There are few things in your life as a photographer that can obsess you as much as achieve perfect sharpness in each of your photographs . The search for perfect sharpness is a journey that begins by taking the first photographs, and continues tirelessly camera by camera, objective by objective, until you manage to dominate it or else you conform and learn to live without it.
Has it never happened to you that after taking a photo and seeing it on the camera screen you think you have taken the best photo ever taken, but then when you download it to the computer, and when you see it in a larger size, you begin to notice that Magnificent picture perfectly clear, has lost part of its charm?
Sharpness is not everything, but mastering it is a great step for any photographer to make a quality leap in his photographs. In today’s article I bring you 24 tips that will help you achieve sharpness in all your photos. Are you going to miss it?
WHAT IS SHARPNESS?
Before telling you what are the most practical ways to achieve sharpness in each of your photographs, we must define what is sharpness:
Sharpness is a quality of the sharp, and sharp means clear, clean, which can be distinguished well without confusion.
A photograph is clear when the object, subject or scene of interest to be photographed are well contrasted, that is, they can be clearly distinguished, they are perfectly focused and well defined. Remember that photography tries to emulate what you see with your own eyes.
From what I have just mentioned, it follows that the sharpness depends on both the focus (definition) and the acutance (contrast). These two parameters are essential to achieve maximum sharpness in your photographs: but what does each one mean?
- Acutancia: it is the degree of contrast that you can observe in the limit between the details of the photograph, which differ by their luminance or optical density. That is, by increasing the contrast the image looks sharper, but be careful that if you contrast too much, you may end up losing details.
- Focus: we can say that an object is focused when the rays of light “coming” from it, converge (intersect) in the focal plane. Translated into Spanish, this means that an object is in focus when the light it emits, when passing through the target, is directed towards the focused sensor, that is, sharp.
The presence or absence of sharpness will depend on what you are trying to communicate with your photographs. Not always everything has to be perfectly clear, but this will depend on where you want to direct attention in your photographs or how you want to convey the message with them.
There are photographs where sharpness is not an important factor, as in photographs that seek to capture and transmit movement , but in others, such as landscape, sharpness becomes a fundamental factor.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO ACHIEVE CLEAR PHOTOS?
Achieving perfect sharpness is not everything, in fact, the great masters of photography could only dream of achieving the sharpness that is possible today, thanks to the advances in technology and even so, they have marked the path for all The next generations of photographers.
The sharpness helps us to appreciate an image in a “not uncomfortable” way. What does this mean? That the human eye sees everything that focuses on its vision clear and it is desirable that when you take a picture, especially those where you try to highlight a subject over others, it is clear. If not, the picture can be very good, but it will not be enough to be excellent.
Look at the following image of this beautiful girl, comply with the photographic rules, the position, the framing, the model, the expression, everything is spectacular. But don’t you notice anything weird when you look her in the eye?
When looking at the small photo, you will almost not notice the lack of sharpness in your look (the same thing that happens when you look at your photos on the camera screen), which is the most attractive thing about photography. His eyes are a little out of focus, they are not quite clear, which makes a photograph that could be a catalog, just a beautiful photo of a girl.
In order for you to achieve perfect sharpness in your photographs, you must become a bit picky and otherwise demanding. It is a process of continuous improvement, so it will require patience and a lot of practice. Leave your comfortable chair behind and go out to take pictures.
HOW TO GET PERFECTLY SHARP PHOTOS?
Sharpness is not everything, but it is a great help when it comes to achieving the best results with your photographs. As I told you in article 14 tips to portray this Christmas , if you are already able to take spectacular photos without paying too much attention to whether or not they are perfectly clear, imagine how incredible your photographs will be when you focus on everything you are Interested to stand out, come out perfectly crisp!
The sharpness in each of your photographs depends on many factors, some controllable, such as focal length or avoiding vibrations, and others with which you have to learn to live, such as the limitations of your equipment.
Each of these factors will decrease the sharpness of your photographs, so if you pay attention to the following tips you can minimize the effects and achieve the best results:
- 1) Get the most out of your equipment: not all photographers have the possibility of having the latest camera or the most expensive lens, so, to get the most out of your equipment you must know it to the fullest. Reading the manual can be boring but I assure you that if you do, you will discover functions that you did not imagine that your team possessed.
- 2) Configure your camera: one of the functions that perhaps you did not know and that bring most SLR cameras and advanced compact cameras, is to configure the sharpness and contrast parameters from the menu of these. It may appear as sharpness, sharpness, definition, etc.
Arm yourself with patience and start testing which is the configuration that best suits your taste, although I recommend you not to maximize these settings as they can generate aberrations. And keep in mind that, depending on the conditions where you are going to take your pictures, you may have to adjust all these parameters again.
