By Anna Gay on | No Comments
Have you ever wrapped up a photoshoot, confident that your images were perfectly sharp as you reviewed them on your camera's LCD screen, only to be disappointed when you later viewed them on your computer monitor and realized they weren't quite as sharp as you initially thought?
This scenario is a common frustration for photographers, but don't worry! We're here to share some invaluable tips to ensure your photos are consistently sharp and clear:
Conventional advice often encourages photographers to fully open their camera lenses to their widest aperture setting, typically because it allows for the maximum amount of light into the camera, producing a beautiful blurred background. However, following this rule isn't always the best option, and there are situations where refraining from fully opening your lens may be a better choice.
For example, rather than keeping your lens wide open at, say, f/1.4, consider stopping down to f/2.8. This choice aims to achieve a more BALANCED FOCUS across your subject.
When your lens is fully open, you risk having only a portion of your subject in sharp focus, such as their eyes being tack-sharp, while the rest of their face remains slightly blurry. Another instance can occur when photographing multiple subjects - the camera may focus solely on one person, leaving others or the rest of the group in a state of soft focus.
By adjusting the aperture just a couple of stops from its widest setting, you will still let enough light into your camera to achieve that beautiful background blur while ensuring more of your subject remains in sharp focus, resulting in more visually striking images that capture your subjects with greater clarity and detail.
The tiniest camera movement during a shot can introduce unwanted blur to your subject, commonly known as camera blur or camera shake. Even if you're shooting without a tripod, you can still take measures to get sharper images - starting with PRESSING THE SHUTTER RELEASE GENTLY.
Even if you have steady hands, if you press the shutter too forcefully, you can create a slight camera shake, resulting in blurriness that is not visible until the images are viewed later or printed. If you have unsteady hands like I do, you may want to try using a tripod. If I'm excited, happy, or nervous, my hands ALWAYS shake, no matter what! So, I use a tripod as much as I possibly can.
While using a tripod might initially seem cumbersome or impractical, it rapidly becomes second nature with practice. Personally, I've found that taking this extra step consistently yields crisper, blur-free images, ensuring that my subjects are always captured in sharp detail.
Tailoring your shutter speed to suit your subject is critical in achieving sharper photos. The ideal shutter speed varies based on the characteristics of your subject.
Shutter speed is closely linked to the focal length of your lens, and there's a handy (albeit rough) rule of thumb that helps you determine the minimum shutter speed needed to prevent camera shake - this rule suggests that your minimum shutter speed should be the reciprocal of your focal length in millimeters. In simpler terms, the equation is Minimum Shutter Speed = 1/Focal Length (in millimeters).
For example, if you're using an 80mm lens, your minimum shutter speed would ideally be set to 1/80th of a second. Similarly, with a 50mm lens, the recommended minimum shutter speed would be 1/50th of a second. Keep in mind that this is just a general guideline, and the actual minimum shutter speed you can successfully achieve also depends significantly on the steadiness of your hand.
As mentioned earlier, some of us tend to have unsteady hands, particularly when the excitement of shooting takes over (which is quite common!). In such cases, a good approach is to multiply your focal length by a factor that suits your stability.
For instance, if you're using a 50mm lens and want to account for your unsteady hands, you might opt for a minimum shutter speed of 1/200th of a second (50mm x 4 = 200). By doing so, you will minimize the risk of camera shake and ensure your photos come out crisp and clear, even when you are excited and your hands aren't as steady as they should be.
When shooting in RAW, it's essential to recognize that the images may initially appear less sharp on your computer screen than they did on your camera's LCD. To bring out the desired level of sharpness and detail, you can leverage post-processing tools in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw.
In Lightroom, for example, you will want to fine-tune settings like Sharpness and Clarity during the post-processing phase. However, it's crucial to exercise restraint and avoid excessive adjustments.
While a subtle touch of sharpening can make a significant difference in image quality, overdoing it can lead to unnatural and unappealing results. So proceed with a measured hand when enhancing the sharpness of your RAW images in post-processing.
Achieving sharper photographs is an art that combines technical knowledge with practical skill. We've explored essential tips like selecting the correct aperture and shutter speed, preventing camera movement, and sharpening RAW images in post-processing. When applied thoughtfully, these techniques can make a world of difference in the quality and impact of your photos.
As you continue your photographic journey, remember that mastering sharpness is a CONTINUOUS LEARNING PROCESS. Each click of the shutter offers an opportunity to refine your skills and capture images that resonate with clarity and precision.
So, keep experimenting, keep practicing, and let your passion for photography drive you towards consistently sharper and more stunning results!
Do you have any questions or comments about How to Get Sharper Photos? Leave us a comment below - we would love to hear from you! And PLEASE SHARE our tutorial using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!
Anna Gay is a portrait photographer based in Athens, GA and the author of the dPS ebook The Art of Self-Portraiture. She also designs actions and textures for Photoshop. When she is not shooting or writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband, and their two cats, Elphie and Fat Cat.