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How to always take sharp photos

Last Updated: October 18, 2019

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Perfectly sharp images are what many photographers want and strive for. A blurry shot will look mediocre compared to one that is sharp, no matter how spectacular the subject matter is. Fret not. It’s easy to get up and start taking pictures; it doesn’t take much work to get those clear, sharp photographs you’ve been hoping for, either. It takes just a little familiarity with some technical trivia.

How to always take sharp photos

How to always take sharp photos

How to always take sharp photos

How to always take sharp photos

Don’t shoot at your smallest aperture either. All lenses are inherently softer at smaller apertures due to diffraction effects. If you don’t need the depth of field, then don’t stop down below f/8 or so on modern digital SLRs. [1] X Research source Using smaller apertures will force longer shutter speeds, too, which will increase the risk of camera shake causing your photos to be unsharp.

(With that said, if it’s a choice between necessary depth of field and diffraction, then you might choose to err on the side of diffraction over defocus.

  • Diffraction is a relatively simple phenomenon compared to defocus, and it might be easier to correct later on in software. Defocus is not; it’ll differ on the same lens depending on aperture and subject distance, and varies again from lens to lens.) If you need to stop down because you want a longer exposure, purchase an ND filter.

How to always take sharp photos

A sharp photo is one where the subject is in focus with clear lines, crisp details, and no (unintended) blurring. It’s generally a sign of a high-quality, technically excellent image. Here’s how to make sure you always take sharp photos.

I’ve explained in detail before what makes a photo sharp, but now we’re going to look at the practical side of things. To recap, sharpness is a combination of:

  • An in-focus subject
  • A static camera
  • The properties of the lens you’re using

How to always take sharp photos

The photo above is an example of a sharp photo I took. Notice how you can see every one of Kat’s eyelashes. Now, let’s look at it in the real world.

Understand Your Gear

One of the major factors affecting sharpness is the properties of the lenses you’re using. One of the reasons professional lenses cost so much more (and are so heavy) is that they’re designed to be as sharp as possible—and that takes a lot of work. If you’re trying to take a super-sharp shot with an old, cheap lens, you’re going to struggle; the lens isn’t capable of resolving the details clearly.

Similarly, your camera has a limit on how much it can resolve. If the details you’re trying to capture are projected smaller than the pixels on the sensor, then they won’t show. Here’s another portrait with a close up on the model’s eyes.

How to always take sharp photos

Notice that her eyelashes aren’t as defined as they are with Kat’s above? That’s because I was standing further back so my Canon 5DIII could not resolve any greater details. With a higher resolution sensor, I could—at least theoretically—have captured them.

While your gear won’t normally stop you from taking great shots, it’s important to understand that it will affect the maximum possible sharpness you can achieve.

Pick the Right Aperture

The gear you’re using isn’t always in your control. Almost nobody can afford all the top end lenses and, even if you can, they’re a nightmare to lug around. This means that taking sharp photos is often about getting the most out of what you have.

The depth of field is one area that will make or break your images. If you use a wide aperture, your depth of field will be shallow, and parts of your image will be blurry. This is fine if you’re shooting a portrait and want the background out of focus, but if you don’t, then you’ve messed up. Here’s a shot of mine where the depth of field is too shallow.

How to always take sharp photos

While the man’s hands are in focus, his face and eyes aren’t. If I’d used a narrower aperture, I could have had both in focus and a great photo. Instead, I have an example of me not following my own advice.

In landscape shots where you want absolutely everything in focus, you will need to use an even narrower aperture.

How to always take sharp photos

In the photo above I used f/16, but because I was focusing on Hedda in the foreground with a 40mm lens, the background is not perfectly sharp. While it doesn’t particularly matter for this image (which is more about the model), if this were a pure landscape shot I’d have problems.

One complication is that your lenses are rarely consistently sharp at all apertures. Instead, they tend to be sharpest at about two-stops narrower than the widest aperture. This is normally between f/5.6 and f/11, depending on your lens. Once you get much narrower than f/16, whatever sharpness you gain by using a narrower aperture is often lost by the lens performing poorly. One solution to this problem is focus stacking which I covered in detail here.

Nail Your Focus

Even if you’re using the right aperture, if you miss focus, you’re still going to have a photo that isn’t sharp. The photo of the old fisherman above would probably be usable if I’d focused on his eyes instead of his hands. It’s the combination of missed focus and a too-shallow depth of field that makes it unworkable. This wider version I shot a few seconds before (that I’m not as keen on for other reasons) is much sharper.

