With our fancy cameras and lenses, we want to take as sharp photos as possible. I know I was excited when I bought my first DSLR and lens, but I soon discovered that it was much harder to get a razor-sharp image than I thought.
Thankfully, it’s far from impossible, you just need to learn some basics. In this video, Simon d’Entremont gives you a “sharpness checklist” to keep in mind before you start shooting. If you’re a newbie, this will be extremely useful, and you’ll get those tack-sharp images in no time.
- Is the lighting good enough? – this refers to both the quality and quantity of light. When shooting wildlife as Simon does, you want strong, direct light that will give you good microcontrast and make textured areas appear sharper. The dull, flat light on cloudy days isn’t your friend in these situations.
- Is the image too noisy?– connected to the previous point: lower light requires higher ISO, which produces grainy images with less color, contrast and detail
- Is the shutter speed fast enough? – using slower shutter speed leads to two issues. First, it can’t freeze the movement of your subject in the frame and second, leading to motion blur. And second, if you shoot handheld, it creates motion blur due to your hand movement, which is especially obvious when you use longer lenses.
- Is the subject focused correctly? – your camera has different types of focus. Single-shot AF keeps the focus on a single plane in your frame, and it’s used for static subjects. AF Continuous follows your subject as it moves. If you take photos of dynamic subjects like wildlife, sports, or people in the street – you’ll benefit from using this setting.
- Are there heat waves? – heat waves appear when large surfaces get heated by the sun. You can see it above asphalt while driving in the summer, but also large open fields or bodies of water out in nature. And the longer focal length you use, the worse it gets, as there is more of this shimmering air. You can easily avoid this by being an early bird. Go out shooting early in the morning before these surfaces have had the chance to heat up. Alternatively, shoot closer to your subject or move to a shade. Of course, it all depends on the subject and type of photography you do, but these are all some things to keep in mind.
- Are you using your lens’ sharpest aperture? – every lens has its “sweet spot” for the sharpest results. The rule of thumb is to set your lens two or three stops down from its maximum aperture. For example, an f/2.8 lens will be the sharpest around f/4 or f/5.6. But this requires some experimenting as each lens is different, so make sure to test your lenses before you go out shooting. Also, keep in mind that the smallest aperture won’t give you the sharpest images as you’ll deal with something called diffraction.
Bonus tip: use the best technique: Simon gives a useful bonus tip that we often overlook, and it is to use the right shooting technique to give an extra boost to the sharpness of your photos. Be sure to use a tripod when shooting at a slower shutter speed and use a remote trigger to minimize any camera movement. For handheld shooting, stabilize your camera and lens by tucking your elbows, shooting through a viewfinder, and moving your whole upper body when panning, instead of just moving your arms. Press your shutter button gently to avoid any additional camera shake. You’ll find plenty more tips and techniques on handholding the camera here.
[HERE’S WHY YOUR PHOTOS AREN’T SHARP | Simon d’Entremont]