Why your landscape photos aren’t sharp, and how to fix it

Jul 18, 2023

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

Why your landscape photos aren’t sharp, and how to fix it

Jul 18, 2023

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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As photographers, we’ve all experienced the frustration of capturing photos that turn out to be blurry, lacking crispness, or even shaky. We often need help with these issues when reviewing our images on a larger screen despite carefully composing our shots and selecting subjects.

These common mistakes can happen to photographers at any level, but with a better understanding of how to avoid them, you can ensure sharper, more stable photos. This video from landscape photographer Photo Tom explores common mistakes that can lead to unsharp or shaky photos and gives tips on avoiding them.

Camera Shake

Camera shake is common, particularly among beginner photographers who overlook the importance of shutter speed. When handholding the camera, using a slow shutter speed can result in shaky images. To compensate for this, consider activating the image stabilization feature in your camera body or lens.

Additionally, make sure that your shutter speed is at least one over the focal length of the lens you are using or, even better, two times the focal length. If necessary, increase the ISO, open the aperture, or use a tripod to stabilize your camera.

Improper Focus

Choosing a subject is only half the battle, but proper focus is equally important. When using a telephoto lens, it’s crucial to place the focus mode accurately on the subject. On the other hand, when using a wide-angle lens, the focus point should be set at a distance from the camera to achieve the desired depth of field. Understanding and adapting the focus modes to different lenses will help you achieve sharpness in your photos.

Incorrect Aperture

Selecting the appropriate aperture is crucial for achieving the desired depth of field. When photographing larger subjects with a wide-open aperture (e.g., f/1.8), only certain elements of the subject will be in focus. On the other hand, extremely narrow apertures (e.g., f/22 or f/32) can result in diffraction, compromising overall sharpness. Optimal results are often achieved with apertures around f/8 to f/11, depending on the genre of photography, such as landscape or portraiture.

Insufficient Depth of Field

The depth of field determines the area in your photo where elements appear sharp. The aperture, focal length, and the focus point influence it. Larger focal lengths tend to reduce the depth of field, while wider apertures result in a shallower depth of field.

The distance between the camera and the subject also affects the depth of field. Understanding these relationships will help you make informed decisions when capturing images with telephoto or wide-angle lenses.

Motion Blur

When photographing moving subjects like cars, running people, or objects blown by the wind, it is essential to consider the appropriate shutter speed. Faster shutter speeds, such as 1/200th of a second, can freeze the motion effectively.

Experimentation may be required when capturing fast-moving subjects. Panning or shooting from the subject’s front can also help freeze motion more effectively. Adjusting ISO, aperture, and other settings can help achieve the desired result while keeping motion blur to a minimum.

Bonus Tip

Image Stabilization during Long Exposures: During longer exposures, leaving image stabilization on certain camera systems, especially when using a tripod, can lead to shaky images. Different brands and camera/lens combinations may exhibit varying degrees of this issue.

For mirrorless cameras, in particular, it is advisable to deactivate the image stabilization during long exposures to prevent unnecessary battery drain and strain on the stabilization mechanism.

Image sharpness can really make or break a landscape photo. It can be incredibly disappointing to get home from a long trip only to view your photos on a larger screen and realise you missed the focus or have motion blur. Hopefully, with these tips, you won’t have to worry about this again!

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Alex Baker

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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4 responses to “Why your landscape photos aren’t sharp, and how to fix it”

  1. Carter Tune Avatar
    Carter Tune

    Maybe yours aren’t sharp.

  2. Dylan K. Williams Avatar
    Dylan K. Williams

    Can someone please explain why my autofocus points are not working with my manual lens?

  3. Tommy Nguyen Avatar
    Tommy Nguyen

    Use AI.

  4. Tommy Nguyen Avatar
    Tommy Nguyen

    Use AI.