How to always take sharp photos

The reality is that it’s impossible for an out-of-focus shot to be sharp. No amount of digital sharpening in post-production will fix things. Trust me; I’ve tried. This means you need to get it right in camera, on location.

Again, we’ve got full guides to help you nail focus, so check out:

  • How to Take Photos That Are Always in Focus for general tips on getting the focus right every time, and,
  • How to Focus With Wide Aperture Lenses for specific tips on working with wider apertures and shallower depths of field.

Keep Your Camera Static

Missing the focus is not the only potential source of blur; if your camera moves while you take the image and your shutter speed isn’t fast enough, you’ll get camera shake.

The reciprocal rule is a general guideline as to what the slowest shutter speed you can use is. It states that the minimum handheld shutter speed is the reciprocal of the focal length of the lens. So, if you’re using a 70mm lens (and remember to account for crop factor) then the slowest shutter speed you should try, and use is 1/70th of a second. For a 50mm lens, it’s 1/50th of a second. And so on.

In the image below, you can see a range of different shutter speeds with a 40mm lens.

How to always take sharp photos

If your photos aren’t sharp because your shutter speed is too low, either increase it or use something to keep your camera still.

Clean Your Lens

Dirty lenses take dirty pictures so keep your greasy paws off the glass and clean your lenses with a microfiber lens cloth every time you shoot. It’s simple to buff out a few smudges on the front element of your lens, and it will do wonders for your images. Cleaning up dust spots in post is not a lot of fun.

Reliably taking sharp shots means you can stop focusing on the technical aspects of photography and start exploring the creative aspects. It’s an important step on the road to being a better photographer.

Now, I’ll teach you all about focus and why your photos may not be as sharp as you’d like them to be.

This morning, I got an email from one of the students in my Photography Start Course who said she spent $2,000 on an expensive camera and another $1,500 on a high-end lens. Still, her pictures don’t look as sharp as she would like them to, and wondered why that is. I have to admit that I get this type of question SO OFTEN that I dedicated an entire WEEK of training in my beginner class to teach how to get crystal clear and sharp photos.

It is not uncommon for photographers to think that something must be wrong with their equipment if the photos don’t come out sharp, but most of the time I find that the reason is simply a product of mistakes the photographer makes when shooting. You can avoid those issues by understanding how to properly focus your camera.

The #1 focusing mistake of beginning photographers

The #1 mistake I see from beginning photographers in terms of getting clear pictures is that they aren’t being precise with their focus. I often ask students where they are focusing, and I get answers like, “On the model’s face.” The fact of the matter is that “the face” is far too large of an area to focus on for intimate portraits.

Suppose you’re taking a portrait of someone. Now that you’ve learned how to use shallow depth-of-field from the second part of this series, you want to use it all the time in your portraits to get a creamy background behind the subject. This means you’re usually shooting your portraits at f/2.8 or a similar low aperture.

Suppose that you’re using a 100mm lens and standing 7 feet (2.1 meters) from the subject. Did you know that, with these settings, only 1.4 inches (3.5 centimeters) of the photo is sharp? That means that, if you focus on the person’s cheek, their eyes and nose will be partially blurry.

So if you want your photos to come out crystal clear and sharp, you need to focus PRECISELY and make sure you have enough depth-of-field to make the subject come out sharp.

When shooting portraits, you will almost always focus on the person’s eye, since that is where the viewer of the photo will look first. For landscape photographers, check out this article on where to focus in landscape photography.

How to focus on one spot

When you were shooting in automatic mode on your camera, the camera would automatically find the subject and focus for you. Now that you’re shooting manually, it’s time to take control of your focus as well.

Your camera ALWAYS focuses on one specific spot in the scene. It is physically impossible for a lens to focus on two spots at once. When you look through your viewfinder, you see a bunch of dots (Canon) or small boxes (Nikon). Those markings show you where the camera is focusing. This spot generally blinks red when the camera sets focus.

In the picture below, I chose to focus on the ant on the flower, since that is where I wanted people to look. To do this, I set the camera to spot focus and used the four-way selector on the back of my DSLR to move the focus point onto the ant.

How to always take sharp photos Notice the red illuminated focus point right on the ant? That’s where I’m setting the focus for this shot.

