Fast Shutter Speed
When trying to take a sharp photo, the last thing you want is motion blur. This is the most important step so make sure you get it right.
I mentioned in my post about shutter speed that, as a rule of thumb, the average person can take a sharp, unblurred image by setting the speed to a fraction of a focal length.
For example, if you want to take photo at 30mm, you would set the shutter speed to 1/30 of a second. Any slower increases the chance of motion blur.
It’s worth noting however that this rule is only relevant to full frame cameras. For a crop sensor, due to the magnification effect, you would be better off choosing a speed of 1/45 of a second.
If you’re having trouble holding your camera steady to take sharper photos, I suggest shooting in burst mode and picking an image from the middle with the least camera shake.
Use a Tripod
When a fast shutter speed isn’t an option and your subject is stationary, it’s usually best to use a tripod.
This holds the camera steady and the various spirit levels on a good tripod will ensure that you still manage to get a level photo on uneven ground.
There are 2 ways to fix this: either take the camera off auto selection and manually select the points on which you wish to focus, or use your camera’s focal lock. This will also help when you want to have a shallow depth of field.
When taking a photo of a person, I recommend focusing on the eyes as this is where our own eyes are naturally drawn to. If the eyes are in focus, you’ll generally get an acceptable photo.
When using a camera on a tripod, I like to switch my camera to live view mode and digitally zoom in 10X to where I want to focus and then focus manually. That way I know that it is exactly how I want it.
Use a Good Lens
Your photos are only as good as the lens they pass through.
When you buy your first camera, I recommend upgrading to an inexpensive prime (can’t zoom) lens as soon as you can.
You’ll find an immediate improvement in image quality as prime lenses are designed with only one job in mind – they don’t have to compromise to cover a range of focal lengths.
Keep Your Lens Clean
A good lens is no good if it’s covered in dirt. Clean it at the beginning of each day that you use it and put a filter on it to keep it safe. Dirty lenses have a noticeable effect on your photos.
If you’re lucky enough to have stabilization in your lens, turn it on. This will allow you to shoot at slower shutter speeds and narrower apertures.
If you’re using a tripod, remember to turn it back off as trying to stabilize when it doesn’t need to has a negative effect on your photos.
Use Your Base ISO
Set your camera ISO to as low as it will go, usually between 100-200, where you get the sharpest photos. As I mentioned in my lesson on ISO: the higher the value, the more noise there will be.
For really clear, crisp photos, you want as little noise as possible.
Find Your Lens’ Sweet Spot
The sharpest point in your lens will likely be between f/8-f/11. If you don’t understand aperture, I suggest you go back and read this post now.
Using a wide aperture gives you a shallow depth of field, resulting in a lot of blur.
When you get to about f/8, you’ll find that the images are much crisper as the majority of what you’re shooting will be clearly focused.
Use The Light
The more light the better really – you don’t have to use it all.
When I can’t use daylight but still want a really sharp photo, I use an off camera flash and bounce it off a wall or ceiling to make the photo feel like there was good natural lighting.
Shoot in RAW
Shooting in RAW has many advantages: you can still adjust a lot of settings after you’ve taken the photo. One of these settings is the sharpness.
When done properly it can add a really good final detail to a photo but be careful not to overdo it; photos that are too sharp are a strain to look at.