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Whether you're wanting to improve your photography for your blog, just for fun, or maybe even your new photography business, these tips will help you learn how to take sharper photos. One of the main issues newbies (like myself) have experienced are not understanding how to shoot sharp images.

How to Take Sharper Photos - Senior Portrait Examples
1/800 f7.1

How to Take Sharper Photos

1. Have the right equipment. I know this isn't something most people want to hear, but once I switched from my 3-year-old Canon DSLR to a Sony a6000, my images improved 100% – without making ANY other changes. Literally, straight out of the box on “auto” mode, my Sony a6000 simply shot better images. I then upgraded my lens to a 50mm, and my images improved even more.

The lens is more important than the camera itself, generally speaking, when it comes to getting sharper photos. As long as the camera itself is at least decent, a good lens can improve your photography tenfold.

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2. Find (and understand) your favorite focal length. While each situation will call for a different focal length, shutter speed, and aperture, I have my favorite “go to” focal lengths for different types of photos. For portraits, I'll use my 55-210mm lens, and zoom in to about 150 or even all the way to 200, to get that blurred background. I use my 50mm prime lens for food photography, and I use my kit lens (16-50mm) only for landscape. It's all about finding your style and what you like. I can give you all the tips in the world, but really it's a lot of trial and error as well.

Focal Length Examples

focal length for portraits
Portrait focal Length: 176mm, f6.3 aperture

If you want the blurry background for portraits, one way to accomplish this is to use your zoom lens. The lens I use for most portraits is a 55-210mm. I have had great results with portraits while using my 50mm as well. Adjusting your settings is key.

focal length for macro
Macro focal length: 50mm {prime lens}, f5.6 aperture

I haven't really shot “technically” macro photography, so I'm not going to sit here and give you tons of tips on something I know nothing about. However, I do know that my prime lens (a lens that is a “fixed” focal length) shoots bees, flowers, etc really well.

3. Watch your shutter speed. If you're used to shooting in “auto” mode, you might be a little nervous here – but don't be! If your camera has modes like “S”, “A”, “M”, etc, you're good to go. Understanding the basic exposure triangle helps so much, but if you shoot in Shutter Priority (“S” mode), you're choosing your shutter speed while your camera chooses the aperture.

Shutter Speed Examples

If you want to freeze motion of a fast moving subject, you'll need your shutter speed to be really fast!

frozen liquid motion
5.0 aperture, 1/2500 shutter speed, 800 ISO
How to Take Sharper Photos
5.6 aperture, 1/1000 shutter speed, 100 ISO

{Below} I knew this bird wasn't moving much, because I had been watching him for a while. So, I slowed the shutter speed down. In most instances, if your subject even might be moving, I suggest shooting at 1/125 or faster. Better to be safe than sorry and end up with a blurry picture.

how to get sharper photos
6.3 aperture, 1/80 shutter speed, 800 ISO
how to take clearer pictures
7.1 aperture, 1/100 shutter speed, 200 ISO

If you choose to shoot at 2.8 aperture to get that nice blurry background, for example, your camera might say that your shutter speed will need to be at 1/15. You can't hand-hold at 1/15 shutter speed (I don't hand-hold at less than 1/80 because I'm shaky but 1/60 is safe for most)… you'll need a tripod. I always have a tripod with me, no matter what. You never know when you'll need it to get that perfect shot! The tripod I use is a Zomei Z669, and it's worth EVERY penny. Starting out with a cheap tripod is fine, but if you're going to get serious about photography, you'll want one that is sturdy and reliable.

{Below} If you want to blur motion rather than freeze it, you'll lower your shutter speed even more. This is a bit off subject of getting sharp images, but I'm gonna show you anyway. ;) Obviously, you'll need a tripod for photos like these. If you find you like this type of photography, it's called long exposure, so you can look up even more examples.

blur motion shutter speed
f22 aperture, 15 second shutter speed, 100 ISO
long exposure photo example
f6.3, 1 second shutter speed, 100 ISO

4. Configure your aperture. Alternately, if you aren't shooting in Shutter Priority, you can shoot in Aperture Priority (“A” mode). This is going to give you full control over your aperture, while allowing your camera to choose the shutter speed. The tricky thing about Aperture Priority mode is that you'll need to keep an eye on your shutter speed, too.

