We all love sharp images. We look at our own work proudly, or at someone else’s jealously, and say things about it being “razor sharp” and other words of praise. Having things sharp in images does tend to make them pleasant to view.
Several different areas deserve our focus (pun intended) when discussing how to get sharp images. Here are some tips to make sure we get the sharpest, crispiest images possible. Lets get stuck in!
7 Tips On How To Get Sharp Images
1. Hold it steady!
Few things detract more from being able to capture a sharp photograph than subject blur due to camera shake. Many newer cameras or lenses are designed with technology to help combat this basic issue. Whether we use those image stabilization features or not, there are some things we can do minimize camera shake.
One important method how to get sharp images is to train ourselves in proper camera technique such as how to hold a camera steady and know what shutter speed to use. A basic guideline is that the slowest shutter speed for hand holding is the reciprocal of the lens focal length. A 500mm lens, for instance, would have a lower limit of 1/500th of a second.
2. Clean it up!
If you wear glasses, even just sunglasses, what happens if the lenses have smudges on them and you try to look through them? Yes, the view is degraded. Same thing with our cameras and lenses. While some of us won’t want to tackle cleaning the image sensor on our own, it’s easy to clean our lenses and filters.
Please, don’t forget those filters. If our lens is sparkling, but that polarizer we attach has been rolling around unprotected in the bottom of our bag, the messy filter will negate our pristine lens condition. If we are using a protective filter of any kind, this applies as well.
For the image sensor, if anyone is nervous about tackling that at home, I’ve found that local camera stores tend to offer on site service for reasonable prices.
3. Lower the ISO
Just like in our film days, a lower ISO (previously known as ASA to some of us) will render sharper results, generally speaking. The standard for sharp 35mm films for decades was Kodachrome. The first version had an ASA of 10. Before it was discontinued, the benchmark which was used to discuss digital cameras vs film was Kodachrome 25.
Lower ASA/ISO films were definitely sharper than faster films. That principle still holds true for digital sensors. Lowering the ISO we’re recording at has an impact on noise and overall sharpness. The lowest ISO capable on digital cameras varies from about 50 to 200, with 100 being quite common.
Just a reminder that lower ISO tends to increase the shutter time which can make images softer depending on the lighting conditions. But this is where a tripod comes in handy. To better understand ISO and exposure, you can see my post on some of the best free and paid online photography courses. Number 2 is my favourite!
4. Use a tripod
Ask any professional landscape, nature, architectural photographer how to get sharp images, and I guarantee you this is likely to be one of the most common responses. If we are using a low ISO on our camera, and maybe stopping down our lens for maximizing depth of field, our shutter speeds will be slow.
All the good hand holding technique in the world won’t hold a candle to using a tripod. Certain other techniques absolutely require a tripod. Even in bright light with larger apertures and faster shutter speeds, we can improve our image sharpness by using a tripod.
If a tripod is impractical for a certain situation, maybe a monopod would be usable. Our reviews of the best tripods and best monopods go into greater detail about how to choose one that fits your shooting requirements. You can view some of my guides on tripods below.
- Best tripod for landscape photography
- Best carbon fiber tripods
- Best fluid head tripods for videographers
- Best GoPro tripods
5. Fine tune your focus
There are various methods that will help. Learning your camera’s features will give you better control in regards to how the camera focuses. Changing focus modes might have a huge impact. Many cameras have a mode that only allows the shutter to release when focus is achieved.
Knowing how to change and use the focus points also gives us more control options. Back button focus is another method usable on many better cameras. In addition, some cameras and lenses allow us to fine tune our specific tools to work best together. Check the camera instructions or follow along with an online tutorial for your camera.
6. Magnify view and manually focus
This trick pretty much requires a tripod. With your scene framed as you desire and using a tripod, turn off manual focus. Then, turn on the live view feature. This gives you a larger view of the scene. Now, use the magnify button to get an even better view of the subject you need to be perfectly focused.
100 years ago, a landscape photographer using an 8×10” view camera would have used a magnifying loupe on the ground glass to check focus. Professional film cameras from just a few decades ago had interchangeable finders, with a high magnification finder being commonly available.
This method brings that technique of how to get sharp images to the modern age of digital SLRs or mirrorless ILCs.
7. Post processing
A lot can fit under this heading. One easy method is to record our images in RAW and then process them into a final jpeg. Generally speaking, I’ve found this method gives me sharper images than recording in camera as a jpeg. Add to that all the other advantages of shooting in RAW.
I will save as a TIFF first and then render that into a JPEG. Another simple method is to remove camera noise. Some programs may have camera specific modes for this, but even the generic auto setting of some programs gives our images a boost.
Electronic noise in digital images lowers sharpness in a similar way that a faster film’s grain affected sharpness. Not exactly, mind you, but a good analogy for us to understand. Some programs have a sharp/unsharp tool. Some with very specific controls.
Bonus Tip: Print from TIFFs
If we shoot in Raw and use various post processing techniques to enhance our images, saving them in TIFF instead of JPEG will allow us to make absolutely stunning prints and enlargements. Of course, this would only apply to physical prints, and we would have to find a good lab that offers that option, and then the prints are generally more expensive, too. I will just say this: It’s worth it.
When discussing how to get sharper images, there are many more methods and techniques we could include, but these short tips will get you started in the right direction. Enjoy!
Here are some other useful guides on how to get pin point sharp images
- 15 tips to get sharper images
- 17 steps to get tack sharp photos
- 10 reasons why your images aren’t sharp