Cameras, especially DSLRs can be confusing when you are just getting started in photography. Many tell me that an iPhone can snap a decent image regardless of where you take it, why can’t an expensive DSLR do the same? Think about cameras like a musical instrument, and a camera phone like a radio, both will play music – one you just turn on and other you have to learn to use.
I’m going to take a leap and assume that you understand how the exposure triangle works, if not just search here on my blog and there are a few articles which will give you a primer on the basics of working with ISO, aperture and Shutter speed. If your take a photo and your subject is blurry, then likely the culprit is your shutter speed. The exposure triangle works like a balancing act, when you raise your shutter speed you need to compensate by opening up your aperture or raising your ISO – to keep the same exposure value. This can allow your shutter to activate fast enough to stop the motion of your subject. This is the most common source of blur but certainly not the only potential cause.
If your exposure and shutter speed were good when you took your shot, but the image is still soft, you might be experiencing lens blur. I’m going to assume your focus was good, and that your gear is clean and free fro smudges and guk. If you just missed fofucs on your subject, there is little you can do recover a blurry subject. Photoshop has new blur removal tools, but they work in specific circumstances, but I would not rely on them to save your image. Lens blur is common especially with cheaper lenses (like the kit lens that came with your camera.) but there are a few things you can do to check to see if it is your camera or your technique. Let’s do some troubleshooting and see if we can get those images sharper.
We all tend to move when shooting, this is especially common in lower light situations where your shutter speed may be slower. If you are shooting with a slower shutter speed (1/50th or slower), movement from your or your subject can cause blur, this is assuming you aren’t using a flash which will freeze the action for you. If you have the option, a tripod can help stabilize your camera increasing your chances of getting a sharp shot. I have a monopod (one legged) and a tripod for low light shooting, and both give you a stable platform to shoot from. In a pinch you can also try setting your camera on a rock, table or other stable surface. I have also had good luck leaning against a pole and pushing my camera into it for extra stability. If you take a shot with your camera on a tripod but still have blurry images, then you might need to take a look at the sweet spot for your lens.
The sweet spot
Most consumer and starter lenses vary in sharpness through their aperture range. The sharpest aperture for your lens is often referred to as the sweet spot. One of the easiest ways to find this is to go to DXO Mark, they have reviewed most every lens available past and present and have determined the aperture that will yield the sharpest images. The manual way is to look at your lens’s aperture range. Most often the sweet spot will be two stops up from wide open. As an example, the Canon (non-L) 100mm macro lens has a range of f2.8 to f32. Two stops up from wide open on this lens (f2.8, f5.6, f8) is f8, and I can confirm that images shot at f8 are indeed sharp. The best way to test this is to set your camera up on a stable surface and take a shot at wide open aperture and then two or three stops up from there. Bring the images into your favorite editing program and look at them. Determine which aperture is the best in a controlled circumstance with consistent lighting and settings. Once you determine your lens sweet spot try shooting in aperture priority at that aperture and let your camera handle the rest of the settings. This might help to resolve your problem.
Now, this method is not for pro-level gear. Most higher end lenses are sharp throughout the aperture range. This method is mainly for consumer level gear. This is not to say that pro level lenses don’t have a sweet spot, they most certainly do. As for my method, I use micro focus adjustments and a good target (like the one for DataColor) to calibrate my lenses.
Did it work? Are your images sharper using the sweet spot for your lens? I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to let me know if this article was helpful. You can find me on any of my social media link below – get out there and get shooting!
My Photography site: http://www.tahquechi.com/
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