Sometimes, the spot in the picture where you want to focus will not have a focus point available. This is especially true on entry-level Canon Rebel or Nikon D3500 DSLRs, which do not have many focus points. If you find that this is the case, check out this article on focusing and recomposing.

Focus Selections

I hope I didn’t confuse you earlier when I said that the camera can ONLY focus on one specific spot in the photo. There are ways that you can activate multiple focus points at once, but in doing so, the camera is just choosing the best of both worlds and compromising between the focus selections to set the focus in the middle somewhere.

99% of the time when I’m out shooting I use spot focus, which allows me to move around the focus point in the viewfinder. My thumb has become adept at constantly moving around the focus point using the four-way selector on the back of the camera as I compose a shot through the viewfinder. Spot focus is great because you have exact control over where the focus is placed.

However, there are other focus selection options on most DSLR cameras. Other than spot focus, you have the ability to choose a small group of between 3 and 5 focus points and tell the camera to choose the best of those points, or you could set your camera to determine which focus point to use all on its own.

I never let the camera take control of focus–it’s a recipe for blurry pictures. When I’m shooting sports or fast-moving wildlife, I’ll sometimes set the camera to use any of the center area focus points and choose the best one, because the action happens faster than I can move the focus point.

Although there are certainly situations to use other focus selections, I would encourage you to use spot focus and get used to constantly moving around the focus point around the frame as you shoot for the next few months.

Focus Modes

Aside from selecting which focus point(s) the camera is using, you also need to set which type of autofocus the camera will use. For most uses, you’ll want to leave your camera on “AF-S” (Nikon) or “One Shot” (Canon). This means that the camera will acquire focus when you press half-way down on the shutter button, and then take the picture when you finish pressing all the way down on the shutter button.

The other main option is continuous focus (displayed on the camera as “AF-C” for Nikon cameras and “AI Servo” for Canon cameras). This mode is used when the subject is moving. Suppose you’re shooting a soccer player running toward you. If you use one shot, then the camera focuses when you press half way down on the shutter, and by the time you finish pressing all the way down, the camera takes the picture. In that split second, the athlete will have moved, so the picture will not turn out sharp. Continuous focus (AF-C or AI SERVO) means that the camera continues to find focus all the way up to the instant that you snap the picture.

So why wouldn’t you want to use continuous focus all the time? Because it’s slightly less precise than one shot. So here’s the rule… use one shot (“AF-S” on Nikon, and “One Shot” on Canon) for all shots where the subject is reasonably still like landscapes or most portraits. Use continuous focus (“AF-C” on Nikon, and “AI Servo” on Canon) for all fast-moving shots.

Note: Canon users will also see the option for “AI Focus” when choosing a focus mode. There is a specific use for this, but honestly it’s just outdated technology. I have tried it extensively even in the best case scenarios for this focus mode and have always achieved better results with AI Servo.

You have just learned a LOT of the basics of how your camera works, but there is much more to learn. If you want more information like this in video format that you can watch at your own pace, you should really check out the Photography Start Course. It’s 22 videos, many filmed on-location, with all the camera settings for each picture, videos of exactly how to put a composition together, and training on getting tack sharp photos.

A sharp photo is one where the subject is in focus with clear lines, crisp details, and no (unintended) blurring. It’s generally a sign of a high-quality, technically excellent image. Here’s how to make sure you always take sharp photos.

RELATED: What Does It Mean for a Photo to be “Sharp?”

I’ve explained in detail before what makes a photo sharp, but now we’re going to look at the practical side of things. To recap, sharpness is a combination of:

  • An in-focus subject
  • A static camera
  • The properties of the lens you’re using

The photo above is an example of a sharp photo I took. Notice how you can see every one of Kat’s eyelashes. Now, let’s look at it in the real world.

Understand Your Gear

One of the major factors affecting sharpness is the properties of the lenses you’re using. One of the reasons professional lenses cost so much more (and are so heavy) is that they’re designed to be as sharp as possible—and that takes a lot of work. If you’re trying to take a super-sharp shot with an old, cheap lens, you’re going to struggle; the lens isn’t capable of resolving the details clearly.

Similarly, your camera has a limit on how much it can resolve. If the details you’re trying to capture are projected smaller than the pixels on the sensor, then they won’t show. Here’s another portrait with a close up on the model’s eyes.

Notice that her eyelashes aren’t as defined as they are with Kat’s above? That’s because I was standing further back so my Canon 5DIII could not resolve any greater details. With a higher resolution sensor, I could—at least theoretically—have captured them.

