Tips For Sharper Images

Refine your picture making methods and techniques to take sharper images
Click Images To Enlarge This Article Features Photo Zoom

Let’s face it, we spend a lot of money on equipment. We purchase sharp lenses and we want our pictures to impart their maximum capabilities. In order to accomplish this, we must refine our picture making methods and techniques. This means proper camera handling, using a tripod as often as possible, using mirror lock up, shooting with proper shutter speed / aperture combinations, and using autofocus sensors properly.

TRIPOD: First and foremost, use a tripod to help ensure you get sharp images. As shutter speeds get lower, the potential for camera movement significantly increases.  Even if you’re shooting at high ISO’s, a tripod helps as it allows you to become more absorbed in the image creating process. It slows you down and allows you to fine tune your compositions. The benefit is a better image in that you’ll study the viewfinder and see things you otherwise would not have if you made the image on the run.

APERTURE / SHUTTER COMBO: Aperture and shutter speed work both independently of each other and also in conjunction to create sharpness. If the action is fast and you want to freeze it, a high shutter speed is necessary. If lots of depth of field is important, you need to use a small aperture. Herein lies the rub for both. Fast shutter speeds often mean wide open apertures which narrow the depth of field. Lots of depth of field means slow shutter speeds which increase the chance you’ll get subject or camera movement. This is why it’s so important to find the proper combination that yields the best image for the circumstance.

HAND HOLDING: If for whatever reason you can’t use a tripod, proper hand holding techniques will help you obtain sharp pictures. Image stabilization certainly helps, but it has limitations. If all you make are snapshot sized images you may not notice the softness, but as soon as you begin to enlarge them, you’ll see disappointing results. Use your focusing hand to support the camera and lens to create a firm base to prevent up and down movement of the camera. With your shutter hand, grip the body tightly to prevent left to right movement. Additionally, press the top of the camera against your forehead to further stabilize the system. Right before you press the shutter, inhale, tighten your grip, and gently press down. The main rule of thumb for hand holding is to never exceed the relationship of focal length to shutter speed. In other words, if you’re using a 100mm lens, the shutter speed should be one one hundredth of a second or faster. Trying to hold a 300mm lens using a shutter speed of one thirtieth of a second will be a challenging combination even with image stabilization.



    Old school wisdom still is the truth. Good, solid tips. Could have used a word about monopods, or car hoods or bean bags, but certainly, this is the truth. Nice shot of the parched land. Arizona?

    Bernard – some aspects of photography will never change regardless of the technological advancements. The parched land is from Glen Canyon area in Utah when the water level was low and much of the dried land was revealed.

    You mention the importance of selecting the correct autofocus sensor in the introduction, but didn’t give any details in the article. It would have been nice to get some info on when to choose which type of autofocus and the benefits of each. Other than that, I thought it was a good article; simple and direct.

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