A common question people ask me is how to get sharper photo’s. There is of course, no one direct answer to such a question however here are 5 tips that will help ensure your photos are as sharp as possible.
1.Invest in quality lenses –
It doesn’t matter how great your camera is, if it’s seeing through soft eyes then you will struggle to get a tack sharp shot. Unfortunately, good glass isn’t cheap, however third party brands like Sigma, Samyang and Tamron are making some amazing lenses these days for half the price of Canon and Nikon. Quality glass will outlast your body so don’t hesitate to invest. DxOMark
is a great website with tested ratings on lenses.
2.Use the right aperture – With landscapes, we generally want everything sharp and in focus. Using a narrow aperture (higher f-stop) will help us get a greater depth of field. I generally shoot around f-11 for depth of field (DOF) and clarity. Closing the aperture down too far (like f-22) actually decreases lens clarity as most lenses are optically softer at their extreme apertures. For portraits, I’m doing the opposite, opening the aperture up to really isolate my subject from the background, making them pop and really stand out.
3.Manually Focus – This is mainly for wide angle tripod shooting and will help ensure you’re focussed exactly where you need to be and also prevent the camera from hunting in low light situations. To focus manually, I use the live view screen and zoom in with the magnify button. I then focus on an object approximately 1/3 of the way into the scene. This is loosely following the ‘hyperfocal’ rule of focussing and will often help you be sharp from front to back, especially once paired with the right aperture.
4.Use a lower ISO –
Perhaps an obvious tip here but it is something people often overlook. The noise (grainy look) you see in photo’s is often directly related to your ISO setting. Keeping your ISO lower will not only keep noise levels at a minimum but also ensure you’re getting the highest dynamic range
out of your cameras sensor. Aside from night photography, I personally try and shoot at my cameras base ISO of 100 and only deviate from there when I really need to. The majority of all my work is shot at either ISO 100 or 200 to ensure the cleanest possible image for print.
5.Focus Stack – A slightly more time consuming technique here that is utilised when you have a foreground object quite close to your lens or perhaps you need to use a fast shutter to freeze movement (like wild flowers), meaning you have to open up the aperture to let light in and avoid a higher ISO. Hope that last sentence made sense! Anyway, this technique is easiest when on the tripod, although it can be done handheld too. Simply focus on your first immediate subject in the foreground and take your shot, then continue focussing through the depth of the scene one shot at at time. Depending on the f-stop you’re using, you may need anywhere from 2-10 images. I do my blending in Photoshop, adding all the images as layers on top of one another. I then select all, then go to edit>auto align. After this, it’s edit>auto blend and then select the focus stack option. Hopefully, PS can blend everything smoothly for you from here. Worse case you may need to do some manual blending with masks. Shooting plenty of frames in field is key here and avoiding any movement.
There are also some post-production sharpening methods which can really assist in furthering the clarity of your image. I’ll touch on this in another blog. Please see below for a view examples of images and of course feel free to leave any questions. Thanks!