While your gear won’t normally stop you from taking great shots, it’s important to understand that it will affect the maximum possible sharpness you can achieve.

Pick the Right Aperture

The gear you’re using isn’t always in your control. Almost nobody can afford all the top end lenses and, even if you can, they’re a nightmare to lug around. This means that taking sharp photos is often about getting the most out of what you have.

The depth of field is one area that will make or break your images. If you use a wide aperture, your depth of field will be shallow, and parts of your image will be blurry. This is fine if you’re shooting a portrait and want the background out of focus, but if you don’t, then you’ve messed up. Here’s a shot of mine where the depth of field is too shallow.

While the man’s hands are in focus, his face and eyes aren’t. If I’d used a narrower aperture, I could have had both in focus and a great photo. Instead, I have an example of me not following my own advice.

In landscape shots where you want absolutely everything in focus, you will need to use an even wider aperture.

In the photo above I used f/16, but because I was focusing on Hedda in the foreground with a 40mm lens, the background is not perfectly sharp. While it doesn’t particularly matter for this image (which is more about the model), if this were a pure landscape shot I’d have problems.

One complication is that your lenses are rarely consistently sharp at all apertures. Instead, they tend to be sharpest at about two-stops narrower than the widest aperture. This is normally between f/5.6 and f/11, depending on your lens. Once you get much narrower than f/16, whatever sharpness you gain by using a narrower aperture is often lost by the lens performing poorly. One solution to this problem is focus stacking which I covered in detail here.

For more on selecting the right aperture, check out my article on what aperture you should use in different circumstances.

RELATED: What Aperture Should I Use With My Camera?

Nail Your Focus

Even if you’re using the right aperture, if you miss focus, you’re still going to have a photo that isn’t sharp. The photo of the old fisherman above would probably be usable if I’d focused on his eyes instead of his hands. It’s the combination of missed focus and a too-shallow depth of field that makes it unworkable. This wider version I shot a few seconds before (that I’m not as keen on for other reasons) is much sharper.

The reality is that it’s impossible for an out-of-focus shot to be sharp. No amount of digital sharpening in post-production will fix things. Trust me; I’ve tried. This means you need to get it right in camera, on location.

Again, we’ve got full guides to help you nail focus, so check out:

Keep Your Camera Static

Missing the focus is not the only potential source of blur; if your camera moves while you take the image and your shutter speed isn’t fast enough, you’ll get camera shake.

The reciprocal rule is a general guideline as to what the slowest shutter speed you can use is. It states that the minimum handheld shutter speed is the reciprocal of the focal length of the lens. So, if you’re using a 70mm lens (and remember to account for crop factor) then the slowest shutter speed you should try, and use is 1/70th of a second. For a 50mm lens, it’s 1/50th of a second. And so on.

In the image below, you can see a range of different shutter speeds with a 40mm lens.

Although the reciprocal rule is a good guideline, there are ways to use slower shutter speeds: the two main ones are using optical image stabilization or mounting your camera to a tripod.

If your photos aren’t sharp because your shutter speed is too low, either increase it or use something to keep your camera still.

Clean Your Lens

Dirty lenses take dirty pictures so keep your greasy paws off the glass and clean your lenses with a microfiber lens cloth every time you shoot. It’s simple to buff out a few smudges on the front element of your lens, and it will do wonders for your images. Cleaning up dust spots in post is not a lot of fun.

Reliably taking sharp shots means you can stop focusing on the technical aspects of photography and start exploring the creative aspects. It’s an important step on the road to being a better photographer.

How to always take sharp photos

Photographing stars and night skies is more about practice and know-how than it is about gear.

Beautiful Nightscape Photography Is All About Technique

The secret to producing beautiful nightscapes isn’t in a wide-angle lens, a high-end telescope, or a new Nikon or Canon DSLR camera—nor is it in post-processing or photo-editing software. These tools may help, but without technique, composition, and the knowledge to use your camera effectively, you won’t get anywhere. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced photographer, it’s important to focus on the fundamentals of good astrophotography. With these tips from the field, you’ll be ready to tackle your bucket-list dreams and shoot for big things—think auroras, eclipses, the deep sky—the possibilities are limitless.

