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25 Ways to Achieve Your Best Focus and Sharpness with Your Digital Camera
Getting the Best Results from Your DSLR
You may have seen some incredibly sharp photographs on the internet but have trouble achieving clarity and focus in your own photographs. Here I’ll list what you can do to improve your shot.
Sharpness provided your camera is focused is the degree of contrast from one pixel to another and blur is the movement of the camera or subject while the shutter is open. Sharpness takes a good edge (like the edge of a petal) and defines it further. Blur is harder to fix. You may have seen television forensic dramas that take and rework a photograph until it is sharp. This is unlikely to be true in the real world however there are plugins for Lightroom and Photoshop which attempt to reduce blur. It is easier to take a sharp, focused photograph and introduce noise and blur to achieve a painterly effect than to take the blurriness away. There are just to many variables.
- Shutter speed. Shutter speed is the length of time the shutter allows light on the sensor. Most modern cameras have a shutter speed from 30 seconds to 1/4000 of a second and some models of cameras up to 1/8000 of a second. A common rule of thumb is to set the minimum shutter speed to exceed the length of the lens. So if you are using a 200 mm lens you should have a shutter speed no less than 1/250th of a second. If you are using a 300mm lens the minimum shutter speed needs to be no less 1/400th of a second. The faster the shutter speed the less likely you are of introducing blur into the shot. To freeze action use a fast shutter speed and to blur action (like the motion of a spinning wheel on a car) use a slower shutter speed.
- Use the right stance. Feet comfortably apart, left hand supporting the bottom of the lens and camera and the right hand gripping the camera comfortably. Breathe rhythmically.
- Press don’t stab the shutter. People who stab the shutter button tend to move the entire camera downwards.
- If you normally need glasses but can’t shoot while wearing them, you can change the diopter adjustment on the viewfinder of your camera to improve your eye’s focus. It’s like wearing a pair of “cheater glasses” from the drugstore.
- Focusing on the wrong thing. If you are shooting a portrait you must focus on the eyes of your subject.
Focus and Reducing Blur
- When shooting a vast landscape the correct focus point is about 1/3 of the way into the depth of photograph. There is a mathematical formula for this but it isn’t needed if you remember to focus about 1/3rd of the way into the shot.
- For still life you must pick out the main subject and focus on the most important spot. It could be the stem of an apple, the wick of a candle etc. If you are unsure of what to focus on take several shots and choose later when your photograph is on the larger computer screen rather than the small screen on the back of the camera.
- Use a strong tripod. If you can avoid handheld shots and use a tripod you will reduce the chance of blur. Don’t go cheap on a tripod. I can tell you right now don’t even look at tripods for under $150 dollars. They will be so flimsy you will see poor results and have wasted your money. A monopod is a poor substitute for a 3 legged tripod and only use one where there is no other choice. If you are hand holding your camera try to lean the camera up against something to steady the shot.
- If using a longer lens use a lens collar to balance your camera and lens on the tripod.
- Turn off autofocus when using a tripod. The steadiness of a tripod sometimes confuses the electronic element in the lens and it may occasionally shake trying to make a correction.
Part Two of Achieving Perfect Focus Here
- More on Achieving Perfect Focus with Your Camera
Achieving focus and sharpness of your photograph s a process that is more than keeping your camera still during exposure. Here a number of techniques are highlighted to improve your shot.
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