back to top

How to Take Sharp Photos With These 13 Timeless Tips

Last updated: March 13, 2024 - 10 min read
ExpertPhotography is supported by readers. Product links on ExpertPhotography are referral links. If you use one of these and buy something, we make a little money. Need more info? See how it all works here.
Subscribe Below to Download the Article Immediately

You can also select your interests for free access to our premium training:

Your privacy is safe! We will never share your information.

Are your photos looking a bit soft and blurry? If so, you may need to work on your photography skills to take sharp photos. Luckily, plenty of tips and tricks help you get the sharpest images.
Our article shares 13 timeless tips for taking sharp photos with any camera. So whether you’re using a smartphone, mirrorless, or a DSLR, these tips will help you get the best results from your shots.

Stability and Portability
Lightweight Carbon Tripod: 2.16lb, 12.99″ Folded, Monopod
Rollei Compact Traveler Tripod
Achieve precision and take sharp photos with ease. This lightweight carbon fiber travel tripod offers optimum stability and a 360-degree panoramic ball head.


13 Timeless Tips to Take Sharp Photos

Keep these 13 tips in mind when you’re shooting. And you’ll come away with sharp images.

1. Use a Tripod for Sharp Photos

When a fast shutter speed isn’t an option and your subject is stationary, it’s usually best to use a tripod. This holds the camera steady. Plus, the various spirit levels on a good tripod ensure you still get a level photo on uneven ground.
If you don’t have a tripod, try setting it on a level surface. Or, try to steady yourself by leaning against something. Try to breathe slowly and gently so your movements don’t cause the camera to shake.

Triptych showing how to stabilize a camera with a tripod, camera, and leaning on a wall
Photos by Andy Luo, Olena Bohovyk, and Jaeyoung Geoffrey Kang (Unsplash)


2. Use a Camera Remote, Cable Release, or Timer

Even with a tripod, the click of the shutter button can cause camera shake. This might not seem very noticeable to you right now. But it can make a big difference whether you get a sharp photo, especially at long shutter speeds.
The best way to combat camera shake is to use an external trigger, like a camera remote or a mechanical cable release. There are many inexpensive options available in the market.
Another option to avoid camera shake is to use a timer. Putting a self-timer for even just two seconds gives the camera time to steady itself after pressing the shutter button. So when you take the shot, it is sharp.

An old mechanical cable release and camera
Manual cable release with an old film camera. (Shutterstock)


3. Use Mirror Lockup

Another source of camera shake is the movement of the mirror. If you read our post about DSLR cameras, you know that SLRs have a mirror that reflects the image into the viewfinder.
Every time the shutter is released, the mirror flips up. The light then hits the sensor, and the image is created. When the mirror flips up, it can cause slight vibrations that move the camera system. This can also cause a blurry image.
Luckily, most DSLRs have a mirror lockup setting. This keeps the mirror up in the retracted position. So it doesn’t move when you press the shutter. This helps to create a crisp image.

A Nikon D7100 DSLR with a mirror lockup setting to take sharp photos
The mirror lockup setting (Mup) on a Nikon D7100 DSRL camera dial.


4. Shoot in Burst Mode

Try shooting in Burst mode if you have trouble holding your camera steady to take sharp photos. This way, your camera shoots many shots at the same time. Pick an image from the middle with the least camera shake. You usually get one or two sharp images from the bunch.

A sharp closeup photo of a cat meowing
Shot with a Canon EOS M50 Mark II. 162mm, f/6.3, 1/640 s, ISO 200. Photo by Bryan Dijkhuizen (Unsplash)


5. Pay Attention to Focus

Take the camera off auto selection and manually select the points you wish to focus on. Or use your camera’s focal lock. This also helps when you want to have a shallow depth of field.
When taking a photo of a person, I recommend focusing on the eyes. This is where our own eyes are naturally drawn to. You generally get a good photo if the eyes are in focus.
When using a camera on a tripod, I like to switch my camera to Live View mode and digitally zoom in 10x to where I want to focus manually. Zooming in really helps in getting the correct focus.
If you use autofocus, switch to single-point autofocus. Usually, the camera tries to create an image that’s as sharp as possible. But if you switch to single-point autofocus, the camera focuses on one point, like the center. And it makes that as sharp as possible.
Another tip to have sharp images is to press the shutter down halfway after you compose your shot. Once the focus is adjusted correctly, then press all the way to capture the image.

Sharp focus portrait of an old man in a shite shirt and hat
Shot with a Nikon D5100. 35mm, f/1.8, 1/160 s, ISO 320. Photo by Vitaliy Shevchenko (Unsplash)


6. A Good Lens is Key

You might have a fancy camera and be amazing at photography. But your photos are only as good as the lens they pass through.
When you buy your first camera, I recommend upgrading to an inexpensive prime lens as soon as possible. A prime lens is a lens that has a fixed focal length and can’t zoom.
You’ll find an immediate improvement in image quality as prime lenses are designed with only “one job.” They don’t have to compromise to cover a range of focal lengths. I recommend a 50mm or 35mm f/1.8.

