If you’ve ever spent several hours or an entire day out shooting only to discover half the images are blurry when you upload them to your computer, you understand one of the many frustrations photographers face. Even when you’re shooting in RAW format, there’s only so much Photoshop can do to sharpen the image, so it’s best to improve your technique by learning how to capture sharper images. To do this, you need to find the “sweet spot” of your lens as Dena Haines from Digital Photography School calls it. When you know how to find this coveted lens spot, you can avoid the frustration of blurry images.
If you’re comparing two images of the same object and one appears sharper than the other does, the chances are that you shot the less blurry one in the camera’s mid-range aperture. This varies for each camera, but there are ways you can determine the right sweet spot for your specific lens. As a general rule, the basic lens that a DSLR camera comes with shoots best and sharpest in the mid-range aperture. According to Haines, to find the mid-range of the camera lens, you need to know the maximum, widest aperture setting. You can find this on the end of the lens or the side of the lens, and it’s usually something like 1:3.5-5.6. What these numbers taken from a Canon 18-55mm zoom lens mean is that when you zoom the lens all the way out the widest aperture is f/3.5, but when it’s zoomed in, the widest is f/5.6. To find the mid-range sweet spot on your lens, Haines suggests counting up a full two f-stops from the widest possible aperture. Aperture settings on a camera go by the name f-stops. Fortunately, there is some room for adjustment in the mid-range, which means anything from f/7 to f/10 should capture a sharper image. Once you know the mid-range, you can reduce or eliminate those disappointingly blurry shots with a simple test that involves using Aperture Priority mode.
Working in Aperture Priority mode
Automatic mode on a camera can come in useful in certain situations, but when you want to choose the aperture setting you need to work in Aperture priority mode. To switch from Automatic to Aperture Priority mode, you need to turn the Mode Dial to the spot that says either Av (Canon) or A (Nikon and other brands.) Once the camera is in Aperture Priority mode, you can turn the smaller dial to choose the f-stop. To double check your settings, look at the f-number displayed on the LCD screen as you turn the smaller dial.
When you combine Aperture Priority mode with Auto ISO that allows your camera to choose the ISO and shutter speed automatically, capturing a sharp image becomes even easier. Although apertures such as f/16 and f/22 do well for maintaining focus in an image, that focus doesn’t necessarily equate to overall sharpness while mid-range aperture can give you consistently sharper images. To eliminate other elements that can contribute to blurry images such as camera shake, use a tripod, self-timer or remote shutter release.
Testing the sweet spot
After you’ve adjusted the settings on your camera and have it stable on a tripod, you can test the sweet spot by composing your shots and snapping pictures in various apertures. Start wide and then move the dial to the right and take another picture and continue this until you have around eight pictures. Upload the images to your computer and zoom in to see which aperture settings result in the sharpest image overall.
When you no longer have to deal with blurry images, you’ll find renewed motivation to go out on more shoots and perfect your technique. Bring all your sharp, stunning shots to Baboo Digital for professional, experienced digital printing.
Featured image by JulieAnn Corbin