Contents

  1. The Essential Night Photography Tool Kit
  2. How to Photograph Stars: Tips for Beginner Photographers
  3. Common Mistakes to Avoid in Night Photography
  4. How to Photograph Stars: Techniques for Intermediate Photographers
  5. Camera Settings: How to Photograph Star Trails
  6. Camera Settings: How to Photograph Stars in the Sky
  7. Camera Settings: How to Photograph the Moon
  8. Camera Settings: How to Photograph a Moonlit Landscape
  9. How to Photograph Stars: Techniques for Advanced Photographers
  10. How to Paint With Light in Night Photography

The Essential Night Photography Tool Kit

  • Decent low-light camera (shoots in manual, raw, and bulb mode)
  • LED headlamp with red or green settings
  • Spare batteries
  • Tripod
  • Remote or external shutter release
  • Lens hood for light interference
  • Intervalometer (optional)
  • Camera filters (optional)

How to Photograph Stars: Tips for Beginner Photographers

Choose a Subject

Once you’ve chosen a photography subject, research moon phases and constellations with apps like Star Walk (for iPhone) or the free Google Sky Map (for Android) which show you the sky view from specific places at any time of the night. A full moon is the most popular of the eight moon phases to photograph, but you may want to shoot under a new moon to capture constellations in great detail.

There are advantages and disadvantages to photographing under each moon phase. Independent of your decision, check the weather and air quality for systems and events that would otherwise obscure your objectives and your subject.

Which Moon or Lunar Phase Is Best for Night Photography?

  • New Moon: If you want to photograph the Milky Way or capture fainter stars and starscapes, shoot under a new moon. Downside: the low light increases the noise or aberrant pixels that may occur with common nightscape settings, such as high ISO and a long exposure. Photographing under a new moon as opposed to the bright light of a full moon allows for the dark silhouettes of geologic features to pop out against a starry sky.
  • Full Moon: Shooting under a full moon that is low in the sky serves to illuminate the foreground of your scene and drowns out potential light pollution, but this technique isn’t always ideal for celestial photography because it will obscure faint stars.
  • Quarter or Crescent Moon: Want the best of both worlds—a detailed foreground and starry skies? Consider shooting with a crescent moon or quarter moon behind you to illuminate the foreground of your scene. If west-facing, shoot in early night (when the moon is low in the eastern sky). If east-facing, shoot in early morning (when the moon is low in the western sky).

Contrary to popular belief, a quarter moon is not half as bright as a full moon; it’s closer to 9%.

Select a Location

For the darkest skies, go 60 to 100 miles from the city lights and get to high elevations. Notice the effect the high altitude and thinner atmosphere have on light refraction: Shooting through fewer light-dispersing particles creates crisper, brighter shots, with greater transparency and contrast.

[Recommended Photograph: An image that compares high elevation, crisp astrophotography to a lower elevation photo with light pollution].

Set Up Your Tripod

As with any night photography, you’ll want to use a tripod. To master it, take a tip from one of the most renowned landscape photographers of all time, Ansel Adams. Adams urged for a methodical use of the tripod. Here’s how:

Last Updated: August 11, 2020 References

This article was co-authored by Stephen Cardone. Stephen Cardone is the COO of NY Headshots, a New York City-based studio that specializes in shooting and producing headshots for individuals and businesses. Stephen has over four years of professional photography experience and over six years of documentary filmmaking experience. Stephen also works extensively as a photographer at NY Headshots. His work includes events, environmental photography, as well as headshots for actors, models, and corporate. He holds a BA in Non-fiction Writing from The New School.

There are 14 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

This article has been viewed 25,478 times.

A 50 mm lens is a versatile choice for any DSLR camera. To take the best pictures with a 50 mm lens, it is crucial you adjust the camera settings appropriately. Depending on the sensor size of your camera, the 50mm can be used two ways. On a full-frame camera, the 50mm creates a field of view similar to your eyesight. On an APS-C or crop sensor, the 50mm is more like a telephoto portrait lens. [1] X Expert Source

Stephen Cardone
Professional Photographer Expert Interview. 26 June 2020. Once you have mastered the basics of a 50 mm lens, you can start doing more creative and technical shots, like bokeh, low-light, and off-center photos.

How to Photograph Bald Eagles: Tips For Capturing These Majestic Creatures In The Wild

How to always take sharp photos

When it comes to bird photography, no species is more majestic and more sought after than the bald eagle. Its status as America’s national bird wasn’t always a sure bet (Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey). Bald eagles also nearly went extinct during the 20th century from their eggshells thinning due to the proliferation of DDT. But today as a result of aggressive protections under the Endangered Species Act, as well as the banning of DDT, these beautiful birds have made a dramatic recovery. This in conjunction with advances in photo gear has made it easier than ever before for wildlife photographers to capture their own stunning images of bald eagles. Here are some tips on how to do it.

