Once shooting in manual mode becomes second nature, things like getting accurate color, learning compositions, and how to get sharp photos become the next areas of concentration. It is really frustrating to have a great composition and color, only to upload the photos to Lightroom to discover that a lot of the images are out of focus. I hear ya! I have been there, and so have many other photographers. So, what is the next step? Today, I’d love to share some tips with you that can help get you back on track to loving your images, and how to get sharp photos.
10+ Tips on How to Get Sharp Photos
1. Check Your Shutter Speed
One of the most common reasons for blurry or out of focus images when starting out is a slow shutter speed. There is so much to remember at first to just get a good exposure, that remembering all of the rules is difficult! The bright side, is that it gets easier.
The rule of thumb is that your shutter speed should be approximately twice your focal length (depending upon how steady you are at hand holding your camera). Some people are better than others at keeping the camera steady, so you’ll need to test your skills and determine what your “sweet spot” is.
2. Stop Down Your Aperture
The second most common reason for beginners is shooting wide open. I know, I know, beautiful bokeh and blurry backgrounds is a huge advantage of using a DSLR. However, just like everything else photography related, shooting wide open takes practice. Start at f/3.2 on subjects that are cooperative or slow moving, then on moving targets. As you master the aperture, progress to a wider one. Shooting at f/1.8 gives little room for error.
3. Toggle Your Focal Points
If you haven’t read this post about using a single focal point, now is the time. It’ll rock your world. If you already toggle your focal points, make sure you use the one closest to where you want focus to minimize any depth of field changes when focusing and recomposing (if necessary). And in some situations, you may want to take a step back, use a focal point over your subject and crop in post processing. It’s okay!
4. Use AF-C (Nikon) or AI-Servo (Canon) for Action Photos
AF-C for Nikon, and AI-Servo for Canon are the camera’s focus modes for moving objects. If you are shooting toddlers or fast action, this focus mode will help you nail focus. After changing to this mode, hold down your focus button and your camera will continuously refocus as your subject moves. Single shot AF-S (Nikon) and One shot (Canon) is best used for stationary subjects. You can easily grab your focus and recompose, then press the shutter all the way to take the photo. This tip is a really useful on when learning how to get sharp photos.
Before we move on to more tips on how to get sharp photos, have your downloaded your copy of 100 Summer Photography Ideas?
5. Focus on an Area of High Contrast
Not only do we normally just want eyes in focus for portraits, one reason everyone says to focus on the eye is because it is an area of high contrast when compared to the forehead or cheek. If photographing something other than a person, choose an area that has lines or texture so the camera has something to grab focus onto. If you find your lens searching a good bit, it’s having trouble seeing anything to focus on, which in most cases is a vertical or horizontal line.
When focusing on the shadow on the wall, place the focal point on the edge of the shadow and light for the camera to grab focus. My youngest thought his hair was hilarious and that his head was shaped like an egg! Lol!
6. Use Your Strongest Focal Points
If you are still having trouble getting sharper images after following tips 1-5, try using your camera’s strongest focal points. Every focal point isn’t created equally, unfortunately. Some are call cross-type focal points. This type of focal point can detect both horizontal and vertical lines, where others can only detect on or the other. You may need to read your manual to determine which focal points are cross type focal points. It’s usually the ones closest to the center.
7. Lower Your ISO
Sometimes grain can be confused with out of focus. While grainy images can look blurry, it may not be the case. If your most OOF (out of focus) images are with a really high ISO, try using a lower ISO if your shutter speed allows.
8. Anticipate the Photo
Instead of chasing around your subject with your camera, anticipate what your subject will do next. In other words, wait for the perfect opportunity to take make the image happen. Be patient and not snap happy. It’ll happen. Get ready and wait for the moment. Using this method, your camera will be still and your subject will come to you.
9. Be Careful About Focusing and Recomposing
Make sure that when you focus, and when you recompose, that your subject hasn’t moved, and that your camera is still on the same plane as when you focused. That’s pretty wordy…in other words make sure nothing has changed between focusing and recomposing or you risk an out of focus image. It is easy to miss focus when you move your camera, especially when using larger apertures.
10. Try Back Button Focusing
Back Button Focus is using one button for focus and one for shutter, thus separating pressing half down, then firing technique. I LOVE this method…and I’ll go into it in detail in another post! I promise. It’s too much to cover in this post. But! In a nutshell, use your AF-ON button for back button focusing, and use your shutter button for, well, the shutter. It works for me! And many, many others swear by it too. It does take a bit of getting used to though. 🙂 Oh, how I love this technique and I learned how to get sharper photos using it. I could never switch back.
11. Brace Your Body & Camera for Stability
When holding your camera brace your arms/elbows against your body so that you are more stable. If you are standing near a counter or wall, brace your body against so that you’re more stable. Hold your breath if you need to! Especially if you are shooting in low light and using slower shutter speeds, holding your breath and bracing your body and camera is a must.
12. Is It My Camera???
Honestly, most of the time it isn’t. If you are questioning your equipment, try out a couple of things first before making a decision.
- Try using a different lens. Make sure to test out your camera and at least 2 lenses with a tripod on a stationary object to rule out user error.
- Try using a calibration tool. It could be that your lens needs some micro adjusting.
- If that fails, it may be time for a service visit for your beloved camera. 🙁
I hope you found a few new ideas on how to get sharp photos and try them out this week! Make it a goal for the next few months and see how your images improve.