17/06/2009

A guide to sharper photos

To begin with, sharpness in photography, relates to the clarity of our subjects and the edges of the subject’s surfaces are clear and sharp even when the photo is subjected to enlargement. Sharpness is just one of the many attributes we must strive to achieve in our photos if we want them to “pop” or have that “wow” factor. You can always add more sharpness to an already sharp photo, but a blurred photo is simply destined for the delete button.
So, if you are having problems with the lack of clarity or sharpness in your photos, then perhaps the following will help.
One very simple, but obvious way you can achieve sharpness and clarity in your photos is by keeping your camera as still and as firm as possible - and the only way to do that successfully is with the versatility of a good quality tripod. A remote shutter release would also be a great asset, but it is not always essential.
You can also rely on the camera’s timer facility for steadier shots. That coupled with your tripod is very handy on windy days.
Manual Focus:  If you can, s
elect Manual Focus (MF) and only one centre focus dot on your camera, to manually choose the area that you want in sharp focus and your camera should provide with a signal and/or an audible bleep when that point is found. Depending on the situation, one cannot always use MF, but I prefer to use it whenever I can. Please see...Controlled FocusingSome compact cameras will suffer from a problem known as “Shutter Lag”.
This refers to the time from when you depress the shutter button to the time that the camera actually takes the shot. This action can transpire in milliseconds, but still be slow enough to result in blurry pictures for the unwary.
Be mindful, when you proceed to take a photo depress the shutter button only half way at first. This allows the camera time to focus. When it is fully focused, then you can complete the shot.
Sometimes the cause of blurriness in photos is due to “Digital Noise” (graininess in film). You should always have your camera set to the lowest possible ISO rating (film speed number) for the light conditions your camera is working in. Some cameras have ratings as low as 100 or even 50 ISO. A low ISO rating also provides for better saturation of colours, but up to 400 ISO can still be acceptable.
Higher shutter speeds will also produce “noise”, so be sure you only use these higher speeds for when you are shooting real action shots.
The trade-off of course with low ISO and low shutter speeds, means on occasions, the loss of light. But you can remedy this with extra lighting. Such as, shooting outdoors, using a flash unit or reflectors or studio lighting.
I presume your camera came fitted with a lens, as they normally do, and it was more than likely a zoom. If you were to take about 10 shots of the same scene from when your zoom is closed down to where it is fully open, you will notice (with a good eye) that the best quality pictures were taken when the lens was about half way open. This is usually between f8 and f11. That doesn’t mean to say that you have to use these settings every time, but you are likely to suffer a certain amount of blurriness with the lens being fully open. There will certainly be times when you need to use wider apertures as well as narrower apertures, but it is still good to know that the lens will work better in the mid range numbers. Better known as the lens’s “sweet spot”.
With all that in mind, you may have actually had a perfectly sharp photo to begin with until you started doing things with it in your photo editing program. Each time you subject it to editing there is a chance you will have some loss of definition somewhere along the line. So it could well be there where the problem lies.
I always say, “Finishing the job at the coalface means less work in the office”.
And it’s very true.
Anyway, I hope there are some things here that you are not doing, so that after reading this and putting them into practice, they do work for you, resulting in clearer and sharper photos.