Beginner Photo Tip #7: 7 Ways To Make Your Photos Sharp

Your photos should be crisp, clear and sharp, like this one. But getting sharpness is not quite as easy as it seems.

Golf Course Tree

How To Get Sharp Photos

This is your sharpness bag of tricks. You don’t have to use each one with every shot. Use the techniques that best fit your situation.

  1. Use A Tripod. Holding the camera in your hand when you press the shutter release, you may transfer movement from your hand to the camera resulting in motion blur. No matter how steady your hands are, they are not as steady as a tripod. So, when you can, use a good quality tripod.

  2. Turn Off Image Stabilization When Using A Tripod. If your lens or camera has image stabilization or vibration reduction (different names that different manufacturers use for the same thing), turn it off when you are using a tripod. This feature anticipates hand movement and corrects for it, and when there is none because your camera is on a tripod, the camera creates it.

  3. Use A Cable Release Or A Remote Shutter Release. A cable release is a device that connects to the shutter release on your camera and allows you to trigger the shutter release without touching the camera. This prevents you moving the camera when you press the shutter. An alternative is a wireless remote shutter release. That is a device (a transmitter, actually) that communicates with your camera through a sensor (receiver) that you mount on your camera’s hot shoe. I use mine regularly.

  4. Use The Self-Timer. If you don’t have a cable release or a remote shutter release with you, an alternative is your camera’s self-timer. All cameras have this feature which allows you to press the shutter release but not have it actually trigger for 2 to 10 seconds. (This is the feature you use when you, the photographer, want to jump into the picture.) This is a alternative way to avoid moving your camera at the moment of truth.

  5. Use Mirror Lock-Up. This is a feature that digital SLR cameras have. When you look through the viewfinder, you can see the light through the lens because there is a mirror which reflects the light to the viewfinder. When you press the shutter release, the mirror pops up to allow the light from the lens to pass through and hit the camera’s sensor. This small mirror movement can affect the sharpness of your final image, so camera manufacturers have given you the ability to lock the mirror up after you compose your shot. After you lock your mirror up, you won’t be able to see the image through the viewfinder but your won’t have to worry about lack of sharpness caused by movement of the mirror.

  6. Use Your Lens’ Sharpest Aperture. If your camera allows you to choose which aperture (lens opening size, or f-stop) to use, you should choose the opening that produces the sharpest images. This varies from lens to lens, but it us usually 2 stops down from wide open. (That is, count two numbers to the right from the smallest-numbered aperture.) Experiment with your camera to see which apertures produce the sharpest photos.

  7. Use The Lowest Possible ISO. Although modern cameras are performing better with higher ISOs, the fact remains that increasing your ISO introduces noise (graininess) which is the reason why images are not sharp. Instead of increasing the ISO, shoot with a tripod so you can use longer exposures to keep the noise down and the sharpness up.

I know, I didn’t list sharpening in post-processing. You can improve sharpness in post-processing, but you will always get better results if your photos are sharp coming out of your camera.

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