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4 Days to Sharper Photos: Good Light and Good Lenses

Hopefully, you are well on your way to sharper images.  Hopefully you have figured out your camera’s focus settings and you have practiced and understand how depth of field and shutter speed can help you out.

This post is going to focus on the role good light and good lenses play in getting sharper photos.

Good Light and a Good Exposure

You need good light for sharp photos.  Good light helps in so many ways but it is super helpful with sharp photos.  

When determining whether a photo is sharp or not, we generally look to the subjects eyes first. In fact, I set my focus point over one of the eyes for most shots to ensure that they are the most in-focus part of my image. Good lighting will allow light to fall in the eyes and make focusing on them much easier.

An important fact that you need to know is that your camera can’t focus without light.  In fact, when there is poor lighting your camera has a built-in light that shines that is meant to help assist in the process of focusing.  The camera knows it needs good light to get a good focus so you should too.

Some places to look for good light:

  1. Open Shade: Open shade is where your subject is in the shade, but they are looking out into an area that isn’t shaded.  For instance, imagine your subject is standing in the shade of a building.  Having them stand with their back towards the building and looking out towards other areas that aren’t shaded is using open shade.  Asking them to face towards the building that is providing the shade wouldn’t be considered open shade.
  2. Backlighting:  Backlighting your subject means having the light behind them.  Knowing how to use this type of light is helpful because you can backlight your subject during almost any time of the day.  When I use backlight, I try not to have the sun directly behind my subject and shining directly into my camera.  This produces a little too much flare for my liking.  Instead, I try to position my subject so that the light is just slightly off to one side and not coming directly into my camera.

Better Lenses are Better

Most of us started with some kind of “kit” lens on our camera.  However, some get frustrated trying to shoot sharp photos with kit lenses.  Typically, these lenses are not the best lenses in any camera manufacturer’s lineup.  They tend to be more some of the more inexpensive and lighter which means they have less glass inside.

Better lenses (which typically equates to more expensive lenses) are usually better.  They contain more glass and optics which helps with their sharpness.  Prime lenses tend to be sharper than zoom lenses and generally a little less expensive than a great zoom lens because the manufacturer doesn’t have to focus on getting it sharp at all focal lengths since there is only ONE! Some of the most expensive lenses manufacturer’s offer are typically their sharp zoom lenses.

The one exception I have found to this is the 50mm f/1.8.  This lens is generally inexpensive but, for both Nikon and Canon, is one of their sharpest lenses.  They are totally worth checking out.

One Note: Prime lenses are sharp lenses.  But be aware that it may take some time to learn to shoot at the more open apertures these lenses offer.  The more open the aperture is, the less depth of field there is.  This means that any small movement forward or back by you or your subject could result in an out of focus image.  It took me a month or two of shooting only with a prime lens to feel confident about getting a sharp image at an open aperture.

For the Other Posts in This Series:

4 Days to Sharper Photos: Getting Sharper Photos In Camera

4 Days to Sharper Photos: Depth of Field and Shutter Speed

4 Days to Sharper Photos: Good Light and Good Lenses

4 Days to Sharper Photos: Sharpening in Lightroom


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