- 3) Always keep your glasses clean: if you wear glasses you will understand more than anyone else what I am talking about. The spots on the lenses of the lenses will also reduce the sharpness of your photographs, so try to keep them always clean. I recommend you read the following articles: Objective Cleaning: The Basics You Need to Know and The Complete Guide: Cleaning Tips for SLR Cameras .
- 4) Be careful with filters: as I told you in article 8 ways to improve your photographs thanks to a filter , not all photographs will require a filter to take them. If we talk about sharpness, this becomes even more important since the filters also reduce the sharpness of the photographs. And it was expected that if you place a filter of a few euros ahead of your much more expensive objective, some unwanted effect should appear, in this case, loss of sharpness. If you are looking for maximum sharpness, I recommend that you remove the filter.
- 5) Choose your objective well: the objective you are going to use when going out to take your photos will also have an impact and a lot, on the sharpness of your photographs. The objectives are constructed with a variable amount of elements (crystals) that inside direct the light towards the sensor. With how many more elements are built, the lower the quality of the final photographs. The lenses with fixed focal lengths offer a higher quality and therefore sharpness than those of variable focus, for nothing cost more than double. If you have one, do not hesitate to use it.If you have any doubt about the focal lengths, I recommend you read the following article: Focal length of lenses and lenses . You can implement it virtually using the Nikkor lens simulator .
EQUIPMENT SETUP FOR THE SHOT
- 6) The ISO, to the minimum possible: the higher the ISO sensitivity, the greater the noise will appear in your picture, and therefore, less sharpness. Use, as far as possible, low ISOs as long as the photograph is not exposed, since otherwise you will lose contrast (acutance) and therefore, sharpness. Also, do not be afraid to increase the ISO sensitivity, it is better that the photo has a little noise to get it moved, but be careful to do it in conditions where you will not lose too much quality: if you increase the ISO do not underexpose the photograph because The noise will spoil your picture. Test your camera and see what is the maximum noise you tolerate in your photographs.
- 7) Use intermediate openings: all objectives have their “sweet spot”, that is, their point of maximum quality level, at the mid-point of opening. Maximum sharpness is usually achieved by using apertures f / 8 af / 11 (approximately half of the minimum aperture). The intermediate openings allow the camera to use the center of the lens, its sweet spot, and not capture light coming from the edges of these, which is where major distortions occur.
- 8) The faster, the better: don’t be afraid, there’s no fine here! The higher the shutter speed, the less trepidation, and therefore, the sharper. Increase the speed enough so that the photo does not come out moved. There is a rule that will help you to know what is the minimum speed at which you must shoot in order to ensure that your photo does not move: use a speed equal to or greater (faster) focal length used.
- 9) Focal inverse rule:
Shutter speed = 1 / focal distance used focal
Example: if you are using the prince of the lenses : 50 mm 1.8 without stabilization on a Nikon APS-C camera (not Full Frame), the minimum speed at which you must shoot so that your photograph does not move is: 1/75 of second.
Why 1/75 and not 1/50? Because the APS-C sensor is smaller than the 35mm standard under which all the objectives are realized and to calculate the true focal length of any objective in a sensor camera smaller than said standard, the distance must be multiplied focal point for the corresponding factor, which for Nikon APS-C cameras is 1.5 and for Canon 1.6.
A 50mm in one, for example, Nikon D5300 is actually a 75mm (50 x 1.5), and in a Canon 700D , it’s actually an 80mm (50 x 1.6).
- 10) Use the Hyperfocal: the hyperfocal is a minimum distance that you should focus on so that everything behind it is clear. This distance depends on the camera you are using, the focal length and the aperture of the diaphragm. You can calculate the hyperfocal distance with the following online calculator . It is a difficult concept to understand from the theory, so I will try to clarify it with an example:
In the previous photo, you will see that everything in it is focused, all the planes are sharp.
- 11) Look for the best exposure: the exposure depends on the ISO sensitivity, aperture of the aperture and the shutter speed. These parameters are what define a correct exposure, and this is when the photograph is neither over nor under exposed, that is, neither burned nor too dark. If the exposure is not correct, you will not get sharpness in areas that are too dark or too light.
- 12) Hold the camera firmly: hold the camera with both hands, one holding the body ready to shoot and the other the target, and try to use your body as a support. Without falling into uncomfortable poses, try to support yourself with your elbows and knees so that your body gives stability to the camera and comfort to you. At the time of shooting, try to hold your breath, without filling your lungs with air, so that the shot comes out as stable as possible, but be careful to hold it only at the time of shooting if you do not want your breath to be short.
- 13) Get a tripod: if you do not get a correct exposure and you need to reduce the shutter speed, it is best that, so that your photos do not lose sharpness, you get a good tripod that helps you keep the camera as stable possible. Most sharpness problems occur by trepidation, so look for stability to avoid it. If you already have one but you have not taken all the juice, check out the following article: How to properly mount a tripod .
