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If there's one thing that photographers always know what to do, it's figuring out ways to capture action in a photo. A photo that has action is one that often has sharp details that help the viewer get a feeling that it's something happening in the moment.
Getting a sharp photo isn't just about getting good action shots, though. That level of sharpness also can bring out new emotions in a photo, or help bring out a new level of business to your pictures.
Professional photographers know plenty of ways to shoot photos that are razor sharp, and now, you can mimic their techniques by using the tricks below.
Use manual focus.
One of the easiest ways to shoot photos that are razor sharp on a consistent basis is to use manual focus. Autofocus is great for regular shots, but not for super sharp focus.
To do this on a DSLR camera, switch from View Finder to Live View. Then, use the magnifier lens button to zoom in on your subject. Then adjust the focus ring until it's as sharp as you want it to be, zoom out, and snap a nice, crisp shot.
Use a tripod.
Most people assume that tripods are only good for long exposure shots that require you to stay perfectly still—but they're not. A lot of detail is lost because photographers naturally will have subtle movements that make the camera shake just a teensy bit.
By using a cheap tripod, such as the Magnus PV-3310 above, you can stabilize your photo and get consistently sharper photos. This is actually one of the easiest ways to shoot photos that are razor sharp without even needing to toggle anything on your camera.
Tripods are incredibly useful, and I'm a fan. That's why most articles talking about photography tips for beginners encourage newbies to get one.
Do what you can to stabilize the camera during windy seasons, and make sure that you have the Mirror Lock Up option toggled on your camera.
A lot of the smarter ways to shoot photos that are razor sharp on a consistent basis deal with stabilizing micro-movements. The less movement your camera has to deal with, the sharper the image will be.
Wind can actually make tripods move about, so if you're shooting in windy weather, you might want to try to block the wind near your camera. Using your body or weighing down your tripod can help, as can keeping a hand on your camera's tripod.
Another subtle movement that can mess with your photos is the mirror movements. In most cameras, the mirrors inside the DSLR camera will slap up during a shot. This can cause movement, which will take away sharpness.
Mirror Lock Up allows you to stop that "slapping" motion from happening, which in turn prevents small jerking motions that could jostle the camera around. In many modern DSLRs, the moment you get into Live View, the mirror will automatically go into lockup. So, if you don't see it on your camera's menu settings, you're probably already locked.
Use the sharpest aperture, and keep ISO low.
This is a double-punch of settings preferences that will have your photographer skills go through the roof. Every photographer who wants a sharp image needs to check this blurb out!
If you want the sharpest photos, using the sharpest aperture setting on your camera is a good idea for obvious reasons. Typically, the sharpest aperture will be three or so stops down from your widest. On most cameras, this will be around an f/8.
High ISO tends to be the way we compensate for having low light settings, but that's not always a good thing. High ISO will introduce noise, which can negate a lot of the ways to shoot photos that are razor sharp pretty quickly. So, a low ISO is often the best choice. The lowest ISO is often around 100-200.
Of course, you still will need to make sure that you're keeping in mind the quality of your shot. If a sharp aperture and low ISO would ruin it, you need to rethink it.
Get a better lens, and clean your lenses regularly.
As bad as it is to say, there's some brutal honesty that needs to be addressed. Basic camera lenses don't always deliver good sharpness, primarily because they are often not made with the same standards in mind.
One of the best ways to shoot photos that are razor sharp is to upgrade your camera lens and avoid wide-angle lenses. Wide-angle lenses, though flattering, can blur the edges of the photo.
It takes a while to fully get into the swing of mastering your lenses for sharper photography. At the very least, cleaning your lenses regularly is a good way to avoid smudging and dust from getting in the way of your shoots.
Don't use lens filters when taking your shots.
The difference a lens filter can make in terms of photo quality is huge, but truth be told, it's not always that good when you're trying to get super-sharp photos. Filters may offer a very nice change in your shot, but they also are primarily used to soften your photos.
As a result, you're not going to get a very sharp photo when you're using a lens filter. If you want a super-sharp photo, you're going to need to skip the lens filter.
Check sharpness on the LCD screen before you move to the next shot.
One of the best ways to shoot photos that are razor sharp is to make sure that the shots you took look sharp and detail-heavy before you actually review them on a computer. By making sure that things at least look good at glance, you're ensuring that you don't miss out on killer shots.
If you see some blurring, just delete that photo and take the shot again.
Using Photoshop to sharpen your images is also a doable option.
There are plenty of Photoshop hacks every photographer should know that involve sharpening images. Some of the best hacks include...
- Increasing the contrast to get better sharpness. This also can give a more stark vibe to your photograph, which helps a bunch.
- Selectively sharpening certain parts of your photos. This helps even out photos that might not have been uniformly crisp. It also works to help promote a more bokeh effect in pictures.
- Adding filters after your photo shoot. You can still get the same effect without decreasing sharpness by adding filters in Photoshop as part of post-processing.
A faster shutter speed is better for capturing action shots.
If you're looking for ways to take razor-sharp photos of people in the middle of athletic events, you've definitely got your work cut out for you. It's not easy being able to take perfect pictures mid-action, and that's what sports photography is all about.
The best way to get crisp, sharp images of rapid action is to increase your shutter speed. However, if you're using this tip for sports shots, it's best to double it up with other ways to shoot photos that are razor sharp on this list. You will need as much help as you can get.
If all else fails and you still want to get sharpness, just put your photo in black and white.
Though this doesn't really fit among most other ways to shoot photos that are razor sharp, it's still worth pointing out. Greyscale photos tend to remove a lot of the blurring that happens due to colors being just a smidge too similar to one another.
If you're using sharpness to add drama to a photo, then making it a black and white picture also can help on that end, too. Some photographers might consider this cheating a bit, but at the end of the day, it'll help you produce a great shot.