As a San Clemente Family Photographer, one thing I see a lot of newer photographers struggling with is how to get sharper photos out of camera. There are A LOT of different factors to consider when trying to make a sharp image. Today I'm going to discuss three ways to get sharper photos.
I'm choosing these particular three factors because I personally feel these are the top three to take into consideration when trying to get sharper photos.
1. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ENOUGH LIGHT ON YOUR SUBJECT
There are a lot of reasons that having enough light on your subject will effect how sharp your image turns out.
One reason; having enough light on your subject helps your camera to "grab" onto the right area you're wishing to focus on. What I mean by that is: while our lens is what we use to focus, the camera itself still needs to be able to "see" what we're trying to focus on. It looks for areas of contrast (an area of light next to an area of shadow). If your subject is too much in the dark and there isn't some light that the camera can grab onto, then your lens is going to have difficulty focusing. This brings up another point about contrast... backlit images typically have decreased contrast and more haze. Because of this, it can make it harder for your lens to focus. It is created by the way the light source is hitting your lens (typically going straight into it). It's like us being blinded by the sun when we try to look right at it... a little hard to focus, amiright?!
As you can see, between these two images, the top image has less light on my subject, aka my dog. While her eyes are still in focus, you can see how having more light on her does actually make her appear sharper.
On top of making it easier for your camera to find the right area to focus on, having enough light also helps reduce your ISO. If your ISO is too high, you'll have noise/grain in your image. If your image is underexposed and you need to bring back some exposure in post, you're going to have noise in your image. Having too much noise will make your image look less sharp, even if you nailed focus.
All I did different (besides adjust my settings) for these two shots was open my blinds to camera right.
2. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A FAST ENOUGH SHUTTER SPEED.
This is a big one. If you do not have a fast enough shutter speed, you are going to introduce camera shake into your image. This will make it impossible to have a sharp image, and you also will not be able to fix this in post. A blurry image out of camera will remain a blurry image out of post.
There's a bit of a "rule" when it comes to how slow you actually let your shutter speed get. The rule is 1/focal length. What this means is that if you're using an 85mm lens, your shutter speed should not drop below 1/85ths of a second. And since 1/85 isn't an option on any camera I'm aware of, you'd want a shutter speed of at least 1/100th of a second.
Now, it's also suggested to never let your shutter go below 1/60th of a second. This is because this is the average threshold for people to hand hold their camera. Meaning, any slower than that and it's suggested to use a tripod. Now... of course, there are always those who have very steady hands and can go lower than 1/focal length or even lower than 1/60, but you'll need to test your own limits. I know that I am more on the shaky/unsteady side of things. So I prefer to keep my shutter speed as fast as possible. Because I know I cannot fix a blurry image in Photoshop, I never want to risk introducing camera shake into my image.
Here are two more shots of my beautiful and well behaved model. As you can see, the top image is NOT sharp, and the bottom image is. Both of these were photographed using my Canon 35mm lens. The shutter speed in the top image is 1/40 and the shutter speed in the bottom image is 1/125. So, as you can see, even though I was still at 1/focal length in the top image, I was below 1/60. And for me, through my years of personal experience with photography, I know that I like to keep my shutter speed at no less than 1/100, even with a 35mm on my camera.
I encourage you to test your own limits at hand holding your camera.
3. TOGGLE YOUR FOCAL POINTS
This is another mistake I see a lot of newer photographers make. Either they leave their focal point in the middle of their view finder, or they allow the camera to choose the focal points for them. In my opinion, both of these are mistakes. For one thing, unless you are ALWAYS using a center composition, which I don't personally recommend, you're going to need to utilize your other focal points. They're there for a reason, use them! Now, your center focal point is your strongest one, but that doesn't mean the others should be ignored. I like to use the focal point that is closest to the composition I'm looking to have for my image. Practice moving your focal points so that you can get used to where the buttons are located and soon you'll be able to move them without having to look at your camera.
Now, you could focus and recompose your image, but there are limitations to doing that as well. For example, if your focal point is in the center, and you tilt your camera upwards to focus on someone's eye, then recompose the shot by tilting your camera back down so that the center focus point would now be pointed at their torso, there's a chance you will alter your depth of field. You will shorten the distance your camera is to your subject and your subjects face will not be sharp. Focus and recompose works best when moving from right to left, not up and down. That's just something to keep in mind, and something that I again encourage you to practice with so that you can see for yourself what I'm talking about.
The image above is something that you might see when you look into your view finder and want to change your focal point (this is what I see on my Canon cameras, Nikon may be slightly different). The middle example is showing that the camera would be using the center focal point. However, it's also showing that you're using ONE focal point, which is what I suggest. This is where you could change your single focal point to any of the other gray boxes that would best achieve the composition you're looking for in your image.
Hopefully these three tips will help you in getting sharper images. As I mentioned, there is SO MUCH more that goes into getting a sharper image in camera. These are just my top three. If you're interested in knowing more, I've put together a little ebook for you. You're welcome to sign up for my newsletters to get tips & tricks sent straight to your inbox. When you sign up, you'll get my 8 tips for How to Achieve Sharper Images in Camera. These newsletters are for newer photographers looking to learn how to use their cameras to the best of their abilities!
If you're interested in some one on one mentoring, I'd love for you to Contact Me today! I love helping newer photographers grow and learn.
I have been a San Clemente Family Photographer for 3 years. Capturing families interacting is the best job! If you're looking to schedule a family photography session, I'd love to hear from you!