Getting sharper photos is something that always comes up when you guys email me questions so I wanted to put together a post showing a few options of why you might not be getting that tack sharp photo and how to fix it!
1. Start with Your Gear
The quality and type of your camera gear can greatly affect the sharpness of your images. I find this very true when it comes to lenses in particular. Lenses are a true camera gear investment, they will outlast your camera body for a long time. That means investing in amazing lenses is worthwhile and a great lens can help your photos be sharper, where a low quality lens can do the opposite.
Primes, or fixed focal length lenses are often sharper overall when compared to a zoom lens. Some primes also are sharper than others. For example, the images by my 35mm f1.4L are insanely sharp compared to my 50mm 1.2L. There’s always a noticeable difference when editing photos. Don’t be afraid to save up for that awesome lens because it will help make your photos more sharp. If you’re struggling a lot with sharpness and you’re still working with your zoom lenses that came in your camera kit, consider purchasing a prime lens. Those zoom lenses that come in camera kits are not always the best quality lenses and images produced from them are often not the tack sharp images that portrait photographers are wanting to see. Starting with the “nifty fifty,” a 50mm lens, will help your photos a ton!
2. Shooting in RAW
Just for a brief overview – RAW is a format (like JPEG) you can have your camera shoot in. These are large files that store more information and are therefore easier to edit and recover later in case you underexposed or something along those lines. I shoot in RAW because they’re so much easier to edit and fix if needed. However, because RAW photos are full of information it means they don’t come out of your camera as a compressed file, like JPEGs do. When a file is compressed to a JPEG by your camera it will appear to be sharper, but it won’t be as easy to color correct or fix exposure. If you’re struggling with those tack sharp images and you shoot in RAW you can start making a quick sharpening part of your editing workflow to get those images back up to par.
3. Al Servo Mode
If you’re a portrait photographer working with toddlers, and fast kiddos, learning to use Al Servo as a focusing method on your camera will help your camera track moving subjects and keep them tack sharp as they’re running by during that family photo session. >Here< is an awesome article by the Digital Photography School on what Al Servo is and how to use it.
4. Use Back Button Focus
Back button focus might not make your photos sharper simply by using it, it’s just that it’s easier to focus on your subject and be more exact and therefore your images will start appearing to be sharper. It helps you keep your focus spot-on. You can read about back button focus >here<.
Always focus on the eyes of your subject in a photo. Eyes are one of the first parts of someone we interact with, so eyes will define your photo. Make sure that when you’re shooting up close (if you like to shoot wide open with a low aperture), that you’re always focusing on the eye closest to the camera. This looks much more natural than if the eye closest to you is out of focus and the one further away is in focus.
6. Save as a PNG for Social Media
A PNG file is one that isn’t compressed. Often times our JPEG files are re-compressed when uploaded onto a website, like Facebook. Keeping your files as a PNG will help them display better on Facebook or your blog and keep them from looking wonky when they’re compressed during upload.