5 Simple Steps to Sharper Photos

Taking razor-sharp photos is a pursuit of many photographers – crisp, defined edges and incredible texture creates a whole new dimension to your photos. However, there is a reason why professional images appear to be sharper than the average hobbyist – they follow a few simple, but key steps in order to eliminate camera vibration and make sure that their scene is as sharp as possible.

sharper

Getting the Shot by Zach Dischner on Flickr

There are 5 very important steps to clear, tack-sharp images.

1. Use a Tripod
I’m sure you’ve heard of this before, but a tripod is one of the most versatile and important pieces of gear in a photographer’s arsenal. It allows you to capture HDR images, do long exposures, and it will also help stabilize a camera in the event of camera shake.

When not using a tripod, your shutter speed needs to be fast enough to capture your scene without registering any movement caused by camera shake – or simply put, a slow shutter speed may pick up vibrations caused by handheld movement, which gives you a blurry photo. Even the slightest movement can cause camera shake, which ultimately affects your image sharpness.

A tripod will help stabilize your camera so that you can capture images of any shutter speed in sharp focus – assuming your subject isn’t moving. This is by far the biggest thing you can do to obtain a sharper photo.

sharper photos

Tripod by fensterbme, on Flickr

2. Lock Your Mirror
In addition to mounting your camera on a tripod, locking your internal mirror will help eliminate any vibration the camera causes when your press the shutter button. Instead of letting your camera flip the mirror up and expose your image in one fell swoop, it does it in two steps so that the vibration isn’t present when you actually take your photo. So when mirror lock-up mode is enabled, you’ll be pressing your shutter button twice to take a photo – once to flip the mirror and lock it in place, and again to take your image.

Each camera has a slightly different way to access this setting, so refer to your camera manual in order to learn how to enable this helpful tool.
3. Remote Cable Release
The remote cable release is another great tool for obtaining sharp images during longer exposures.  So you’ve got your camera mounted on a tripod, and you’ve enabled a mirror lock – now it’s time to actually take your photo. However, just the act of pressing the shutter button can physically shake your camera, causing unwanted blurring and a less-than-sharp image.

A remote cable release is simply a corded remote that attaches to your camera, allowing you to take a photo without actually touching it. Most remotes also come with a lock – perfect for extended exposures where you don’t have to hold down the shutter button for 15 minutes or longer.
4. Disable IS/VR
If your camera is already mounted on a tripod, then there’s no reason to use your image stabilization/vibration reduction function on your lens (if you have it) as it’s a redundant step. Actually, combining both IS/VR and tripod mounting as a stabilization method can be counterproductive – this function can actually blur your image instead of stabilizing it since the camera is already mounted. Make sure to disable this function for a truly sharp photo.
5. Aperture
If you’re following all the above steps and still desire a sharper image, note that the aperture you choose can greatly affect image clarity. Every lens has a “sweet spot” aperture setting – usually somewhere between f/8 and f/11. If you go outside of this bracket, your image sharpness will progressively decrease. Whether or not this is a concern to you depends on what is more important to you – your depth of field or your sharpness?

By following these 5 important steps, you will notice a considerable difference in image sharpness.



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