8 Tips for Sharper Images
“How can I get my photos sharper?” is one of the most common questions I get asked during my workshops and seminars. There are no shortcuts to getting sharp images, so here are my eight suggestions for staying in focus:
1) Use a tripod
Nothing will keep your camera and lens fixed and steadier than a good quality tripod. There are lots of choices when purchasing a tripod system and there are basically two types you can choose from:
1. Tripods that are cheap, light weight, and easy to carry.
2. Tripods that actually work…
I’ll discuss tripods in detail in a future newsletter, but you should be prepared to spend from $500+ for a carbon fiber model with a ball-head and quick release system.
2) Use a remote shutter release.
It makes no sense to secure you camera to a tripod only to jab the shutter with your finger. Use a remote release.
Bonus Tip: If you forgot your remote release, use your DSLR’s 2-second timer.
3) Capture in Live View Mode
The old-school advice for shutter speeds that are 1/4sec and slower was to enable “mirror lock-up” to reduce vibration. With Live View, the mirror is already secured since you’re viewing directly off the sensor. Bonus Tip: Enable Silent Mode 1 or 2 on Canon DSLRs. The simulated electronic shutter action reduces the vibration even further.
4) Achieve Critical Focus
Check and double-check your focus. In Live View, magnify the view on the LCD monitor to ensure that you’re in focus. Use a small aperture (f/11, f/16, f/22) to increase depth of field. A piece of blue painters tape or gaffers tape is perfect for securing the focusing ring and prevent it from slipping.
5) Select a Fast Shutter Speed
If you’re shooting sports, (or ignoring Rule #1 above) select a fast shutter speed to freeze the action and reduce camera shake. For sports I recommend shooting at least 1/500sec, but 1/1000sec and faster is preferred. To reduce camera shake with a hand-held cameras, select a shutter speed that is the inverse of the lens focal length. Example: if you’re using 200mm lens, your shutter speed should be 1/200sec or faster.
6) Enable Image Stabilization / Vibration Reduction
Canon and Nikon both have lenses that feature technology that compensates for slight camera-shake from hand-holding a camera. Although it’s no longer required, I still recommend turning off this feature when using a tripod.
7) Minimize Filter Usage
The more glass you add to the front of the lens, the more the image may suffer degradation. There are proper times for using filters and I only carry three in my bag; a polarizer to reduce glare, a vari-ND to cut down light, and an IR filter for infrared photography. Many photographers affix UV filters to protect their objective lens, but in that case I strongly advocate buying a top brand UV (Heliopan, Hoya, B+W).
8) Invest in “Pro” Lenses
There is huge difference in quality (and price) between consumer lenses and the Canon L series and Nikon ED/N lenses. Glass quality, coatings, and construction all contribute to higher overall quality. Most experts will advise you to invest in “glass”. Camera bodies come and go, but a good lens can last forever.
For the sharpest images possible, I recommend that you follow all of these tips whenever you can. It takes time, patience, and effort; but that degree of diligence is what turns a snapshot into a great shot…
Spring Forward Today…
- Today is the second Sunday of March and that means that it’s time to set your clocks to Daylight Saving Time.
- ALL your clocks, …don’t forget the internal clocks on your cameras.
The Good News is that we get an extra hour of daylight in the evening to follow our photographic pursuits.
The Bad News is that most of us will waste half a day running around the house setting all of our clocks one hour forward instead of spending it outside shooting.
To set the time on most cameras, simply go to Menu > Camera Settings >Date/Time and make the necessary changes. I use my cell phone as an accurate reference for the correct time. As you go through your home changing the other clocks in your house, make a list. Before you know it November 2nd will be here and you’ll be reversing the process back to Standard Time.
Here’s my “Clock List“:
- Master bedroom
- Kid’s bedroom
- Guest bedroom
- Master bathroom
- Guest bathroom
- Kitchen Stove
- Coffee maker
- Anniversary clock
- My car
- Her car