There are many methods you can do to create very sharp images. There are also many different variables that can cause your photo to not be as sharp. I will discuss each variable that can cause your photo to become unsharp and how to prevent your photos from being unsharp and to create the sharpest image you possibly can.
If you are wanting to create that extremely sharp image you will need to know what causes photos to be soft and how to prevent them from happening. Here is a list of things that may cause your photos to become soft:
- Camera movement
- Subject movement
- Camera settings
We’ll discuss camera movements. There are many things that can cause your camera to move. Holding your camera can cause movements or vibrations which will cause your image to be soft, and not sharp. To prevent this I would recommend buying a tripod. Tripods can be cheap or expensive, shop around online and find one with good reviews. Amazon.com is good for prices as well as looking at reviews.
Even while using a tripod with your DSLR camera can still have movement if your touch it to take the shot! Many people don’t realize this, but by pushing your cameras shutter button down to take the shot, creates movement. To prevent this from happening I recommend buying a remote shutter button. You can either get a wired or wireless remote shutter. These are not that expensive and can be used to help take photos in many different situations.
Now you have a tripod and remote shutter, you think your camera is solid, wrong. Your digital SLR camera still can get movement from your lens focusing right before the shot. I’d recommend either manually focussing on your subject or push remote shutter slightly to focus, wait a second for any movements to finalize, then press remote shutter the rest of the way to take the photo.
Now some people may even tell you to go even further and use your “mirror lockup” setting so that when your mirror moves to expose the image sensor to record the image, and move back down, there is no movement. So if you want to get that even sharper image, you can use your mirror lockup setting to prevent your mirror from moving while recording your image.
If your subject is moving you will not be able to create that sharp image your looking for. Now obviously you want your subject to hold still as possible, whether it is a person, dog, building, etc. This is pretty common sense right? Well if there are times when you can’t get your subject to hold 100% still, you will need to use a faster shutter speed. Even if your shooting a boat on the water that is anchored down. That boat will still move slightly, from wind and water movements, that are beyond your control. Use a faster shutter speed so you don’t have to worry about your subject(s) moving.
There are settings on your camera that you will want to change to create a sharper image. We’ve already discussed your shutter speed and mirror lock up, but now we need to talk aperture. Using a smaller aperture (higher number) creates a sharper image. In theory the highest you can go is the sharpest setting (f22). This is mostly true, at least from what my eye can see, but many say there is a sweet spot for each lens. Each lens is slightly different and has it’s own sweet spot. On your 75mm – 250mm your sweet spot maybe aperture f11, on your 50mm lens your sharpest image might be aperture f8. You can play around with this setting and do some tests, have everything else in the photo exactly the same. Setup a deck of cards or something for your subject, camera on tripod, etc. and take 20 different photos or the cards, each time using a smaller aperture size. Open the photo in your favorite viewer, preferably one without any anti-aliasing, dithering, built in as this will change the way your image looks. Look and see which aperture setting gives you the sharpest image.
Now this isn’t really a camera setting, but more of technique, but when you are focusing on your subject be sure to focus on the most important area that you want to be the sharpest. This is pretty common sense, but I know a lot of people that have a large depth photo will either focus on the most important subject, or focus somewhere in the middle of their depth. Honestly I’ve done both. Some times I can’t even tell the difference, sometimes I can. My advice if it has to be a fast shot, focus on subject, if you have the time, do both, focus in middle of your depth and another shot focused on subject.
Of course your lens is going to effect the sharpness of your photos. There are different types of glass, processes of creating the glass for lenses, etc. The glass itself may not be completely clear, think about diamonds and different clarities. Some are visible to the naked eye, others you need to magnify to see. Glass on your lenses are the same. Some may have small imperfections in the glass. Also every lens out there has a purpose, some may be low light lenses, long distance zoom lenses, and/or sharp lenses. Lenses can get very expensive depending on brand, quality, type, etc. so make sure you look around online for good deals. I don’t think I would ever buy a lens locally, unless it was a used lens.
Also some lenses have an image stabilization setting on the lens itself. This is a feature that some lenses have to make your camera vibrations smaller, or eliminated completely, to help you take a better photo. This feature uses more battery power and also isn’t needed when on a tripod, this is used for freehand shooting. Some have said that if you use this setting while on a tripod, it can make your photos not as sharp, because the vibrations sensors are creating movement to look for movement. I don’t know about this, but I always have mine off anyway if my lens has this feature just for saving battery power.
If you follow all these little rules, you should be shooting very sharp images. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, and/or disagreements about this information on how to take sharp photos with your DSLR camera, please do so below! Thanks.