70 — Getting sharper images — common problems

Pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast #70 dis­cusses why some­times our pho­tographs do not appear sharp enough.‚ We touch on sev­eral impor­tant fac­tors that all com­pro­mise image sharp­ness. For new­bies in par­tic­u­lar, we also men­tion the depth of field guide which clearly tells the pho­tog­ra­pher the zone of sharp focus (in feet and inches or cen­time­ters and meters depend­ing on the guide) to expect with a given aper­ture and lens.

Depth of field guide

Depth of field guide

Links /resources men­tioned in this pod­cast:
Portable depth of field guide from B&H
Free depth of field table for most dig­i­tal cameras

August’s‚ “Water”‚ assign­ment on the Photography.ca forum

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feel free to join our friendly :) Pho­tog­ra­phy forum

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  1. admin says:

    Todd5DII from our forum posted this on the forum so I thought I’d copy it here. Thanks Todd!

    Just a few points that were not cov­ered in the Sharp­ness Podcast

    Remote trig­ger and Mir­ror Lockup
    If shoot­ing land­scapes or fixed sub­jects use mir­ror lockup and remote trig­ger, this will elim­i­nate a lot of vibra­tion based softness

    Be sure to lock up the legs, head, and if long lens the attach­ment ring, I have seen a lot of new photog’s shoot “Loose” which is never a good idea (hey every­one gets tired of repo­si­tion­ing but which takes longer, doing it right, or going back and re-shooting?)

    IS — Image sta­bi­liza­tion, gen­er­ally if tri­pod mounted turn it off, unless there is a lot of wind which makes the tri­pod “Vibrate” it will soften the image (try it some­time and see what I mean.

    If hand­held turn it on: Shoot in bursts (Linda Tharp sug­gested this, it does work if you are close to or below a shut­ter speed that is opti­mal, not sure why but I sus­pect the rapid shoot­ing cap­tures images between hand tremors, try it sometime!)

    Lens Dif­frac­tion — DOF and Sharp­ness often work agains each other, just because your lens can go to F32 doesnt mean that’s where you should put every time. A good link to tell you how your lens per­forms in regards to sharp­ness at var­i­ous F/Stops is http://www.slgear.com for instance http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/zprod…is/tloader.htm

    Other Soft­ware Tips
    There is soft­ware that can also help if you did every­thing else right.

    DXO — Fixes lens aber­a­tions, can even make the canon 100–400 use­able at 400mm f/32! Does require you to remem­ber dis­tance shot if using canon (damn you canon!) since they dont embe­ded focus info into EXIF

    Heli­con­Fo­cus — Blends mul­ti­ple images with dif­fer­ent focal points (works well when lit­tle or no move­ment expected)

    LOL, of light or some other fac­tor is not crit­i­cal remem­ber wind does come and go in cycles, be pait­ent. Also you can up the ISO to 400 eas­ily when nesse­cary on mod­ern cam­eras, if you shoot the histo to the right a bit you can even do 800 with mod­er­ate noise pro­cess­ing to get pretty use­able images these days


  2. Susan says:

    Marko –thanks so much for shar­ing this con­tent rich, infor­ma­tive pod­cast with us! The infor­ma­tion is great for new­bies and more advanced prac­ti­tion­ers of photography!

    For me per­son­ally, the infor­ma­tion was just what the doc­tor ordered!

  3. Kent Wilson says:

    Hi Marko –

    Very nice pod­cast (as usual).

    Regard­ing pho­tograph­ing birds in flight, I’d rec­om­mend some­one start­ing out to prac­tice on larger birds such as eagles, gulls, the larger herons and egrets, etc. They fly slower and less erratically.

    A shut­ter speed of 1/1000 is a use­ful start­ing point.

    One strat­egy that was rec­om­mended to me is to pre-focus on a cer­tain point and then start track­ing as the bird approaches that point. This is use­ful when there is a nest or favorite perch that you can antic­i­pate the bird return­ing to.

    I should add that I am far from being at the pro level, but I’ve been work­ing on it for some time and ben­e­fited from advice from some of the best bird photographers.

    For a chal­lenge, try pho­tograph­ing swal­lows in flight; they are very fast, small, and their flight is erratic. I have yet to get a really good image with the bird in focus and tak­ing up 80% of the frame.

    If any­one can offer advice, I’d be more than appreciative.

  4. JackLabel says:

    Marko, just a note about sharp­ness, pao­ple may also have focus sync prob­lem, which can be called Back or Front focus, usu­ally you cant see much on your viewfinder but some­times the cam­era aut­o­fo­cus is not tack sharp cal­i­brated so the lens will focus a bit before or after the sub­ject and the result will be seen on the com­puter. Some cam­eras such as D300 (http://www.focustestchart.com/focus21.pdf) or 50D on Canon have the lens cal­i­bra­tion option, so you can repir it your­self. Lower end cam­eras do not have this option because I sup­pose the man­u­fac­tur­ers do not care spe­cially because peo­ple will be usng kit lens.


  1. […] Along with a high shut­ter speed for mov­ing objects, and good depth of field, the qual­ity of your lens has a lot to do with image sharp­ness. Shutter-speed may affect the sharp­ness of your image if you get to a point where you’re too slow to hand-hold. In gen­eral though, most dig­i­tal images need a tweak in sharp­en­ing. A dig­i­tal photo that was shot with a good depth of field and a high shut­ter speed will nor­mally be blur­rier‚ than the same image shot from a film cam­era. To go about sharp­en­ing, pho­to­shop (or Gimp) have tools (like unsharp mask and smart sharpen) to help you make your images nice and crisp For more infor­ma­tion on keep­ing your images crispy.. err.. crisp, read more check out this link on our pho­tog­ra­phy forum and this link to a pod­cast on get­ting sharper images. […]

  2. […] we get tons of ques­tions about blurry images. Have a lis­ten to Photography.ca’s pod­cast on get­ting sharper images and you’ll solve some, if not most, of those […]

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