When I first began photographing, one of my biggest challenges was getting the images sharp. At the time I did not think much about it, but as I started improving I noticed that a lot of the images I liked weren’t as sharp as they should have been. I’ve put together 3 tips for taking sharper images so you don’t have to do the same mistakes as I did.
1. Use a Tripod
My number one tips on taking sharper images is using a tripod. I can not stress it enough how important this is. I frequently get asked if I use a tripod for my images. My answer? Yes. I use a tripod for 99% of my shots, and so should you! It doesn’t matter if you are photographing in bright daylight or in twilight, a tripod is essential.
In my article Essential Equipment for Landscape Photography I go more into depth about what type of tripod you want to invest in, but on a general note you do want to use some extra money and ensure that you have a solid tripod.
The reason you want a sturdy tripod is to minimise friction during a shot. A solid tripod will stand steady and have less vibration than a cheaper one.
By planting the legs good into the ground you are already much closer to getting sharp images. Notice where you put the tripod legs. Is the ground solid? Try to avoid setting the tripod on the edge of a slippery rock or on any surface that might move during the shot. If the ground is soft try to press the legs down in the ground until it stands still. I know it’s a little hassle to get the tripod set up perfectly some times, especially when standing in a river or anywhere you have many elements to work with, but it’s always worth spending the extra effort making sure it is steady.
When using a tripod be aware of how you position it. Try to keep the legs level to avoid the tripod leaning in one direction. This might not have a huge impact on the sharpness of your image, but it is a safety measurement to make sure your tripod does not tip over. I’ve learnt this the hard way!
Many tripods have a hook between the legs. This is great when you are photographing in windy conditions. I know some people say to bring a bag with sand to hook between the legs, but I doubt you want to carry around all that extra weight. Simply hang your backpack between the legs. Thats enough to keep the tripod steady and remove the risk of it moving in the wind.
2. Remote Shutter
A remote shutter release is the second piece of equipment you want to invest in. Unlike the tripods you don’t need to spend a lot of money on this. A 10$ wireless release from Best Buy will do the job. However buying a more expensive model has it’s benefits and allows many more features such as continuous shooting (essential for time lapses) and the possibility to lock the release butten (When shooting in bulb mode) .
The reason you want a remote shutter is to remove the vibration you cause by pressing the shutter button on your camera. Remember, we want to remove all elements of vibration! Pressing your finger on the camera causes vibration as you might understand.
Whether you choose a cable release or a wireless shutter does not matter.
An alternative to a remote shutter is to use the cameras delayed shutter function. This does work in some situations, but it does have some negative aspects too.
Lets say that you are photographing at a beach and want to capture the motion of the waves. By using a remote control you can choose the exact moment you want to take the picture, which allows you to freeze the waves in the exact moment you desire. This is not the case when using a delayed shutter. You then have to plan 10 seconds (depending on your settings) before the camera takes the picture. By that time the wave you wanted to freeze is long gone.
3. Manual focus
My third tip for taking sharper images might be a little scary, especially for beginners. Why would you focus manually when your camera does a good job automatically? Well, the autofocus might be good but isn’t it much better to have 100% control? Also manual focus is proven to be slightly better and you can fine tune the focus.
As I said, autofocus works fine – in most cases. Of course it depends in some degree on your camera, but on a general basis it works just fine. However manual focusing gives you the opportunity to fine tune. I’ve often compared manual and automatic focus, and I always end up with a slightly sharper image while focusing manually. You can focus on whatever point within the frame you want, and can fine tune it to perfection!
Getting the manual focus perfect does demand some practise, but that is just part of the fun! I guarantee you will see a difference.
The best way to manually focus is to use your cameras “Live View” function. Zoom in on your focal point while in live view, and then start adjusting the focal ring. Start with big twists until you see the object get sharper, and then continue back and forth until you find the sharpest point. Voila! Not that hard is it?
4. Bonus Tips!
Since I’m in the generous mood and you are a bunch of fantastic people, I will share one bonus tip with you!
Remove the camera strap!
Removing the camera strap is especially important when shooting longer exposures in windy conditions. The last thing you want is for your image to be less sharp because the strap was flickering in the wind.
What is your favorite methods to get sharper images? Have you tried any of the above?