When it comes to taking sharp photos, high-quality lenses and built-in image stabilization go a long way. However, expensive equipment is not always the answer. In fact, you can improve the quality of almost any image by following some best practices.
Getting razor sharp photos is all about reducing any possible camera shake. Optimizing your settings. And doing a little bit of post-editing if needed. Whether you’re using your smartphone, a Nikon, a Canon, a DSLR, or a mirrorless camera – these tips will help you create clear, sharp photos every time you hit the shutter button.
1. Use Burst Mode.
Capturing a moving object is never easy, whether it’s sports photography, wildlife, a vehicle, or a person on the go. For example, young children are rarely willing to stand still for more than a few seconds. While photographing children at play can be an incredibly fun opportunity, it can also lead to hours of frustration.
Fortunately, your camera has a feature designed for just such an occasion. It’s called burst mode. Which allows you to snap multiple shots in one press of the button. And while many of these are likely to disappoint, there’s almost always a few gems in the bunch.
I’ve found one of the biggest tricks to photography is simply taking LOTS of photos. That’s certainly true in the case of photographing objects in motion. The more “snaps” you take, the more likely you’ll end up with that perfect shot.
2. Keep Your ISO Low.
ISO relates to the sensitivity of a camera to light. When you have this set to a relatively high level, it increases the noise in the photo. Details in the photograph can appear blurred and lack in focus. Oftentimes, simply lowering your ISO will result in a sharper photo.
ISO 100 is a great starting point. You can go up from there if you’re photographing a moving object. Most cameras can handle ISOs up to 400 quite well without adding any additional noise. Or even up to 800 using some higher end cameras and lenses. But when possible, it’s best practice to keep it as low as possible. This one setting will go a long ways in creating clear, sharp images.
However, you must also ensure this does not interfere with the shutter speed.
3. Shutter Speed.
Be sure to set your shutter speed to at least the same speed as the focal length of your lens. So for example, if you’re using a 30mm lens, set the shutter speed to 1/30 of a second. Or even a little faster.
The faster your shutter speed, the less your photo will be impacted by any camera movement. Higher shutter speeds essentially allow you to “freeze” any movement in your shots. Which is great when you’re photographing cars, bikers, sports, etc…
But keep in mind that the faster your shutter speed is the larger you’ll need to set your aperture to compensate.
4. Light Is Your Friend
Lighting is a photographer’s best friend. When you have plenty of light, even average cameras produce superior results. As a rule, you want as much light as possible, and daylight is always the best kind.
However, there is often no way to dictate the presence of natural light, so you may need to improvise or alter the environment in which the picture is being taken. For example, you can try using the camera flash against a wall or ceiling to create the illusion of natural light. Hence, for just a few seconds, the room will brighten in such a way that the light appears natural in the photograph. Of course daylight bulbs can make a huge difference in your photos as well. These are the one’s you see in just about every photo studio.
5. Shooting Sharp Photographs in Raw
Contrary to popular belief, shooting a photograph in RAW is a reasonably straightforward task. Plus, another big benefit of shooting in RAW is that you’re able to process the image afterwards using tools like Photoshop, Lightroom, and Luminar.
Things like manually blending your exposures go a long way in creating sharp, crisp photos. You can also use a free tool called Sharpener Pro 3 from the NIK collection. An excellent program that is provided completely free by Google.
6. Choose Your Aperture.
Every camera lens has an aperture where it produces the sharpest image. For most lenses, the sharpest photos are typically 2 to 3 stops down from the widest aperture. Around f/7.1 to f/8.
But this varies from lens to lens. So you’ll need to experiment with your own camera. Put your camera on a tripod and take photos at all of your aperture levels to see which image is sharpest. This 5-minute test will help you improve all your future images.
There are general best practices for producing sharp images. But every camera is different. And even lenses perform differently on different cameras. So the more you get to know your camera, the better shots you’ll produce.
7. Tripod and Support
As you might expect, the tripod is one of the most common techniques used to stabilize and sharpen a photograph. Simply put, the more stable you can keep a camera, the sharper the outcome.
A good, sturdy tripod can transform the quality of your photos. However, it must also be said that there is a technique for properly setting up a tripod. When possible, avoid overextending the tripod legs to ensure a low center of gravity. The taller you make your tripod, the more it tends to wobble.
Many tripods also have a hook underneath that allows you to hang something for extra weight and support. You can fill a bag with rocks, dirt, or even weights to reduce the risk of any movement.
8. Use a Remote Shutter.
Just like the remote control you use for your television, but this one is for your camera. A remote shutter allows you to control the shutter up to 20 feet away. Firing off images without ever needing to touch the camera.
This helps eliminate any possible movement from clicking the shutter button. Which is especially useful for long exposures and timelapses. Or even just getting a group photo!
9. Stability and Holding the Camera
Sometimes it’s not possible to use a tripod. In that case, you’ll want to master the art of holding a camera. While there is no one specific way to do this, the entire objective is to find the most stable position in which to take the photograph.
Leaning against a wall or a fixed object is often extremely effective. Another useful tip which can stabilize the camera is to lock your elbows and keep your arms close to your body.
The further away the camera is from your body, the more likely you are to generate extra movement. Even your breathing can cause tiny movements in the camera.
So when you’re ready to take the shot, slow your breathing and press the shutter button in between breaths. Many professional photographers will take a gentle but deep breath in, hold it, then take the shot and exhale. You can also do the reverse. Whatever feels most natural for you.
10. Keep Your Lenses Clean.
Over time, lenses build up dust and smudges that often go unnoticed. This can soften your images and sometimes even distort light and colors. So it’s important to keep your gear clean.
But keep in mind that when you use chemicals on the lens, the surface becomes more vulnerable to scratches and other damage. So moderation is key here.
You can remove dust from your lenses with a blower or soft-bristled brush. To remove any oil, smudges, or fingerprints, you’ll need to use a few drops of lens cleaning solution and a microfiber cleaning cloth. NEVER put cleaning solution directly on the lens. ONLY on the microfiber cloth.
Here’s a video that will guide you through the process:
Of course, you can also get your lenses and sensor cleaned professionally if you’d rather not mess with it yourself.
Mastering the Art and Technique of Sharp Photographs
An expensive lens can certainly improve the sharpness of an image, but fancy equipment isn’t always an option for many photographers. This is where stabilization, shooting in RAW, choosing the right camera settings, and keeping your gear clean can go a long way.
Learn the best practices and then go experiment! Because that’s where you’ll really find out what works best for you and your camera.
Happy Shooting 🙂
Have we missed anything above? Do you have any tips or techniques for taking sharp photographs? Please let us know in the comments!