Anyone can take a picture and call themselves a “photographer,” but not everyone can take a sharp image with every snapshot. To differentiate yourself as a real photographer from those who just snap away on a camera, you’ll have to master the art of taking sharper images each and every time you release the shutter button.
How do you do this? How do you master something that’s one of the basic fundamentals of photography?
Surprisingly, taking sharp photos is a skill that can be quite elusive, even to seasoned pros. If you want to make yourself stand out from the rest of the pack, you definitely should learn how to take sharp pictures.
It’s easier than you might think!
Using a Tripod
Here’s some simple logic: A tripod has three legs, which equates to a stable base. A stable base means no room for shaking, which is a huge factor in picture blur. Therefore, a tripod helps you get sharper images. While this may seem so fundamental that it’s a no-brainer, it’s surprising to see the number of photographers who don’t practice this.
Don’t do this on the cheap: Purchase a better-quality tripod that’ll provide a sturdy base for your camera. The last thing you want is a flimsy one that’ll send your camera crashing down to the ground in a heap. Here’s an authoritative list of reliable, high-quality tripods.
photo by davedeluria
A remote trigger or shutter release usually goes hand-in-hand with a tripod. You have a choice of different types: direct-attachment ones, wireless ones, and programmable ones that let you perform timed exposures. While good-quality ones will cost you, it’s well worth it because remote triggers or shutter releases allow you to shoot without so much as making contact with your camera!
Obviously, this eliminates any vibration or shaking issues, clearing the way to producing that elusive, very sharp image.
Here’s how you focus properly: You pick the correct mode. Many cameras feature different modes, and your images’ sharpness (or lack thereof) is impacted by the appropriateness of your choices. Cameras usually have single shot, artificial intelligence and al servo.
Choosing the right mode comes down to knowing what each mode does.
photo by iambrettprice
Single shot indicates that your camera will focus on one object and not stop until the shutter button’s released.
AI servo indicates continual focusing for a moving object. Here, your camera will keep focusing on the object if it moves away or closer to you, as you depress the shutter button halfway. It won’t lock the focus until the button’s fully depressed and the actual picture is taken.
Finally, with AI focus, your camera’s going to pick between the two previous modes according to whether or not the subject is in motion.
So choose wisely, based on the suitability of each mode for the subject you’re shooting.
The Proper Shutter Speed
Hopefully, you’re beginning to notice a pattern here: There’s very little room for error if you want to take sharper images all the time. There’s a specific way to go about it, and there’s no leeway.
As a general rule, camera shake (and therefore blurry images) will happen less frequently when you increase your shutter speed. This means the likelihood of subject and camera movement are significantly reduced.
photo by stephanielauren
The shutter speed’s denominator ought to be bigger than the lens’ focal length. Here are some examples of what this means:
- You shouldn’t photograph slower than 1/60th of a second if your lens is 50 mm in length
- You should photograph at 1/125th of a second or faster if your lens is 100 mm in length
- You should photograph at 1/250th or a second or more if your lens is 200 mm
Before you celebrate at how straightforward this is, consider this: Aperture must be larger to balance things out with a faster shutter speed. Consequently, your depth of field is going to be smaller; this can make focusing harder.
That brings us to…
Nailing the Aperture
Again, this is one of those situations where you have to choose aperture based on what’s suitable for your shot. Consider these two scenarios.
photo by Mad House Photography
If you decrease the aperture (meaning you raise the number to something like f/20), you’ll increase your depth of field, thus including both near and distant objects in the zone in focus. If you increase the aperture (meaning you lower the number to something like f/4), you’ll make your foreground and background more out of focus. As a result, you’ll have to be more precise than ever with your camera focusing.
So choose wisely.
Perfecting the ISO
Any discussion involving shutter speeds and aperture also must include the ISO, another integral factor in creating sharp pictures. The ISO plays a huge role in the noise of your images, which Adorama Camera defines as the go-to term for typical visual distortion in a photograph.
photo by alimousavi
When you go with a bigger ISO, you typically will use a faster shutter speed as well as a smaller aperture, which generally worsens the noise in the average image. Therefore, you’ll obviously want to keep the ISO as low as possible, but still within reason. For instance, an ISO of between 400 and 800 should be good for most cameras. Of course, the sharper you want a picture, reduce the ISO even more.
Taking pictures that are sharp every time won’t just be a personal victory—think of the impact on the amount of viewers you’ll get! With sharp pictures, people will be able to enjoy your shots all the more, giving you a bigger audience to appreciate your work. When more people see your work, that’ll also increase your chances of being put in touch with paying clients.
As you can see, taking sharper images only requires a bit better equipment and more concentration on the techniques you employ before snapping away. By ensuring that you have the right equipment and knowledge about the basics like shutter speed, aperture and ISO, you can say goodbye to grainy, blurry pictures for good.
Instead, you’ll have the skill to take sharp pictures—any time, all the time.
Bio: Marc is a copywriter and content marketer who covered photography. These days, he runs The Glorious Company, a content marketing agency.