Taking focused pictures is something every photographer wants, right?
But it’s not as easy to do when you have no idea how to use your camera or how your actions as a photographer can hurt or help the quality of your images. I had to learn about focus the hard way, through lots of blurry and out-of focus pictures that left me scratching my head wondering, “why doesn’t this look right?”
I didn’t know it was “focus” that was problem, I just knew my pictures never looked right to me. They were never clear, clean, or like the vision I imagined them being in my head. But then when I began to focus on my photography and learning how to get better, things began to change.
I say this to say that focus is a subject near and dear to my heart.
If your pictures aren’t looking as clear, crisp, and focused as you’d like, try considering these five things:
1. Do you have poor focus? This sounds obvious, but it’s not really when you, as photographer, have no idea what your desired subject is before taking your shot. Perhaps, unknowingly, you’re focusing on the wrong area when shooting. Or, and this was something it took me forever to learn, perhaps you’re too close to your subject to allow your camera to focus.
Another possibility is that your selected aperture is too high, producing too narrow of a depth of field.
To fix all these problems, take your time when composing your shots. Decide on your subject before shooting, set your focus on that, then shoot.
As you can see, in the above picture, I’m focused on the flower in the forefront. It’s this (focusing intentionally on that single flower) and my aperture that produces the blurring of the background flowers.
2. Has your subject moved? Unless you’re hoping to convey movement in your shots, make sure your shutterspeed is high enough to account for any movement. Generally, when shooting my kids, I try to stick to 1/125 and above. For stationary objects, like flowers, perhaps, you can choose lower shutterspeeds.
3. Is your ISO too high? The better your camera, the better it can manage the grain that inevitably comes with shooting at high ISOs. If your camera is not as great, try to keep your ISO as low as possible. To compensate for the decrease in light, and if possible, make adjustments with your shutterspeed and/or aperture.
4. Did your camera shake? Not as obvious when you’re starting out, but camera shake, either knowingly or unknowingly, can lead to un-focused shots. To fix, be mindful of form when shooting. Use both hands, keep the camera close to your body, and support yourself with some form of solid object, i.e., wall, tree, etc. Or, even better, shoot with a tripod (spoken from a photographer who has only used her tripod like two times in the past three years.
5. Is it your lens? If you have the money to invest in a good lens, do it, since lens quality can have a very big impact on the crispness of your images. Two years ago, I decided to upgrade from my kit lens to prime lens and I have not looked back. I now only shoot using my prime 1.4 lens because I love that it consistently and easily produces sharp images.
Another factor to consider when it comes to your lens and producing sharp images is cleanliness. Having a clean lens that’s clear of dust and grime is a must for clear and crisp images.
Also, one more thing to consider, if your lens is clean and you’re doing everything else right (see above) and are still not getting focused shots, get your lens professionally checked. It could be that your lens has a mechanical error preventing it from properly focusing.
What are your favorite tips/tricks for ensuring focused pictures?