Taking sharper photos is easy when you know how, and these timeless tips will help your in your efforts. All very simple, and no photoshop involved.
1 – Fast Shutter Speed
When trying to take a sharp photo, the last thing you want is motion blur. This is the most important step so make sure you get it right. I mentioned in my post about shutter speed; as a rule of thumb the average person can take a sharp unblurred image by setting the speed to a fraction of a focal length. For example, if you want to take photo at 30mm, you would set the shutter speed to 1/30 of a second. Any slower and you’re likely to get motion blur. It’s worth noting however this rule is only relevant to full frame cameras. For a crop sensor, due to the magnification effect, you would be better off choosing a speed of 1/45 of a second.
If you’re having trouble holding your camera steady and taking sharper photos, then I suggest shooting in burst mode and picking an image from the middle with the least camera shake.
2 – Use a Tripod
When a fast shutter speed isn’t an option, and your subject is stationary then it’s best to use a tripod. This will hold the camera steady and the various spirit levels on a good tripod will ensure that you’ll still manage to get a level photo on uneven ground.
3 – Focus Properly!
There are 2 ways to fix this; the first is to take the camera off of auto selection and manually select the points at which you want to focus on, or alternatively, you can use your camera’s focal lock. This will also help when you want to have a shallow depth of field. When taking a photo of a person, I recommend focusing on the eyes because that’s where eyes are naturally drawn to and if they’re in focus then it’ll generally be an acceptable photo.
When using a camera on a tripod, I like to switch my camera to live view mode and digitally zoom in 10X to where I want to focus and then focus manually. That way I know that it is exactly how I want it.
4 – Use a Good Lens
Your photos are only as good as the lens they pass through. When you buy your first camera, I recommend upgrading to an inexpensive prime (can’t zoom) lens as soon as you can. You’ll find immediately that the quality will vastly improve as prime lenses are designed with only one job in mind – they don’t have to compromise to cover a range of focal lengths. I recommend a 50mm
or 35mm 1.8 that can be picked up for less than $150.
5 – Keep your Lens Clean
A good lens is no good if it’s covered in dirt. Clean it at the beginning of every day that you use it and put a filter on it to keep it safe. Dirty lenses are going to have a noticeable affect on your photos.
6 – Image Stabilization
If you’re lucky enough to have stabilization in your lens, then turn it on. This will allow you to shoot at slower shutter speeds and narrower apertures. If you’re using a tripod then remember to turn it back off as it will have a negative effect while trying to stabilize when it doesn’t need to.
7 – Use your Base ISO
Set your camera ISO to as low as it will go – usually between 100-200 where you will get the sharpest photos. As I mentioned in my lesson on ISO; the higher the value, the more noise there will be. If you want really clear, crisp photos then you want as little noise as possible.
8 – Find your Lens’ Sweet Spot
The sharpest point in your lens will likely be between f/8-f/11. If you don’t understand aperture then I suggest you go back and read this post now. Using a wide aperture gives you a shallow depth of field, which produces a lot of blur. When you get to about f/8, you’ll find that the images are much crisper as the majority of what you’re shooting will be clearly focused.
9 – Use The Light
The more light, the better really – you don’t have to use it all. When I can’t use daylight and still want a really sharp photo, I use an off camera flash and bounce it off a wall or ceiling to make the photo feel like there was good natural lighting. Lighting is key to taking a sharp photo. In the photo below, the sun was behind the berries so I used a flash to fill in the light that would have been a silhouette otherwise.
10 – Shoot in RAW
Shooting in RAW has many advantages, it means that you can still adjust a lot of settings after you’ve taken the photo. One of those settings is the sharpness. When done properly it can add a really good final detail to a photo, but be careful not to overdo it though as photos that are too sharp are a strain to look at.