Increasing Your Odds
No amount of practice can outweigh being in the right place at the right time. The key is learning their habits, their food sources, and their typical flight paths. Eagles love fresh fish, so if you can find a salmon run you may even find groups of eagles feeding. Rarely does wandering around with a camera over your shoulder produce the quality and quantity of images as finding a good food source and staking it out (at a respectful distance). While photographing a single eagle can be exciting, nothing beats having multiple eagles flying, feeding, and fighting over food to increase your chances of success.

How to always take sharp photos

Be Ready
After being in the right place at the right time and knowing eagle behavior, the next step is being ready. Because you never know where the action will take place, having two camera bodies mounted and prepared allows photographers to adapt to the action as quickly as possible. When I photograph bald eagles I will typically have a Nikon D3S DSLR and a Nikon 500mm f/4 lens mounted on a tripod with a gimbal head to allow for easy tracking. When the action gets closer I have a second D3S mounted with a Nikon 80-400mm over my shoulder, allowing me to switch almost instantly between my fast 500mm or my zoom to create multiple compositions from the same scene. If the action is far away I’ll put a Nikon 1.4x teleconverter on my 500mm, making it a very usable 700mm-equivalent f/5.6 lens, especially when stopped down a bit.

While there will be a slight loss in sharpness, autofocus speed, and low-light ability, photographers who don’t need to make a living from their cameras or are on a limited budget can easily replace my two-body system with a single super telephoto zoom for a fraction of the price and still come home with amazing results.

How to always take sharp photos

Camera Settings
The rule of thumb with any bird photography, including bald eagles, is fast shutter speeds. Unless you are purposefully trying to create motion blur images, shutter speeds need to be well over 1/1000 second to freeze the action of birds in flight. Yes, when they perch you can get away with much slower shutter speeds, but you never know when they are going to take off so you have to be ready.

One of the underappreciated features of current cameras is Auto ISO. Leaving my camera in manual mode, I set my shutter speed to 1/1000 or 1/2000 second if light allows, and then set the aperture to wide open if needed, or stopped down if there is enough light (this also gives me more depth of field and a greater chance of capturing action in focus). The camera then selects the appropriate ISO to properly expose the image no matter how the light or scene has changed. I can still dial in exposure compensation as needed to adjust for bright or dark backgrounds that could fool my meter. The low-light abilities of the Nikon D3S have meant that I don’t even think about the ISO until 3200, only then do I start shooting at my minimum shutter speed of 1/1000 second and start shooting wide open.

How to always take sharp photos

Equipment
The saying goes that “the best camera is the one you have with you” and “equipment doesn’t matter,” but the truth is when it comes to photographing fast-moving distant wildlife, top-notch gear does dramatically increase one’s success rate. Having been doing photography long enough to have created successful bald eagle images using film and manual focus lenses, there is no way I would want to trade in my current Nikon gear for those relics.

Because eagles move quickly, having as many chances as possible in each situation is key. While having more megapixels excites all of us and I do shoot with a 36MP body for landscapes, I opt for a lower-resolution camera when capturing wildlife because it gives me better low-light performance, a faster frame rate, and a quicker autofocus system. Last time I led a bald eagle workshop in Alaska most of the participants were using high-resolution bodies like the Nikon D800, while I was shooting with my 12MP D3S. Many times when we compared photos after an action-packed moment, those using the slower high-resolution cameras had missed the decisive moment while I had nailed it, proving the point that no amount of resolution trumps getting the shot (and 12MP from a full-frame camera still makes great large prints).

Reach is also a major issue when it comes to photographing bald eagles. While there are a few locations in Alaska where you can photograph wild eagles up close and personal with a 70-200mm lens, for the most part you will be shooting with the longest lens you can afford. In the past, quality lenses in the 500-600mm range were unaffordable for many photographers, but today there are several zoom options that get photographers into this range with very usable results. The great high ISO abilities of modern cameras means the slower apertures of these lenses is less of an issue than it once was.

When photographing eagles on my own or when leading a workshop I always bring the same set of gear. While not lightweight like some of the new mirrorless systems, the performance offered by my pro Nikon system (or similar Canon system) allows me to bring back more keepers per situation than anything else on the market.

