Get Sharp Photos with These Easy Tricks


Extra photos for bloggers: 1, 2, 3

Getting a once-in-a-lifetime shot is every photographer’s dream, but having those shots tainted by blur can be gut-wrenching.

While you might not be able to choose when these prize shots come your way, you can make sure you’re ready for them with some choice equipment and a little technique.

Your photos will be so sharp you’ll be able to slice tomatoes with them! Odd? Yes. Sharp? Awesome!

How to Become a Sharper Shooter

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Why It’s Cool:

paper-sm Sharpness can make the difference between a photo heading to the trash and a photo heading to the photolab for an enlargement print. While blur can add a creative twist to some photographs, the majority of photos look better with clean, sharp edges.

From elegant macro photos to full-action jump shots, sharpness is the deciding factor in whether or not an exposure is a successful one.

Method 1 – The Old Three-Legged Standby

paper-sm A good tripod might just be your most useful photo accessory. Three legs keep your camera expertly stable, making for perfectly sharp photos.

With so many tripod types and brands on the market though, it can be a little daunting to pick out the best one for you. When looking for a tripod, there are three things to consider:

1. Construction: Plastic isn’t to fantastic when it comes to tripods. Metal is by far the most sturdy, but can be heavier to carry around. If you have to transport your tripod around a lot, consider investing in one made from carbon-fibre. Though generally more expensive than their metal counterparts, the carbon-fibre tripods are much lighter and just as sturdy.

2. Size: It’s best to be conservative here, unless you want to own a multitude of tripods. If you’re looking for one tripod to rule them all, find one that can support the weight of camera with its heaviest lens and a hot-shoe flash. This will keep you covered for any situation you might come across.

Method 2 – Learn a Little String Theory

paint-sm If you forget your tripod at home, a bit of string and a pencil can be fashioned into something we call, “the Stringpod.”

To make a stringpod, cut a length of string that reaches from your toes to your head. Then, tie one end of the string around a pencil or pen. Lastly, tie the other end of the string around your camera lens, close to the camera body.

To use the stringpod, stand on the pencil with both feet and pull the string taut (gently!). This will cut down on camera shake drastically, letting you come away with sharp photos in a pinch.

If you want to take the stringpod to the next level, buy a screw that fits the tripod mount on the bottom of your camera. These can be sold for a few cents at any hardware store. Then, tie the string to the screw instead of around the lens. This works great for compact cameras!

Method 3 – Brace for Exposure

paint-sm Your heartbeat causes your body to move around a lot more than you might think. Try sitting perfectly still for a minute and you’ll see what we mean.

While it keeps you alive, this movement can cause your arms to move around a lot, taking your camera along with it. This can lead to blurry photos. The best way to prevent this to to adopt a bracing stance.

With your feet shoulder-width apart, tuck your arms into your chest. This will cut down on shake dramatically. For extra stability, lean up against something solid, like a wall or a pillar.

Method 4 – Set Up for Success

paint-sm You can increase your chances of getting your subject sharply in focus by using the right f-stop. The higher the f-stop number, the larger the focal distance.

This means there’s a larger space in your exposure that will be in focus, giving you more room to find that sweet sharp spot.

Maxing out your f-stop for the available light will help you ensure you’ll have a sharp photo. This means using the highest f-stop you can without your shutter speed getting slower than 1/60th of a second (if the shutter speed goes slower than that, you might get motion blur).

For some lenses, the sharpest f-stop is between f/8 and f/11. Each lens is different and has its own sweet spot, but for most lenses, this is the optimal range.

Method 5 – Save the Day With Unsharp Mask

paint-sm Sometimes you get a photo that’s almost perfect. It’s just a little soft on the sharpness. This could be caused by a bit of camera shake or if the focus being slightly off.

Thankfully, Photoshop (or GIMP) can save the exposure using Unsharp Mask. Go Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask and take a look at the sliders that come up. Generally, “Threshold” should be left at 0, but the other two values can work together to create sharpness.

The “Amount” slider controls how much contrast is added to the edges in your image. This should be used sparingly though, as too much will make your photo look grainy.

The “Radius” slider controls how wide the size of the edges become. The higher the number, the larger the edges of the pixels. Too high a value here will create strange halos, so play with the slider.

Use the Preview check box to see how changing these values changes the sharpness of your photo. Unsharp Mask won’t save photos that are moderately to severely blurry, but it can polish photos that are just a little too soft.

More Tips on Sharpness:


  • Team your tripod up with a camera remote. This removes any camera-shake made by your hands!
  • If you find yourself needing to move around a lot during a photo shoot, try a monopod. You’ll still have to support it, but it’ll cut down on camera shake.
  • On long-exposures, try using the mirror lock-up feature (you’ll find it in your custom settings). This flips the mirror inside your camera up before starting the exposure, reducing camera shake and increasing sharpness.
  • The faster your shutter-speed, the more likely your photo is to be sharp. Fast shutters freeze motion!
  • ISO speeds can affect the crispness of your photo, too. A higher ISO increases the amount of noise and graininess in an image, which leads to a less crisp exposure.
  • For an alternative to the DIY Stringpod, try out our Pocket Pod!