This is the final post about taking sharper images! I hope you're excited to try some of these final, general tips; they will change your photo life. Blurry photos are the worst. They aren't doing anyone a favor, so listen up. If you haven't read my previous posts in this series about taking shaper images, check them out here:
When it comes to understanding how to take sharp photos it is sometimes easier to think about WHY our photos are coming out blurry. Why, why, why??! Here are some reasons why your photos aren't as clear as you'd like them to be:
Your shutter speed is too slow, causing movement to show.
You are shooting too wide open (your f/stop is low, giving you a small plane for focusing).
There's not enough light in your scene.
Your ISO is a little too high (showing grain).
You are causing camera shake.
You aren't using the best Autofocus setting for your subject.
Let's start with shutter speed. There's a general rule-of-thumb that if you are hand-holding your camera, you should shoot at a shutter speed equal to or greater than focal length of the lens to avoid camera shake. For example, if you are shooting with a 50mm lens, you want your shutter speed to be at least 1/50th of a second to avoid showing the shakiness (...is that a word? If not, is in my book) of your hands. For any camera with a cropped sensor (most beginner DSLR camera bodies) you'll calculate 1.5 x focal length of your lens. SO for a 50mm lens, I'd need a minimum shutter speed of 1/75th.
Another thing to think about is your subject and whether it is moving or not. The tips about shutter speed above are useful for anything stationary. Once you take into account how fast your subject matter might be moving, you will need a faster shutter speed to freeze motion. There are many situations where showing motion is the goal; but we're talking about SHARP photos here.
To freeze motion, I usually start by playing it safe around 1/250th. This works well for family photo shoots when kids are wiggly but may not be sprinting in a full-blown race. If I want to freeze motion of a kid being tossed in the air, I'd like to shoot at 1/400th or something higher to be sure it's sharp. Consider your scenario, and if freezing motion is key, raise your shutter speed as high as you can without having your ISO setting too high (results in a grainy photo) or your aperture going too wide (lower aperture lets in more light). Read more about shutter speed here.
Shooting wide open (lower aperture, such as f/2.8) isn't necessarily wrong, it just limits what is in focus. This creates a shallow depth of field, so only a small plane of your image will be in focus when you take a photo. If you are going to use a low aperture, be sure you get your focal point spot on. For help with focusing tips, read my first two articles mentioned above! Learn more about aperture here. Most lenses are the sharpest a few stops up from wide open (the lowest f/stop setting). If I have a 35mm f/1.8 lens, the images I take between f/2.8-f/5 will be more crisp than at f/1.8. I shot this photo at f/3.5 and focused exactly on the right eye to make sure they were as sharp as can be. For portraits it's crucial to try and get the eyes in focus.
When it comes to ISO, we know that the lower our ISO number is, such as ISO 100, the higher quality our images will have or the sharper they will be. Higher ISO settings, like ISO 6400, let in more light but show more grain. Read more about ISO here.
You can't rely on your camera to pick the perfect focus point for you automatically. If you are wanting a particular part of your scene, someone's face or even just the eyes in focus, you need to select the focus point using my tips in the articles mentioned above. Camera's have to guess and sometimes the result isn't what you want. For this photo below, I shot at f/2.8 and manually selected the focus point to be right on the product (the bracelet). It's completely sharp because my subject was still, I had plenty of light in this studio to use a fast shutter speed and a lower ISO, and I used the right Autofocus setting to get accurate focus. If I had my camera choose the focus, it probably would have focused on her sweater, making the bracelet fall out of focus.
I hope you've learned a few tips to carry with you as you try to take sharper photos. Get out there and practice a few of these techniques and you are bound to have better results! If you have any other questions about how to take sharp photos, head to my contact page and let me know.