Photographers Guide to Focus and the Sharper Image

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Focus on Autofocus – Achieving Sharp Images Every Time

And the best part? Each of these tricks is super easy! In this article, our friend Tim Boyer, a master bird photographer, offers a few of his best bird photography tips for how to take sharp images. The first tip is obvious but so important.

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The three-section carbon fiber tripod shown above is rated to hold up to 26 pounds. By staying within half the recommended weight limit, you will get solid support from your tripod. For more details about camera settings for bird photography and getting sharper bird images, check out my video above. On a bright day or when shooting in the golden hour, you can push the ISO up so you can increase your shutter speed and or your depth-of-field. This is a case-by-case decision depending on your camera model and brand.

Have you ever walked away from a shoot feeling confident that you nailed every last shot only to discover, upon closer review, that the majority of your captures are slightly or significantly front or rear focused?

Quick Tip - Getting sharp photos with Single Focus Mode

If so, this article is most definitely for you! My eyes have been drawn to and compelled by explicitly sharp, detailed, and descriptive imagery since I was a young man pouring over the works of photojournalists such as Gordon Parks, Diane Arbus, Elliot Erwitt, and Eugene Richards to name a few. These photographers not only captured substantive and spectacular content moments but did so with a technical acumen that titillated my visual senses and sent chills down my spine.

I wanted to create images just as clean and captivating as those I idolized. Autofocus in the age of modern digital technology offers quick, responsive subject acquisition and focus, but that technology sometimes yields inconsistent and unreliable results when creating images in chaotic environments or adverse situations—and, surprisingly, sometimes even in ideal situations. My intention with this article is to discuss autofocus AF : how it works and the various AF modes and points that are available to help ensure more consistent focus even under the most challenging circumstances.

Autofocus systems are incredibly complex and providing an in-depth explanation of precisely how they work, would take far too long and lead us astray. Phase detection is most common in DSLRs and employs what is known as a beam-splitter. The beam-splitter directs the light the image onto two different microsensors, thus creating two separate and identical images.

Phase detection works this way. Contrast detection is arguably more accurate than phase detection, especially when shooting subjects portraits close-up with a wide aperture i. The technology behind it is less cumbersome lightweight and less expensive.

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We see contrast detection AF systems most commonly in smaller and lighter mirrorless cameras. Phase detection is more robust and more expensive, but it is also more responsive and reliable with subjects that are in motion or moving erratically.

Summary and action plan

The mechanics of contrast detection are much leaner, lightweight and less expensive, but this system is notably slower and less responsive than phase detection. For this article, I focus no pun intended on DSLR systems since they remain—for the time being—the mainstay for fast-action, low-light photography i. There is no margin for missed shots when it comes to capturing key moments for wedding clients.

I need speed and accuracy and strive for consistency. I need to be able to capture those decisive moments as they unfold, but I also want tack-sharp images.

Some lens manufacturers recommend that you leave image stabilization turned on when you are using a tripod and others say to turn it off. The best thing to do is test your lenses to see which is best, but in most cases you will want to turn it off when you are using a tripod.

Photography Guide to Sharper Photos- Part 2

Where you choose to focus will have an impact on the overall sharpness of your photo. Instead, have a purpose for your decisions related to focus with each photo. Even the smallest movement of the shutter button can cause a small amount of shaking that will reduce the sharpness of a photo.

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You can avoid touching the shutter button at all by using a cable release. Cable releases also come in very handy when shooting long exposures in bulb mode over 30 seconds. With the cable release you can lock the shutter so it will stay open as long as you want without needing to manually hold the shutter button. The LCD screen can be very helpful for checking the sharpness of your photos both before and after they have been taken. If you are focusing manually you can use live view before taking the shot.

Zoom in and check the focal point of the photo to make sure you have it focused well.

Photography Guide to Sharper Photos- Part 4 - Maria Struss Photography

After your shots, whether you are using manual or auto focus, you can use the LCD screen to zoom in and check the focus. That way if your focus is off you can try again rather than waiting till you get home to notice the issue on your monitor. Both Photoshop and Lightroom make it possible to apply sharpening to your photo in post processing. Keep in mind that this will not be a substitution or a replacement for the need to get the photo as sharp as possible in the camera. Sharpening in post production can help, but it is really only a way to put the finishing touch on your photos. Many of the tips above are based on the assumption that you are using a tripod, but when that is not the case please keep these tips in mind.

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You can use a sturdy object to help steady yourself and the camera. It could involve leaning against a wall, steadying your camera on a large rock, or making use of whatever is around you. While it may not be as ideal as using a tripod, having anything to provide some extra support and stabilization can help when it comes to sharpness. While it may sound obvious, holding the camera properly will give you the best ability to keep it steady. This article at Digital Camera World includes the diagram below, demonstrating the most effective ways to hold the camera.

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  8. When you are using a tripod you are able to use slow shutter speeds because the camera will be steady, but when hand holding the camera you will get much sharper photos if you stick to faster shutter speeds. Of course, this eliminates one of the creative aspects that you can use with your photos, but in general you can still capture beautiful landscapes with fast shutter speeds. The slowest shutter speed you can use will depend on how steady you are and the focal length you are using, as well as if your camera has image stabilization. I mentioned earlier that when you are using a tripod you will generally want to turn image stabilization off.