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How to get sharp Photographs?

A lot of aspiring photographers face the problem of not getting absolutely sharp photographs, straight out of their cameras. Check out why and how to take care of it.

Autofocusing or Manual?

Amateurs do get confused between manual and auto-focusing. Manual does not let you focus better. In fact, its more time consuming to focus on your subject manually especially if it is continuously moving. The trick with Autofocus lyes in continuously be aware that you need to lift the finger on the shutter release button and light press it again if your subject has changed the distance from the camera or if you are recomposing your frame.

I almost always use autofocusing for all my shots as it lets me do other important things like framing etc. Unless required, i do not shift to manual focus.

Which focusing Mode is right?

Yes, I do shift my focus points quite a lot to overlap the area or even a small portion, i would like to have sharpness in my photographs. Many a time, as I am shooting fast, I do focus and recompose my frame, when shifting the focusing point is time-consuming. Do remember that the exposure is linked to the focusing point which you choose. Ideally, for better exposure, I change the focusing point instead of recomposing. and when time does not allow, I focus and recompose. because the central focusing point is the fastest, I often stay on that while looking for a subject on the street or during travel. Once spotted, if I have the time, may change the focusing point or simply focus and recompose.

With Digital Photography, exposure is not so much of an issue as it used to be at the time of the film. Advanced full-frame cameras with high dynamic range allow a lot of control in exposure during post-production.

Single or continuous shot modes?

I generally, avoid setting my focus at " continuous" even when my model is moving. I shoot a lot of fashion images as well as street photography where it's very demanding to shoot fast. Instead of keeping the focusing mode on " continuous " or full-screen mode I always keep it on "single shot" as well as "single point" but release the shutter quite fast just at the right moment. This may not work for wildlife or sports photography but does work quite well in case of fast-posing models or random people on the streets.

It also depends a lot on your shooting style and what really works better for you. I personally prefer using the single shot mode even if the subject is approaching me but many photographers would actually prefer that the camera always keep track of the focus as the subject moves towards or away from them. Note that the focus does not really change if the subject moves sideways maintaining the same camera-to-subject distance.

Mode to focus at the closest distance

In most circumstances, especially for hobbyists, the subject is the nearest element in the frame with other elements in the background. However, to make our images look better we do include elements in the foreground as well. This mode wont work here as it will end up focusing on these foreground elements which are only there to add the impact and help achieve a better composition but are the the main key of interest.

Also while taking pictures of a person for example, the nearest element in the frame could even be his or her hands and not the eyes. And as you closer, the nose and still not the eyes. While this may work for general photography enthusiasts, having better control on focusing is idea for serious photographers.

Be extra careful when Shooting at wide-open aperture

We all love that shallow depth of field and are always tempted to shoot at really wide apertures like f 1.4 or f 2.8 but do remember that there are all the more chances of missing the focus at such shallow depth of field. Always focus on the eyes while shooting portraits or otherwise focus at the most relevant part of the subject. You may choose to take a number of shots to ensure that you do not miss on the focus at the right spot.

Shutter speed matters as well. You need to be very steady and press the shutter release.

Photography - Munish Khanna

Depth of field is extremely shallow but I ensured that the focus was particularly on the eye and that too on the one closer to the lens. Canon 5D mark III Canon 85mm f2.2 1/30th Sec Aperture priority | Natural Ambient Light

Watch for Minimum focusing Distance

Every lens has a minimum focusing distance. shifting to the manual focus won't help if your subject is at less than the minimum focusing distance. step back to take the shot instead of moving to the manual focus. if your autofocus can't focus, you can't do it manually.

Add distance between the subject and the background.

Your objective is to achieve that shallow depth of field, which is why you open up the aperture all the way to the maximum aperture available on your camera. This leads to a very shallow depth of field, so shallow that the subject itself tends to get out of focus if you have not focused very carefully. Instead, you can keep a good enough distance between the subject and the background and close down a bit. Instead of shooting at 1.4 you may choose to shoot at maybe 2.8 while increasing the distance between the subject and the background.

Photography - Munish Khanna

Since all the elements in the background are at a distance, I got a very shallow depth of field at f/2.5 with a 50mm lens

Use Focus tracking.

Many of the new advanced digital cameras now have this feature, which allows the camera to lock the focus on a particular person or the face. As the person moves, the camera tracks along the focus as well.

And most importantly the key to getting sharp photographs on your camera is to know the camera you are using very well. You should quickly be able to switch between modes and be able to shoot fast adapting your self and the camera to changing scenarios.

Settings on your camera.

Make sure that the settings on your camera are correct. If you have reduced the sharpness on the camera, obviously you'll not get sharp photographs. Check out the first steps you should take while taking a photograph.

Make the best of Image stabilisation modes

Image stabilization in Canon or Vibration reduction as Nikon calls it, are modes which allow you to shoot at a relatively slower shutter speeds by counters the negative effects of camera shake. This allows one the option of shooting at relatively closed apertures if required and also one does not need to increase the ISO just to achieve a higher shutter speed. Even other wise make sure that you hold the camera especially of you have a bulky lens attached in the most stable manner so as to avoid any camera shake.

Switch over to better lenses

If you are a canon user for example, opt for L series of lenses. These will give you best possible optics as compared to cheaper lenses from the same brand. Check out for reviews to understand which lenses are known for good sharpness. Amongst the good sharp lenses, you would need an eagles eye to distinguish but yes, an image from a sharp lens would certainly stand out from the cheap glass. If sharpness is your priority go for an expensive lens compared to an expensive camera body. That is if are on a budget and can spend more on only one. ideally, go for a good lens and camera combination.

UV Filter, Do you even need one?

You do not need UV filters on digital cameras, yet they are good for protecting your expensive lens. Always put on the best UV filter from a reputed brand like Hoya. A cheaper UV filter will kill the sharpness of your superior sharp lens.

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