10 Tips For Top Photo Sharpness

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Getting your sharpest photographs today is as much about processing as it is about shooting technique. We’ll show you some pro tips for making your best pictures.

Nature photographers are always on the quest for sharp pictures. I know I am. I want to be sure that when something should be sharp in a photograph, it’s indeed sharp. I sometimes get mad at myself when I look at photographs on the computer and find a picture that I really like, but it isn’t quite sharp.

1. Choose The Right Aperture

If your scene needs a lot of depth of field, stop your lens down to one of the smaller ƒ-stops such as ƒ/16. If that results in too slow a shutter speed for the scene, you’ll have to change either your ƒ-stop or your ISO.

But there are occasions when having everything sharp makes the picture look confusing. In addition, scenes can look less than sharp because there’s nothing in the image that gives the viewer a clear sense of sharpness. In these cases, you may be better off shooting with a wider ƒ-stop such as ƒ/5.6 to limit your depth of field to a narrow plane. This will create a contrast in your photo between sharp and unsharp areas, making the sharp areas look sharper.

2. Choose The Right Shutter Speed

Recently, I was shooting fall scenes in the chaparral outside of Los Angeles. California buckwheat has a rich red-brown color in the fall, and I wanted a landscape that showed the buckwheat in the foreground with the rest of the background sharp behind it. I needed a small ƒ-stop, but I also needed a fast enough shutter speed to stop the movement of the plants in the wind. I even had to change my ISO setting in order to get a faster shutter speed.2. Choose The Right Shutter Speed

If you’re shooting handheld, be sure to use a fast shutter speed, as well. Few photographers can match tripod sharpness with a shutter speed of less than 1⁄60 sec. for wide angles, 1⁄125 sec. for standard focal lengths or 1⁄500 sec. for telephoto focal lengths. Image stabilization can help you go slower. If you’re convinced you can do better, test it. Shoot a scene with your camera locked on a tripod and then with the camera in your hand as you change shutter speeds and see what shutter speed you need after you enlarge the photos to see critical detail.

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