Having sharp photos can really make them stand out and wow your viewers. Getting nice sharp photos can take a little planning and even some practice. Knowing what contributes to making a photo fuzzy and how to counteract it will give you the confidence to get your images as sharp as possible every time.
Getting sharp photos
There are several aspects to making sharp photos. It isn’t just all about focusing on the subject although that is part of it. Focusing on your subject correctly will be the foundation of making sharp photos. When focusing on your subject keep in mind depth of field. For an example if you are doing a portrait, if you focus on the tip of someone’s nose you may end up with fuzzy eyes, ears and hair. This is because although you focused on their face, your camera cannot render all of it in sharp focus. It would be better to focus on the eye so that way you utilize the available depth of field before and after the point of focus.
Focus alone doesn’t make a sharp photo. You will want to consider things like camera lens, aperture, movement of subject, camera shake and noise when setting up the shot to minimize the effects of each on the sharpness of the image. Movement of your subject is easy enough to counteract with higher shutter speed, the lower your shutter speed is the more likely a small movement of your subject will soften the edges.
Don’t let your camera get the shakes
Camera shake can be a little trickier to resolve. The best thing is to make sure you have it on a solid surface. A well anchored tripod is perfect for this. I usually hang my camera bag from the hook on the center post to add weight to the tripod. While the camera is on the tripod you’ll want to make sure it isn’t in a windy place that may cause it to shake, or block the wind while taking the photo. Lastly, use your camera’s Mirror Lock Up feature to minimize any shake caused by the mirror slapping up and down during the exposure. It may seem like a really insignificant amount of movement but you’d be surprised how much movement this can cause. The easiest way to activate Mirror Lock Up on a Canon camera is to shoot in Live Mode while on the tripod.
Your camera lens can introduce some softness to the photo as well. High quality lenses will generally be more sharp than those of lower quality. You would want to check reviews on the lenses when deciding what lens to purchase if sharpness is of great concern to you. Along with glass quality your lens’ aperture can also introduce softness to the image. Every lens has an aperture that is the most sharp, often called the sweet spot. This sweet spot usually falls within f/8 and f/11. You can test this by taking photos of the same subject at different aperture settings and then inspecting the photo at great magnification to determine the sweet spot for your lens.
Is it a little noisy in here?
Finally, noise in your photo can soften the image the most. I prefer to limit the potential for noise up front in the camera rather than rely on software based noise reduction. First and foremost, you will want to shoot with a low ISO setting. Somewhere within the 100-400 range is perfect for limiting noise. You can also turn on your camera’s noise reduction feature to reduce noise further. Keep in mind that heavy noise reduction in the camera can cause processing time between shots. This works similarly to noise reduction software so its capability will still be limited. Keep in mind that noise reduction software can only do so much and you will lose photo quality in the process so it’s best to get it right in the camera if you can.
Sometimes shooting conditions just aren’t perfect. You don’t have a tripod and you’re in a low light area but you take the shot anyway. That’s what happened in the image blow. You can see how the sharpness of the image is degraded due to the noise and how soft they look after noise reduction. Had I had a tripod with me I could have taken this image at a much lower ISO and eliminated much of the noise but I didn’t bring it with me.
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