There’s no single trick to getting super sharp photographs. But, when you combine a bunch of little tricks, you’ll begin to notice some big changes in sharpness. So, here are seven little things you can do to inch your way towards sharper images:
#1 – Always use a tripod
I know–tripods are heavy, they take a long time to setup, and can cost a lot of money, but it’s nearly impossible to get sharp photographs without one. Nothing keeps your camera more still.
#2 – Enable mirror lockup
Normally, the mirror in your SLR will flip up immediately before the shutter opens, and this flip can make the camera vibrate a little. So, there’s a helpful setting on most SLRs called “mirror-lockup” and if you enable it (disabled by default on most cameras), then your camera will add a significant pause between the time the mirror goes up and the shutter opens, letting any vibration die down before the photo is actually shot. Look in your camera’s manual to find out how to enable this feature.
#3 – Use a remote shutter-release or timer
When you press the shutter button on your camera to take a photo, there’s a good chance you’ll shake the camera a little. To prevent this, use a remote control to release the shutter, or you can just use the timer on your camera (so any vibration you caused by pressing the button will die down before the shutter is actually released).
#4 – Increase shutter speed
When you increase your shutter speed, you leave the shutter open for a shorter length of time, so there’s less time available for the camera to shake. Before increasing shutter speed though, consider how it’ll affect your depth of field, noise levels (if you increase ISO), and/or exposure. The trade may not be worth it.
#5 – Use manual focus
Autofocus is great for moving subjects or when you need to take photos quickly, but when your subject is somewhat stationary (i.e. you’re shooting a beautiful landscape), you might want to use manual focus. This ensures you’re focusing on the right subject, at the proper distance.
#6 – Shoot lots and lots of photographs
When shooting wildlife or any kind of fast moving subject, the best way to get a super sharp photo is to simply take lots and lots of shots. This helps increase your chances of getting a shot when your subject was still or when your camera was accurately tracking your subject.
#7 – Use the sweet spot of your lens
Most lenses are sharpest in their “mid ranges” and about two stops below their widest aperture. For example, if your 17-40 mm zoom lens has a speed of f/4, then you’ll probably get the sharpest results from using f/8 and zoomed at 30 mm. Very rarely are lenses sharp on their borderlines. Also, fixed focal length lenses (also known as “prime” lenses) are almost always sharper than zoom lenses.
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About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, computer scientist, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of Southern California.