8 Tips for Super Sharp Photos

Let’s be honest here, if you wanna be a pro but your images aren’t sharp, you aren’t going to get very far. Sharp shots allow your viewer to feel present for the event; and that is the goal we should all be striving for. When someone is present for an event they are emotionally attached and when they are emotionally attached to your product, they are going to be loyal, talk it up and provide the best word of mouth marketing. Ever.

Before we get into the on-site techniques, know that sharpening your images after the fact with Adobe Photoshop is also an option, but it is far easier to get as close to “tack sharp” as possible in the initial stages. Below are 8 specific ways that, when used either alone or in combination, will give you that amazing, tack sharp photo…

Tack Sharp Photo Tip #1: Tripods, tripods, tripods! The only job of this piece of equipment is to keep your camera steady. It is the foundational tool that all the pros use even if it doesn’t seem necessary.

Tack Sharp Photo Tip #2: Ballheads. You may think that when you are purchasing a quality tripod, it would come with a ballhead attached. Fortunately for you (maybe unfortunately for your wallet), no. Cheapo tripods that come with an affixed head are actually more limiting. Trust me, it’s worth it to spend a bit extra and get a quality tripod and a quality ballhead that will allow you to easily adjust and move your camera for the perfect angle and assured steadiness.

Tack Sharp Photo Tip #3: Cable Release. Even the steadiest of hands can create slight movement simply from pressing the shutter release. In this instance, a cable release is the answer to your prayers. This allows you to take the picture without actually touching the shutter release and therefore, no camera shake. Yay!

Tack Sharp Photo Tip #4:  Self Timer. If you are not able to get a cable release yet, go for the self timer option on your camera. The time it takes for the timer to wind down will allow for any movement you created when pushing the shutter release, to subside.

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Tack Sharp Photo Tip #5: VR or IS. Depending on your camera, your lens will either have a Vibration Reduction or Image Stabilization feature. These can be fantastic when taking hand held shots but when using your tripod, it’s better to turn the feature off. The reason being, these are designed to stop movement, but if the camera does not find any, it goes out looking for it which, unfortunately, creates movement.

Tack Sharp Photo Tip #6: Sharpest Aperture. Every camera has a sweet spot. Generally speaking, and when you are able to, shoot your images at two full stops smaller than wide open. If that does not seem to be producing the desired sharpness, take inventory of the photo data of each shot. You can find this information in Adobe Photoshop under File Info -> Camera Data. Whatever aperture setting is behind your sharpest photos is the sweet spot for your equipment.

Tack Sharp Photo Tip #7: Good Lenses. Much like our own vision, a good lens is going to convey the most beautiful images. Straight up, anything less than $295 just isn’t going to move you from amateur to pro. You have the talent, invest in the equipment that matches, you’ll be happy you did.

Tack Sharp Photo Tip #8: Zoom Check. Who hasn’t opened up a picture on your computer or tried to enlarge something only to see those dreaded pixels from the days of Super Mario Brothers? Everything looks good on the small screen of your camera so be super certain you are on the path to tack sharpness. Immediately after taking the shot, zoom all the way in and see if your lines are clean and clear. If not you’ll know you need to make some adjustments.

Happy shooting!

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Manual Mode: Making YOU the Photographer

How to Shoot in Manual Mode on a Digital Camera

How to Shoot in Manual Mode on a Digital Camera

You spent the big bucks and set aside your point-and-shoot (a.k.a. do-all-the-thinking-for-you camera) for a fancy camera. You can put it in automatic – the green box – but are you much better off than you were with your point-and-shoot? Well, you probably get sharper images. And the picture actually takes when you push the button – instead of 10 seconds later. But was it worth the extra money?

It will be beyond worth the extra money you spent, if YOU start doing the thinking! Continue reading “Manual Mode: Making YOU the Photographer”

Low Light Digital Photography for Control Freaks

Beginner Photo Tip: Shooting in Tricky Low-Light Situations

Sometimes we do not get perfect lighting situations. Okay, so lots of the time we don’t get perfect lighting situations. That’s where an off-camera flash is my best friend. Seriously, I’m in love with my whole off-camera flash set-up because I love CONTROL. Unfortunately, we don’t always get the luxury of control. When we don’t get to control the light it can create a tricky situation.

Here are some examples of tricky low-light situations I’ve been in and how I still got the image I wanted.

Indoor Action

The other night I took pictures at a volleyball game. I had absolutely no control of the light. The available light was the fluorescent overhead lighting common in a gym. My flash would not help because it couldn’t reach the players and I doubt they would have appreciated flashes of light blinding them as they played. This was a tricky low-light situation.

Yet I still captured great action. Here’s how: Continue reading “Low Light Digital Photography for Control Freaks”

Understanding Aperture: the Key to Being Artistic

f/5.6 Aperture Example
f/5.6 Aperture Example
f/5.6 Aperture Example / Photo by Rachael Olson

People often ask me how to get a blurry background. Something about a blurry background makes people think “professional”.

First, if you want to sound cool, call it bokeh (pronounced: boke-uh), which means “haze” or “blur” in Japanese.

Next, you need to understand depth of field. This way, you don’t let in just enough light, but instead you control depth of field to achieve what you want artistically. Continue reading “Understanding Aperture: the Key to Being Artistic”