One of the most popular questions I receive is “How do I capture a sharp photo?”. When you are photographing kids, dogs, or even spouses it can be a challenge to get your settings correct so you can freeze the moment.
There are several factors that play into creating tack sharp images so my goal in this post is to help you make sure your photos are sharp every time.
Table to Contents
What is a Sharp Photo?
A sharp photo is an image where the subject of your photo is in focus and is very clear. There is no unwanted blurriness on your subject.
Often times if your subject is a person, you will want to keep the focus on their eyes. If the subjects eyes are in focus, it will be a sharp photo. Likewise if the subject of the photo is actually the persons hands, then you will want their hand to be sharp.
How to Achieve Tack Sharp Photos
I have narrowed down a list to 7 tips. This should help simplify getting that photo nice and sharp.
Once you work through these tips, I guarantee you will be much happier with how your photos turn out. Say goodbye to unwanted blurry photos and hello to sharp images!
1. You need a good lens for sharp photos
I hate to break it to you but a kit lens (the one that came with your camera) doesn’t take a sharp photo as others.
I typically recommend the 50mm lens or a 35mm lens. Both of these are affordable options that allow you to stop down your f/ and give you the nice blurry background with a sharp focus.
That being said, you shouldn’t rely on your equipment to take sharp photos. Just because you have a super expensive lens doesn’t mean you are going to get sharp photos if you don’t know how to use it.
The same thing can be said for a kit lens, if you use it right you can get some sharp photos.
Read more: What lens should I buy first?
2. Make sure your shutter speed is AT LEAST 1/125 for a sharp photo
We talked about this when we discussed shooting in manual mode but it can’t be said enough.
If you are photographing a moving subject you need to stay above 1/125.
I have even read some people say they don’t go below 1/250 if they are photographing kids.
However, sometimes the lighting isn’t in my favor to shoot that fast. Personally, I don’t go below 1/125 if I’m taking photos of my kids.
However, if you want to create movement to show motion blur in your photo, you can do that as well with intentionally using a slow shutter speed.
Many street photographers will slow their shutter speed to create beautiful images. See how here Top 9 Tips for Remarkable Street Photography
3. Lock your elbows for sharp photos
Most of us are momtographers who simply do not have time (or energy) to have a tripod on us all the time.
So you need to be your own tripod. Here is how to do it.
Lock your elbows as close to your body as possible. It helps to separate your feet as well to give your body more stability. Then take your shot.
This will stablize you so your photos have less movement and can stay on focus. Staying focused is what gets us those nice sharp photos.
Just for you to get started- Basic Photography Tips
Sometimes we want to have motion in our photos but we still want it to be tack sharp here is how to freeze motion like the photo above. 5 Tips for Freezing Motion in Photographs
4. Avoid shooting wide open for a sharp photo
Having a lens that can shoot at f/1.8 or f/1.4 can be very tempting to want to shoot wide open (at the lowest number your lens can go.)
However, if you aren’t comfortable shooting at that aperture, it is very easy to miss your focus.
Therefore, if your subject moves just slightly and you have the focal point on their eye then you could miss focus.
Instead, I typically shoot around f/2.2 to f/3.2 even when photographing just one child. Play around with your aperture and find the sweet spot on your lens.
Here is a deeper dive into aperature and the exposure triangle:
Simple Guide to Understanding Aperture (and How to Use it)
Complete Guide to Understanding the Exposure Triangle
5. Use back button focusing
Many cameras have the option to set up back button focusing which is one extra step to make sure you are capturing a sharp photo.
If you aren’t sure what back button focusing is or how to set it up, check out Do you BBF?
Read more: 6 Reasons Why You Have Blurry Photos
6. Change your focal point to take a sharp photo
Since you are shooting on manual mode and you know the importance of telling your camera what you want it to do.
It’s important to set up “Single focal point” which will allow you to adjust your focal point and place it where you want it in the photo.
When someone looks at a photo of another person they are naturally drawn to their eyes which means that should be the sharpest part of the image. Move your focal point around until it is on your subject’s eye. I typically choose the eye closest to the camera.
How to Fix a Blurry Photo
You’re not always going to get it right every single time. People move and that can completely blow the focus.
Unfortunately not all photos can be fixed in post processing. Here are a few things you could do to try to help.
Use Lightroom sharpening tool
This tool is best used in smaller places. So zoom into the eyes or where you really want it corrected and start there. Some photos will need less sharpening and some will need more just test it out to see what you’re looking for.
Turn a blurry photo black and white
I like to do this sometimes when I loved the photo but just didn’t love the focus. When I turn it B&W I can adjust the texture and grain and make it look more like art.
Embrace the mistake
Since most blurry photos can never be fully corrected, embrace the mistake and love the photo anyway. I can remember a time where I had so many photos of my kids that were not sharp photos. But I still tried and I still love seeing those tiny babies photographed. Even if their eyes aren’t crisp and sharp.
Keep trying, use the tips provided and I promise your photos are on their way to tack sharp nearly every time!
Frequently Asked Question for Taking Sharp Photos
There could be a variety of reasons for this but the most common mistakes photographers make is having their shutter speed too low, their aperture too wide or not selecting their own focal point.
The key to a sharp group photo is making sure your aperture is at a setting where everyone in the photo will be in focus. The aperture depends on how many people are in the photo and how many focal planes they are on in the photo.
Read more: 17 dos and don’ts for capturing group photos
It depends on the photographer but I like to shoot at f/3.2
Lock your elbows into your side, step your feet apart, or use a wall or a table to stabilize you.
I hope these tips can help you improve the sharpness of your photos. Please don’t rely on post-processing to “sharpen” your photos. This is definitely something you need to nail in camera. Practice, practice, practice!