How to Take Sharp Photos

One of the things that makes photography is softness and blur in pictures. Sharp photos are much more appealing than soft images. It is very disappointing when you take a picture of a special moment and images come out soft/blurry or out of focus. So in this article, I will go through the techniques I use to make sure that my images always come out tack sharp.

  1. A long shutter speed can capture camera shake, which would produce a blurry image.
  2. Your subject could be moving and causing motion blur, made worse by a long shutter speed
  3. Poor focus acquisition would result in a soft image
  4. You might have a bad lens or a lens that is not capable of producing sharp photos
  5. Your ISO could be set to a very high number, resulting in lots of noise and loss of detail.

In order to resolve these issues you need to address them all at the same time, which will help achieve optimal sharpness. There are a few other causes of blurry photos, too, which I will cover below.

How to Take Sharp Pictures

1. Set the Right ISO

Start with setting your camera to the lowest ISO “base” value (in my camera it is ISO 200). Remember that the camera base ISO will produce the highest quality images with maximum sharpness. The higher the ISO (sensor sensitivity) the more noise you will see in the image. I suggest reading my article on understanding ISO.

2. Use the Hand-Holding Rule

If you have a zoom lens that goes beyond 100mm, I would recommend applying the general hand-holding “rule”, which states that the shutter speed should be equivalent to the focal length set on the lens, or faster. For example, if you have your lens zoomed at 125mm, your shutter speed should be at least 1/125 of a second.

Keep in mind that this rule applied to 35mm film and digital cameras, so if you own an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless camera with a crop factor (not full frame) you need to do the math accordingly. cameras with a 1.5x crop factor just multiply the result by 1.5, whereas for cameras, multiply by 1.6. If you have a zoom lens such as the 18-135mm, set the “Minimum Shutter Speed” to the longest focal range of the lens (135mm), which is 1/200 of a second.

3. Choose Your Camera Mode Wisely

When I’m taking pictures in low light, 99% of the time, I shoot in Aperture-Priority mode and set aperture to the widest setting on my lens – the maximum aperture, AKA the smallest f-number. This is usually in the range of f/1.4 to f/5.6 depending on the lens. (For example, with the 35mm f/1.8 lens, I will set the aperture to its maximum value of f/1.8.) The camera automatically meters the scene and guesses what the shutter speed should be to properly expose the image. You can easily adjust the camera’s guess with exposure compensation. So, set your camera to aperture-priority mode and set the aperture to the lowest possible f-number.

4. Pick a Fast Enough Shutter Speed

After you set your camera to aperture priority and pick the right metering mode, point it at the subject that you want to photograph and half-press the shutter. Doing so should show you the shutter speed on the bottom of the view finder.

  • If the shutter speed is showing 1/100 or faster, you should be good to go, unless anything in your photo is moving quickly (or if you’re using a long telephoto lens; remember the hand-holding rule). Snap an image or two and see if you are getting any blur in your image. I typically review my images on the back of the camera at 100% and make sure that nothing is blurry. If anything in your photo is blurry – the entire image, or just one fast-moving subject – use a quicker shutter speed like 1/200 or 1/500 second.
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