Getting Sharper Images

Getting Sharper Images

Matt (QUESTION):I’m having trouble with getting sharper images. I have seen advice from the internet. Most of the things they recommend are making sure you have a fast enough shutter speed, not too shallow depth of field, and trying to avoid camera shake. I get about 1 in 5 that are sharp and I’m using an entry level DSLR with the kit lens. I also have a 50mm 1.8 which is a bit better but still not crisp all the time and I try not to go that wide with the 50, since it gets really distorted. Do I need better equipment or do you have any other pointers? Getting sharper images

 Phillip (ANSWER): Most of your sharpness will come from post production – super sharp images are almost always created in editing. There are some amazing actions in Photoshop, but I am able to get the same effect in Lightroom in 2 seconds or so. For this photo above, I bumped the clarity up to +26, sharpening to 61, and contrast to +14 – please remember that clarity can be a bit much, so be careful with that.

The 50mm will be much better than your stock camera lenses in terms of sharpness. Also please remember that keeping your lens at f/1.8 does not necessarily translate to sharpness. Old school photographers actually define a sharp image as something that is in focus all the way, from the eyes to the ears to the back of the head. It’s sharp because it’s in focus. You might try doing most of your portraits at f/4 or so and see how that feels.

This photo was taken at 1/200, f/5, ISO 1000 on a Canon 135mm f/2L lens. Notice how crisp the eyes are. Even at f/5 you can get a great soft background.
The best portrait lenses are between 85mm-135mm, since there is the least amount of distortion at those lengths. Here is a link to the Canon 135mm if you like what you are seeing!

$$$ Tip:

I think a good photographer really only needs three lenses in their arsenal to cover almost anything. One long lens (the 135mm or 70-200mm), one medium lens (the 50mm or 24-70mm), and one wide lens (the 17-40mm or 16-35mm). You don’t need to buy every new version that is out there and you don’t need 10 lenses. Try mastering just one or two lenses and use them for the exact moments they are intended for (wide angle for landscapes/architecture, long lenses for portraiture). I buy most of my lenses used, and for a lot of my travels or weddings my kit used to look like: used 50mm 1.4 ($300), a used 70-200mm 2.8 non-IS ($700), and a 17-40mm f/4 ($5oo).

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