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.
You need a good lens
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. 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?
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 shooting 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.
ISO 400 | f/4.5 | ss 1/125
ISO 1600 | f/2.5 | ss 1/200
ISO 100 | f/2.5 | ss 1/2000
Read more: 5 Tips for Freezing Motion in Photographs
Lock your elbows
Since you don’t have time to set up your shots for a tripod you need to be your own tripod. Lock your elbows as close to your body as possible. It helps to separate your feet as well to give your body more stability.
Read more: Basic Photography Tips
Avoid shooting wide open
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.
When you shoot with a wide f-stop it means that less of your image will be in 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.
ISO 400 | f/2.5 | ss 1/125 Read more: 5 Reasons to Shoot in Manual Mode
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
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.
ISO 100 | f/3.2 | ss 1/250
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
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!