How to always take sharp photosPhoto by Steve Berardi Last year, my dad wrote a great post about how to get sharp photos of birds in flight. Since then, I’ve occasionally tried to photograph a hawk in flight, but never really dedicated a whole lot of time to it, so I was never able to get a sharp photo.

Well, a few weeks ago I went out to photograph bald eagles with my dad, and I came back with my first acceptably sharp photo of a bird in flight, yay! 🙂

So, I’d like to share what I think are the two biggest reasons I finally got a decent shot:

#1 – Carefully move your camera with the bird

You’ll get the sharpest photo possible when the bird is not moving across your camera’s focal plane (sensor), so the key is to carefully track the bird with your camera.

For most of the two hours my dad and I were outside photographing eagles, we were really just watching them. Only occasionally did they come close enough to photograph, so the majority of the time we just watched. And, I think that really helped me track them when they did get close enough to photograph, because watching them helped me get a feel for their speed.

If you’re having trouble tracking the bird in your camera, try going out sometimes where you only watch the birds, and don’t even bring your camera. Just watch.

#2 – Fill the frame as much as possible

Ideally, you’d want the bird to take up the whole frame, but you probably won’t be that lucky very often. I’ve found that you need to fill at least 20% of the frame to get a decently sharp shot. And, you don’t necessarily need a super long lens to do that (I used a 400mm lens in the shot above), you just need patience. In the two hours that my dad and I were watching and photographing the bald eagles, only about four or five times did one fly close enough for us to fill up a good amount of the frame.

Yeah, other things helped too…

Of course, there were other things that helped me get a sharp photo too, like a fast shutter speed, a high burst rate camera (I used a 50D with 6.3 fps, and a 7D with 8 fps), but I think the two things above are what really helped the most.

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How to always take sharp photosAbout the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, computer scientist, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of Southern California.

By Diane Gilleland on July 01, 2013

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  • Your digital camera may perform magnificently in outdoor sunlight, but when you try to shoot close-up subjects in indoor light, everything looks slightly fuzzy. Why is that? Well, there are several contributing factors. Luckily, you don’t need a lot of technical know-how to solve these issues and take sharper indoor shots.

    How to always take sharp photos How to always take sharp photos

    The upper shot was taken in a low-light setting. My camera did its best to compensate, but sharp focus was definitely sacrificed. The lower shot was taken in more light.

    1. You Don’t Have Enough Light

    The first three factors we’ll cover here are deeply interconnected, but if I had to pick a number one reason indoor photos go fuzzy, it’s that your camera doesn’t have enough light to work with. The less light you have available, the more your camera automatically adjusts its exposure settings to compensate. In many low-light situations, these compensations will result in fuzzy images.

    Generally speaking, the amount of light that seems fine to your eyes is nowhere near what your camera needs in order to get a sharp focus. You can add light with your camera’s flash, but that’s rarely a good solution ¬— flash light flattens and washes out images. Instead, shine some lamps with daylight halogen bulbs on your subject, or better yet, shoot where there’s diffused sunlight coming in through a window.

    How to always take sharp photos How to always take sharp photos

    The upper shot was taken at a higher ISO setting; the lower shot at a lower ISO setting. Notice how the small details are sharper at the lower setting? Notice how the background has a rougher quality at the higher setting?

    2. Your ISO Setting is Too High

    If you’re new to ISO, don’t panic; we’ll be as non-technical as possible here. Your camera’s ISO setting is an indication of how sensitive it is to light. The higher the ISO setting, the more light-sensitive your camera becomes.

    When you shoot in low-light situations, you may want to set your camera to a higher ISO setting so it can make better use of light. (On some camera models, this is called a “Max ISO” setting.) The only problem to watch for is this: the higher the ISO setting, the more potential there is for “noise,” or digital graininess, to appear in your photo, degrading its sharpness.

    If you’re having trouble getting a sharp focus, try lowering your ISO setting a bit. Or, take the same image at several ISO settings and see which is sharpest.

    How to always take sharp photos How to always take sharp photos

    The upper shot was taking at a slower shutter speed. In the lower shot, you can see how a faster shutter speed led to sharper focus.

    3. Your Shutter Speed is Too Slow

    Again, we’ll be very non-technical here. “Shutter speed” refers to how much time your camera spends capturing an image. If your camera spends, say, 1/100th of a second, then it can’t capture very much motion at all, and the image is likely to be sharp. If your camera spends a full second taking a photo, well, that’s a lot of time to capture all kinds of motion and blur out the image. (Where’s this motion coming from? Well, either your subject moves slightly, or you do.)

