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THE RULES

THE WAY OF THE PHOTOGRAPHY DISCIPLE

RULE #12

THE QUEST FOR SHARPNESS


The most common challenge that I see new photographers experiencing, has to be the lack of sharpness in their images.

Before we get to the solution, let’s understand the problem. Sharpness comes in many different flavours so I need to make the clear distinction between pixel sharpness and camera shake. We’re talking to the latter, images that are slightly “off” as opposed to the unhealthy desire to make your viewers eyes bleed when they look at your work. Another reason to avoid 500px me thinks.

Camera shake is caused by movement, so we need to stop the movement. How ? By shooting differently. There’s a common misconception that in order to be a “professional photographer (whatever that is nowadays), you have to be shooting in manual. It’s what all new students say to me, “so and so told me that all the pro’s shoot in manual”, and that “no one will take you seriously unless you shoot in manual”.

Nope, nope, nope. I know tons of recognised and respected photographers from all over the world and none of them shoot in manual. They all shoot in aperture priority*, why ? Because the most important bit is the photograph. When was the last time someone looked at your work and said, “Hey, looks like you used manual settings on that one. Nice job.” ….. no one, and no one ever will (apart from other photographers on Facebook of course). The most important part is what is in the frame and what it does to the viewer, not what settings you used. Shooting in manual for newcomers is one of the biggest reasons for “off focus” images.

*Apart from when a pre-determined look is required, or when flash is being used.

Another myth that hinders sharp images is that we should all be shooting at ISO100 or thereabouts. Learning to photograph from Ansel Adams is great, but cameras and especially sensors have come a long way since his 6-1/2 x 8-1/2 glass plate camera. They are capable of far more than we give them credit for, digital noise is really not a problem in 2017. Yes, I’m talking to the majority not the minority for this post, sorry film shooters.

So taking all this into account, what am I suggesting ?

I’ll give you a starting point, to be used in daylight, that can be tweaked slightly according to the lighting/creative situation, but one that will definitely improve images for the majority of shooters.

  1. Shoot in aperture priority.
  2. Shoot ISO1000 (Crop sensor), or ISO1600 (Full Frame).
  3. F8.

By increasing your ISO, your camera will understand that you have chosen to let more light into the image. In order to compensate and give you a good exposure, it will give you a high shutter speed which in turn will alleviate any movement. Meaning you get sharp images, every time.

Spend more time thinking about what you’re leaving inside the frame, not fumbling around for camera settings.

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