A closeup of Canon, Nikon, and Sony prime lenses to take sharp photos
We recommend these budget prime lenses (left to right): the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8, and Sony E 16mm f/2.8.


7. Keep Your Lens Clean

A quality lens is no good if it’s dirty. Smudges and fingerprints on your lens can affect your photos.
But remember, dust on the front part of your lens won’t make a difference to your image. But the dust on the rear part of the lens inside the camera can make a huge difference in your photo.
If you aren’t getting clear images, remove your lens and check if there is any dust. Clean it carefully with a soft cloth or brush.

Cleaning a camera lens with an air blower to take sharp photos
(Adobe Stock)


8. Turn on Image Stabilization

Turn image stabilization on if you’re lucky enough to have it in your lens. In this mode, the camera tries to stabilize your image while shooting without a tripod. This lets you shoot at slower shutter speeds and narrower apertures.
If you’re using a tripod, remember to turn it back off. If the camera tries to stabilize the image without camera shake, it can negatively affect your photos. And it can actually make it more blurry!

A sharp image of a knight in armor with a shield and arm raised
Shot with a Nikon Z6 II. 135mm, f/5.3, 1/500 s, ISO 320. Photo by Matt Benson (Unsplash)


9. Use a Fast Enough Shutter Speed

When trying to take sharp photos, the last thing you want is motion blur. This is the most important step. So make sure you get it right. In general, the faster the shutter speed, the sharper your photo.
We mentioned this in our post on shutter speed. As a rule of thumb, you can take a sharp, unblurred image by setting the speed to a fraction that is the same or faster than your focal length.
For example, if you want to take a photo at 30mm, you would set the shutter speed to 1/30 s (seconds). A slower shutter speed increases the chance of motion blur.
But it’s worth noting that this rule is only relevant to full-frame cameras. Due to the magnification effect, choosing a shutter speed of 1/45 s for a 35mm lens on a crop-sensor camera is better.

A sharp picture of an indoor rock climber scaling a wall
Shot with a Canon EOS 77D APS-C camera. 18mm, f/6.3, 1/60 s, ISO 3200. Photo by Nathan Cima (Unsplash)


10. Use Your Base ISO

Set your camera ISO to as low as it goes, usually between 100 and 200, where you get the sharpest photos. The higher the value, the more noise there is.
You want as little noise as possible for clear, crisp photos. But remember that a low ISO means you might have to increase your shutter speed to maintain the exposure. It is all about finding a balance between the two settings. This gives you a properly exposed shot that is also sharp.

A sharp landscape photo of a mountain shrouded by clouds over trees
Shot with a Nikon Z6 II. 155mm, f/5.0, 1/1,600 s, ISO 100. Photo by Piermanuele Sberni (Unsplash)


11. Find Your Lens’s Sweet Spot

The sharpest point in your lens is usually two or three stops smaller than the widest aperture. For most lenses, this is likely between f/8 to f/11.
Too small an aperture can cause lens diffraction, negatively affecting sharpness. If you don’t understand this, I suggest you read our post about aperture.
Using a wide aperture gives you a shallow depth of field, which also results in a lot of blur. When you get to about f/8, you find that images are much crisper. Most of your shots will be in clear focus.

A sharp image of a sculpture on the side of a building shot with a medium aperture
Shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III. 35mm, f/9, 1/400 s, ISO 100. Photo by Giorgio Trovato (Unsplash)


12. Take Advantage of Light

To get sharp images, the more light, the better. This lets you keep your shutter speed fast, your ISO low, and your aperture small. In addition, many cameras have trouble focusing in low-light situations.
I use an off-camera flash when I can’t use daylight but want a really sharp photo. I try to bounce light off a wall or ceiling to make the photo feel like there is good natural lighting. Lighting is key to taking sharp images.

A sharp closeup studio portrait taken with a camera flash
Shot with a Sony a7 II and a camera flash. 50mm, f/14, 1/125 s, ISO 100. Photo by Florian Cordier (Unsplash)


13. Shoot in RAW

Shooting in RAW format has many advantages. You can still adjust a lot of settings after you’ve taken the photo. One of these settings is sharpness.
If you edit your images in Lightroom, you can increase the sharpness in the Develop module. Just go to Develop > Detail > Sharpening.
If you are editing in Photoshop, you can add the unsharp mask. Just go to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask.
When done properly, it can add excellent final detail to a photo. But make sure not to overdo it! Photos that are too sharp are a strain to look at.

A sharp photo of a church in Barcelona at sunset
Shot with a Hasselblad, L1D-20c. 10.3mm, f/5, 1/50 s, ISO 100. Photo by Ken Cheung (Unsplash)


Conclusion: How to Take Sharp Photos

Taking good photos depends a lot on how sharp you can get them. No one wants to see blurry photos. If you struggle with it, bookmark this page and follow these tricks to take sharp photos.
Remember that every slight movement makes an impact. So even if you think it doesn’t make a big difference, the outcome will reflect it.
Want to learn more about basic photography techniques? Check out our course Photography for Beginners next!