- 14) Remote trigger or delayed shooting: it does not matter if you have the king of the tripods , if at the time of shooting you do not have a remote trigger or you do not configure the camera to shoot in delay mode, it is very likely just by pressing the shutter, you end up moving the camera ruining the shot. Take care to use one or to set your camera in delay mode in order to minimize this factor that could take your pictures clear.
- 15) Raise the mirror: in addition to mounting the camera on a tripod and shooting it remotely, it would also be advisable to “lift the mirror” of the camera and deactivate the stabilization of the lens so as to prevent, when these mechanisms are activated, add vibrations that can ruin your photographs. To raise the mirror you can shoot using the Live view mode of your camera.
- 16) Adjust the focus mode: each type of photography you are going to take will require you to adjust the focus mode: it is not the same to photograph a bee flying over a flower than a calm landscape in the middle of the mountains. If you have questions about how to do it, I recommend you read the following article: All about manual and automatic focus on SLR cameras .
- 17) Be careful when re-framing: it is very common that, when using the focus mode at “center point”, it is first focused and then composed. This way of doing it is quick and simple but it brings with it a problem called “cosine error”: when framing the photo, I could vary the initial and final focal length. Use the different focus points of your camera to avoid losing sharpness in the area of interest.
Focus is made on a point at a certain distance but, when the camera is vascular when framing, without realizing it, the focal distances originally taken have changed. The distance from the focal plane to the point of interest is no longer the same.
- 18) Use the precise approach: you might not know it, but most reflex cameras, in Live View mode, allow you to use a tool called “Accurate Focus”. By simply pressing the zoom (+) button on the side of the screen, the camera enlarges the place where you are focusing so that you can perfectly adjust the focus. Take the test, it’s really easy to use.
- 19) Zoom in: another way you can make sure that your object or subject of interest comes out completely in focus is by zooming in, if your lens allows it, focus it and then open the focus at a smaller focal length. When you block the autofocus, by “opening the plane” the focus will be located where you set it with the zoom.
- 20) Practice focusing on manual: it does not matter if you carried out all the previous advice or not if, at the time of taking the shot, the object of interest was out of focus. Accuracy in focus is essential. The automatic focus mode, in certain situations, becomes disoriented and does not end up focusing where you wanted it to be. Therefore, train your photographic eye to use the manual focus mode, for those moments where the camera does not know where to focus.
TIPS WHEN COMPOSING
- 21) Take care of the Illumination: the way in which the scene is illuminated is essential to obtain the perfect sharpness. Working in inadequate light conditions will not allow you to capture all the details of the subject or object portrayed. Ideally, work with soft light, such as a cloudy day so that the light covers the scene evenly, without excessive contrasts that occur, for example, in full sunlight.
- 22) Use contrasting funds: the greater the contrast between the object or the subject with respect to the background, the better the sharpness of it will be appreciated. Try to use distant funds that contrast with the reason photographed.
- 23) Approach the motive: if you want your photos to be much sharper, approach the motifs instead of zooming in on them. While it is more comfortable and safe to take photographs from a distance, if what you want is to gain sharpness, I recommend that you leave your zoom lens sideways and start approaching the motifs yourself. You can get the same frame with the lens in 300mm at a distance of 10 meters, that if you use a 50mm and get closer to this. The further the sensor motif is, the more you zoom in, the sensor will capture it but with less detail. Take the test and you will notice a difference instantly.
- 24) Compose at the time of taking: take your time to compose the photographs at the time of taking them , do not hurry to take whatever image you cross and then, through cutouts with some editing program, accommodate the framing. When you cut the photo, it loses information originally captured by the sensor, therefore, it loses quality and sharpness. While it is true that each time the sensors have more and more mega pixels, this does not always translate into an improvement in the final quality of the photographs.
EDITION AND POST PRODUCTION
- Bonus: Always shoot in RAW : if your camera allows it, do not hesitate, always shoot in RAW. Why? The information contained in a RAW file is much greater than in compressed formats such as Jpeg since it is a “raw” or unprocessed file. The ability to retouch a RAW, especially in focus and sharpness, is much more precise when using an editing software on the computer than the camera itself is capable of. If what you want is extreme sharpness, you must perform a good processing of the RAW files on the computer.
Achieving clear photographs is not difficult at all, it only requires certain habits and precautions when making the shots.
While it is true that one of the main limitations when it comes to achieving perfectly clear photos is the equipment, if you know the limitations of your equipment and fully exploit its virtues, your photographs will have nothing to envy to those of the professionals.
The most important thing you should do is take pictures. It is useless to acquire a lot of knowledge, techniques and advice if your camera is still stored in your backpack.
And remember that a perfectly clear photograph is no better than another, just for its quality and sharpness. One of the most wonderful aspects of art is subjectivity: each one understands photography in their own way and has their own way of transmitting their messages.
I hope that today’s article has been useful to you and that you can put it into practice in your next photo session. Greetings from your friend Iaio.