Aperture is another control that will get you the “blurry background” effect everyone likes. The lower your aperture number, the more light you're letting in. For example, if you're taking a photo of a person and she's up against a wall, set your aperture at 2.8 and snap a shot. Then, have the subject take a few steps away from the wall, towards you. Take another shot. Then, you take a few steps back as well and take another shot. Now, stay in the same spot and change the aperture to 3.2. See the difference in the photographs? The first one won't have the blurred background, because the subject is too close to the wall. The second and/or third one will. The fourth will have even more in focus, but should still have a blurred background. The lower your aperture number, the smaller the focus area.

Different Aperture Examples

goldfield az
{Landscape}f22 aperture, 1/80 shutter, ISO 200
best macro settings
{Macro} f2.2 aperture, 1/80 shutter, 200 ISO

5. Don't crank your ISO too high. Now don't get me wrong, I don't want you to be afraid to crank the ISO up when necessary. However, if you get above 1000 ISO on the less expensive cameras, you're going to have lots of “noise” or graininess. With noise, you won't have a sharp photo. Part of learning to take sharper photos is adjusting your settings to where you don't need to crank the ISO.

ISO Examples

how to get sharper pictures
ISO 100

Had I cranked the ISO up a bit for this shot, it would've been brighter. However, it was foggy and I was going for the “dreary” look, so I kept it low.

how to take better pictures
ISO 800
ISO and noise
2500 ISO

Notice this picture isn't awful – at least by my standards – but it could've been much clearer or sharper had I decreased the ISO. Knowing how to take sharper photos is a trifecta, of sorts, and again… a lot of trial and error. :)

6. Edit. Sparingly. Notice I put this toward bottom of the list. The images I've shared with you in this post are SOOC, or straight out of the camera – with the exception of the portrait photographs. Editing isn't something I really worry too much about, but if you have an image that you missed the mark on and would like to make sharper, I recommend using PicMonkey. Take sharper photos by using the tips above, and you won't have to spend as much time and effort editing.

how to sharpen photos

You can use any editing program, but PicMonkey is free, and you can use it online instead of having to download it to your computer.

While you're here, be sure to check out all of my PicMonkey tutorials, plus learn 17 Things You Didn't Know You Could do With PicMonkey!

7. Never stop learning. I read photography books constantly! I pin photography tips to Pinterest daily. Photography ideas and challenges, too. Some of my favorites:

 

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Do you have tips for helping others take sharper photos? Share them in the comments! (Then, PIN IT!)

How to take sharper photos, very helpful!

SlapDashMom
Sadie Mae is an LGBT Lifestyle blogger living in Arizona with her three daughters. Her passions including traveling, healthy living, and teaching women how to work from home so they can spend more time with their kids.

7 Comments

  1. Thanks for the tips. These make a lot of sense! I struggle with photos and really need to focus on improving! Having the examples of the different focal lengths and shutter speeds is really helpful.
    Mary recently posted..Meatless Monday: Favorite Veggie BurgerMy Profile

  2. Great post! Totally agree about constantly learning – I read new books and tutorials CONSTANTLY!!

    I have an alpha, and a Nikon – I much prefer my Sony!!

  3. I’ve been using iPhones for years but I’m goinig to look into the Sony a6000. Great post!

  4. Amazing photographs, they are truly sharp. I will use your tips and try. I use Canon kiss series camera. I started taking interest in photography for kids, but most of times they wont let me take time for the settings to catch the perfect moment. Nice tips shared here. Thanks.

  5. This is a wonderful guide. Slowly but surely I am improving my photos. It’s been a long process and I still take some clinkers. Thanks so much :)

  6. So good to know! I bought the A600 camera a few months ago. I just haven’t figured out how to use it yet. :(

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