on our image and the better chance of freezing any movement. But we still need to think about aperture and ISO.
Aperture impacts the depth of field, the range that is in focus in our image. Decreasing the aperture to F11 will increase the depth of field meaning that both close and distant objects will be in focus. By doing the opposite and moving your aperture to F2.8, we’ll need to be more exact where we focus. With a large aperture, only our subject will be in focus.
ISO – When I think back to the era of film photography, ISO was directly correlated to the speed of the film loaded in our cameras. I still think of it that way. To achieve the sharpest and most crisp image, shooting with an ISO of 100 or 200 is ideal, but lighting conditions may not always be ideal. We’ll need lots of light to shoot with an ISO of 100.
ISO has a direct impact on the noise and grain of our images. If we move up to an ISO of 1000, we’ll be able to use faster shutter speeds and a smaller aperture but we’ll suffer by increasing the noise and decreasing crispness in our photos. Depending upon our camera and how we intend to use the photograph, we can usually get away with using an ISO of up to 400 or even 800 without too much noise. A good quality DSLR/Mirrorless can easily go up to an ISO of 3200 or more. My Panasonic FZ300 is good up to 400 and then noise really starts to set in and I lose the sharpness to the image. Each camera is different which leads me into the next tip.
5. Sweet Spot
Cameras and lenses have spots in their aperture or zoom ranges that are sharper than others. In many cases, this ‘sweet spot’ is one or two stops from the maximum aperture or zoom. So instead of shooting with your lens wide open (ie where the numbers are smallest) pull it back a stop or two and you might find you get a little more clarity in your shots.
The same with zoom lenses. I know with my Point & Shoot as well as my Bridge camera, I don’t shoot with the lens zoomed in or out all the way and I also know F4 is my FZ300’s sweet spot (F8 equivalent to a DSLR). It just takes some trial and error to get to really know and understand your equipment.
6. Check focus
Always check what part of the image is in focus before hitting the shutter. Consider setting the camera to one autofocus point instead of several. This is especially important when shooting wildlife or people. Also, depth of field is something we need to consider. A large aperture like F2.8 will usually have only one autofocus point in focus versus a small aperture like F11 will have several of the autofocus points in focus.
Final thoughts …
Practice, practice, practice! And remember, photography isn’t a science. It’s a creative art of expression. And in the end, what matters most about an image is how it makes YOU feel and the memories that photo evokes within you.
Happy shooting! 📷
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