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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sharpness The Deadly Dozen

Defeat these threats to sharp photos and create images that get optimum sharpness from any camera and lens

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Traveling light at a location in Japan, I had no tripod. Up close, camera movement is amplified. Shooting the camera continuously gave me a series of shots with at least a few of them sharp.

This web was shot at 1⁄1000 sec., perfect for a sharp photo...or not. This photo isn't sharp because it's up close and shot with a long telephoto, both of which magnify any vibration, making sharpness a challenge.
2 Overestimating Your Steadiness.
I find that a lot of photographers overestimate their ability to get sharp photos with a given shutter speed. The shutter speeds I listed in the Minimum Handholding Rule section truly are a minimum. I've found that many photographers can't get the full sharpness with a lens at even these shutter speeds. Do a test and compare your shooting handheld versus the camera on a tripod. I've done this and discovered that, with moderate focal lengths (neither wide nor tele), few people can match tripod sharpness at speeds of less than 1⁄125 sec.

3 Overestimating The Power Of A Tripod.
Use a tripod and you get sharp photos, right? Yes—most of the time, but having this expectation that using your tripod automatically yields a sharp photo can take you in the wrong direction. Tripods help, but you can get poor sharpness even on a tripod when there's vibration causing camera movement during exposure. Wind is a big problem, but also just pressing the shutter too hard, or even mirror bounce, can be a problem. You need to use a fast enough shutter speed to deal with the conditions or do something to minimize camera movement. A cable release can be helpful, but I find them a pain to use, so mostly I use the two-second self-timer to reduce camera shake when I'm shooting with the camera on a tripod. Also, Live View is great because the mirror is essentially already locked in the up position.

The camera was locked down on a very solid tripod, but the picture isn't sharp. This day dawned in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, Calif., with so much wind that it threatened to knock me down, too. That, combined with a telephoto lens, created so much vibration that it was impossible to get a sharp photo, even on the tripod.

4 Auto Exposure.
Now, this may seem odd since a lot of pros use auto-exposure, especially aperture-priority auto-exposure. Here's the problem: In aperture-priority, you can easily forget to check the shutter speed the camera is setting, so the camera ends up with a shutter speed that's too slow for sharpness, either handheld or on a tripod. The answer: Simply pay attention to shutter speed and use something that will give consistently sharp photos.


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