    If you’re having trouble getting good focus, you might try working with your camera in “shutter-priority” automatic exposure setting. This setting allows you to change the shutter speed as it automatically adjusts the other elements of exposure for you. A faster shutter speed might get you the sharpness you’re looking for. (It should be said, though: shutter speed is closely related to ISO, so as you shorten the shutter speed you could end up raising the ISO and creating that “noise” we were just discussing. Good photography is all about balancing elements.)

    How to always take sharp photos How to always take sharp photos

    Both of these shots were taken in good lighting conditions. In the upper one, I held the camera in my hands. In the lower, I used a tripod. The difference between them is subtle, but you can definitely see better focus detail in the lower one.

    4. You Moved the Camera

    As we just discussed, the slightest movement of your camera while you’re taking a photograph can soften its focus. If you need to produce good quality indoor photography regularly, invest in a sturdy tripod — it makes a world of difference. If you’d rather not invest, you can simply set up a table, box, or a stack of books and place your camera on that. If you need to hold your camera, try tucking your elbows into your body to steady yourself. If you can, lean against something solid.

    Your camera can even move slightly as you press the shutter! Overcome this by using your shutter timer, which adds a few seconds’ delay between your shutter press and the photo capture. Those few seconds will absorb any slight motion you created while pressing the shutter.

    How to always take sharp photos How to always take sharp photos

    The upper shot was taken with too little light. When I try to add that light in a photo editor (lower shot), see how much of the detail gets blown out?

    5. You’re Trying to do Too Much Correcting in Your Photo Editor

    Photo editing tools are fantastic because they correct a multitude of issues, turning so-so images into good ones. It’s tempting to rely heavily on them when you’re shooting with indoor light because you can so easily “create” the extra light you need by brightening the images later in your editor. The problem is, if you have to brighten an image significantly to get a decent level of light, you’ll end up blowing out detail and creating a soft focus.

    Always start with the best-lit image you can manage with your camera, and then use your photo editor to make the smallest adjustments possible — that’s the best path to sharp focus.

    Try these tricks on your next indoor photo shoot, and see what happens!

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    The photos app is the default image viewer on Windows 10. Out of the box, Photos app supports a wide range of image formats. Add to that, the photos app is pretty good looking while being snappy and responsive. However, out of blue, I’ve been seeing blurry images in Photos app on Windows 10.

    Since I take a lot of screenshots, I quickly found the issue and it is very inconvenient. This is especially evident in images that contain a lot of letters. To give you an idea, I’ve taken a screenshot of the Photos app displaying an image containing a lot of letters. On the left side is the screenshot of the photos app and the right side is the actual image. As you can see from the image comparison, the left image is blurry and hard to read. Click on the image to enlarge it.

    After doing a bit of research, I found that this happens due to corrupted files or cache. The corruption happens under certain circumstances like system crashes or power failure. The good thing is, it is easy to fix blurry images in photos app on Windows 10. Let me show you how.

    Fix Blurry Images in Photos App

    You can easily fix blurry images in photos app by resetting it. This is just like the resetting Microsoft Store app. When you reset a Microsoft store app, Windows will invalidate the cache, discard all the settings, reinstall the app, and reset all the app settings. Since this is essentially a clean install with no corrupt files or cache, it should fix the blurry images problem in the photos app.

    1. Press Win + I to open the Settings app.
    2. Go to “Apps -> Apps and Features“.
    3. Find “Microsoft Photos” on the right panel and click on it.
    4. Click on the “Advanced options” link.
      How to always take sharp photos
    5. Scroll down and click on the “Reset” button under the Reset section
    6. You will see a warning prompt, click “Reset” again.
      How to always take sharp photos
    7. Windows will now reset the photos app.
    8. After resetting, you will see a checkmark right next to the Reset button.

    That is all. From now on you will not see blurry images in Photos app. If you see blurry images again, follow the above procedure.

    A Good Alternative to Photos App

    That being said, if the Photos app is misbehaving constantly, I recommend you to use IrfanView. IrfanView is an awesome open-source and free image viewer for Windows that supports almost all the image formats, including raw images all the while being faster and responsive. Download IrfanView (32-bit) or IrfanView (64-bit) from Microsoft Store. You can also download the regular win32 app from here.

    Hope that helps.

    Here are some other fixes for problems you might have with Windows 10.