Ep 256: 5 reasons why your images aren’t sharp and how to fix them.

Getting sharp images is a perennial problem – even if you’re following all the rules! So why aren’t your images always pin-sharp? Before you get your eyes checked or take your camera back to the shop, consider whether these 5 issues could be the reason your pictures are “soft”.

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Show Notes

1. Motion Blur

Motion blur is when the subject you are photographing moves.

Above: photographing a moving subject with slow shutter speed (image right) will cause motion blur. A faster shutter speed (image left) will freeze the action and eliminate motion blur.

The best and easiest way control motion blur is with shutter speed.

2. Camera shake

Motion blur is caused by the subject moving whereas camera shake is where the image is blurry because the camera moves

Above: Shooting at 1/15th-sec handheld on a 200mm focal length causes camera shake
Above: Shooting at 1/400th sec handheld on a 200mm focal length removes camera shake

To remove camera shake:

  • Shoot at a shutter speed that is roughly double your focal length
  • Enable image stabilization
  • Use a tripod or monopod ( turn off IS)

E.e. if you are shooting on a 200mm focal length then your shutter speed needs to be at least 1/400th sec

Use Brace techniques:

  • Elbows in
  • Gently squeeze the shutter
  • Hold your breath when shooting

Keep your elbows in and braced against your body and support the lens with one hand and camera with the other hand.
Use a wall or tree or pole to brace against for added support.

Above: Use tree stumps, bins, fire hydrants for extra support

 

Above: Elbows in and knees as a brace.
Above: This looks great on a hipsters Instagram feed but the shot will most likely be soft.

3. Focus

TYPES OF FOCUS

Manual focus – use this if you have great vision

Autofocus half-press shutter (default)

Back Button – learn this if you are new to photography

Live view – great for portrait shoots and filming

Touch screen focus and eye detection (not always accurate)

Focus mode

Static subjects -single AF
Moving subjects- Continuous focus (Nikon, Sony, Fuji)
or AF Servo (Canon)

4. Depth of Field – Aperture (F Stop) Choice

Depth of Field describes the range of an image which appears to be in focus

Depth of Field: A shallow depth of field is used when you want to isolate your subject from the background (portraits).
A large depth of field is used when you need every part of the frame in focus (products and landscapes)

A large aperture (small f-number) such as f/1.4 or f/2 will produce a short or shallow depth of field, while a small aperture (large f-number) such as f/11 or f/16 will give you focus over a longer distance.

Above: If you are focusing on a large group of people of say 15-25 focus ⅓ of the way in. Not front or middle of the group.

5. The Auto Focus Caca Zone.

There are certain light situations where autofocus can’t cope and runs screaming for its mama. This is the auto caca zone

  • Low contrast
  • High contrast
  • Backlit

Focus hacks to deal with the caca zone:


In these situations you can either switch to manual focus or try these focus hacks:

  • Use an iPhone screen to create contrast to lock in focus
  • Shine a torch or light on the area you need to focus on

 

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