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Do you want to understand your camera and take great photos today?

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Taking sharper photos is easy when you know how; these timeless tips will help you in your efforts. They are all very simple, with no photoshop involved.


1 – Fast Shutter Speed

When trying to take a sharp photo, the last thing you want is motion blur. This is the most important step so make sure you get it right.

I mentioned in my post about shutter speed that, as a rule of thumb, the average person can take a sharp, unblurred image by setting the speed to a fraction of a focal length.

For example, if you want to take photo at 30mm, you would set the shutter speed to 1/30 of a second. Any slower increases the chance of motion blur. It’s worth noting however that this rule is only relevant to full frame cameras. For a crop sensor, due to the magnification effect, you would be better off choosing a speed of 1/45 of a second.

If you’re having trouble holding your camera steady to take sharper photos, I suggest shooting in burst mode and picking an image from the middle with the least camera shake.

2 – Use a Tripod

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 and the various spirit levels on a good tripod will ensure that you still manage to get a level photo on uneven ground.

3 – Focus Properly!

There are 2 ways to fix this: either take the camera off auto selection and manually select the points on which you wish to focus, or use your camera’s focal lock. This will also help when you want to have a shallow depth of field.

When taking a photo of a person, I recommend focusing on the eyes as this is where our own eyes are naturally drawn to. If the eyes are in focus, you’ll generally get an acceptable photo.

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 and then focus manually. That way I know that it is exactly how I want it.

4 – Use a Good Lens

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 (can’t zoom) lens as soon as you can. You’ll find an immediate improvement in image quality as prime lenses are designed with only one job in mind – they don’t have to compromise to cover a range of focal lengths. I recommend a 50mm or 35mm 1.8 that can be picked up for less than $150. 

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5 – Keep your Lens Clean

A good lens is no good if it’s covered in dirt. Clean it at the beginning of each day that you use it and put a filter on it to keep it safe. Dirty lenses have a noticeable affect on your photos.

6 – Image Stabilization

If you’re lucky enough to have stabilization in your lens, turn it on. This will allow you to shoot at slower shutter speeds and narrower apertures. If you’re using a tripod, remember to turn it back off as trying to stabilize when it doesn’t need to has a negative effect on your photos.

7 – Use your Base ISO

Set your camera ISO to as low as it will go, usually between 100-200, where you get the sharpest photos. As I mentioned in my lesson on ISO: the higher the value, the more noise there will be. For really clear, crisp photos, you want as little noise as possible.

8 – Find your Lens’ Sweet Spot

The sharpest point in your lens will likely be between f/8-f/11. If you don’t understand aperture, I suggest you go back and read this post now.

Using a wide aperture gives you a shallow depth of field, resulting in a lot of blur. When you get to about f/8, you’ll find that the images are much crisper as the majority of what you’re shooting will be clearly focused.

9 – Use The Light

The more light the better really – you don’t have to use it all.

When I can’t use daylight but still want a really sharp photo, I use an off camera flash and bounce it off a wall or ceiling to make the photo feel like there was good natural lighting. Lighting is key to taking a sharp photo.

In the photo below, the sun was behind the berries so I used a flash to fill in the light that would otherwise have been a silhouette. 

10 – Shoot in RAW

Shooting in RAW has many advantages: you can still adjust a lot of settings after you’ve taken the photo. One of these settings is the sharpness.

When done properly it can add a really good final detail to a photo but be careful not to overdo it; photos that are too sharp are a strain to look at.

Your Free Quick-Start Photography Cheatsheet

In order to simplify the process of learning photography, I’ve created a free download called The Quick Start Photography Cheatsheet and you can download it below.

Here’s what you’ll get:

  • A downloadable cheatsheet to carry with you as you shoot
  • Detailed summaries of each section of this post
  • External links to relevant articles and blog posts
  • At-A-Glace Images that will explain how each exposure works
  • And much, much more…

Your Free Quick-Start

Photography Cheatsheet

This downloadable cheatsheet gives you detailed summaries of every section of this post, as well as links to relevant articles, and at-a-glace images that will explain how exposure works.

Take Sharper Photos with These 10 Timeless Tips

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Hey I'm Josh, I'm Photographer in Chief here at ExpertPhotography, and I'm in charge of making sure that we provide you with the best content from the most knowledgeable photographers in the world. Enjoy the site :)

  • Nice Tips. Really someone will like these tips and I am sure my next photograph is going to be amazing just because of you

  • Thanks for sharing those tips!

  • Thanks for the tips some great looking photos will visit again keep up the good info

    Si :))

  • Well, I often see recomendation like “buy prime”. But the primes being always sharper then zoom is just a myth.
    I bet the much better tip is “do not buy cheap kit lens”, especially Canon 18-55s and Sony kit lenses are amongst the worst on the market. Better spent some extra cash on good lens. I mean good lens, not always the most pricy!

    • Hi Basti, thanks for the comment. While I still tend to find prime lenses sharper, i agree that the difference becomes much smaller in high-end lenses, such as the Canon L Series. I recommend upgrading to an inexpensive prime, purely because of the cost and the fact that kit lenses can be notoriously bad with certain cameras. A prime lens is great way for a beginner (who is likely to have bought their camera with the kit lens) to start getting sharper images cheaply.

      Thanks again,

  • Josh: Yep, I agree 🙂 Canon has super-cheap 50/1,8 but most others have the primes a bit more expensive. Then you have the dilema if it is better to buy good prime for $250 or pay $350-400 for some better zoom.

    Im personally zoom person as Im traveling a lot and carrying 4-5 lenses is too much. But for primes there is also one (often forgotten) option – you can buy second hand “vintage” lenses with M42 screw mount and reduction to fit to modern body. Many of these old lenses have superior optics and costs just few bucks.

  • Ekks

    Hi josh.. Just got myself a nifty 50 mm and will be shooting portraits soon. I want the background really blurred but the model really clear and sharp. tried f 1.8 and 2.4 but the body becomes blurred too. Should I use as you suggested f8? And what’s the best focus mode to choose for this? Ta! 🙂

  • Elizabeth M

    I have a question pertaining to basically weddings! When the suject is in motion but not going to fast maybe walking or moving the hands, head, etc & inside, let’s say a church, what should your settings be? I know it goes a lot by the light you have. (Natural light for me, no flash) but when I change certain things on my camera my photos tend to be dark & then sometimes there bright but very gritty looking! I have a canon camera. I basically need help for indoor motion, so my photos are not blurry or dark. Thank you!!!!!!