How to Take Sharp Pictures Even at f/1.8

How to Take Sharp Pictures Even at f/1.8

Sharpness is one of the key things that can make or break a picture. Right? Trust me I know how frustrating it can be if you can’t get the sharpness you want out of your camera. The easiest thing is to blame your gear (as I did) 🙂 but that won’t make your pictures sharper does it? So this is why I created this kind of checklist below for you, that tells you every tells you everything about how to take sharp pictures even at an aperture of f/1.8. I this will help you to figure things out.

Natural Light Portrait Photography Tips
This is shot with a 50mm at f/1.8 Lens

The Painful Story Of Me And My First 50mm Lens

When I started I never struggled with it. Until I bought my 50mm f/1.8 lens (the sharpest beginner lens you can own). After that, I got obsessed with sharpness. Why? Because everybody knows a nice and buttery smooth bokeh at f/1.8 is awesome. Right? But it doesn’t work if your focus isn’t on point. I seriously thought my lens was broken. Because my pictures seemed to be out of focus every time with the same amount of blurriness. I tried everything and after I bought a brand new lens and I found out it was all me. What I want to tell you about that story is that only 0.0001 times out of 10 it actually isn’t your fault.


Shutter Speed

The first and most common thing that people seem to accidentally do wrong is to use a too slow shutter speed. A good way of figuring out your shutter speed is to just keep the shutter speed number higher than the number of your focal length.

For Example:

  • A 50mm lens should be used with at least 1/60th of a sec.
  • A 250mm lens should be used with at least 1/250th of a sec.

Why?

To keep your images from getting motion blurred. With a faster shutter speed, you won’t have this problem because the shutter exposes to fast to capture your micro-movements accidentally in the picture.

how to take sharp pictures even at f1.8
Motion blur caused by 1/40 of a sec. with 55mm

A Stable Stand

I know that people say that a good photographer always stands in a weird position to capture interesting angles. That is absolutely true. 🙂 However, always make sure that you have a solid stand, so you don’t shake your camera too much. A good way to start is to put one hand on the lens, one on the camera and tuck in your elbows to your chest. That way you will stand pretty solid.


Remove Lens Filter

Cheap lens filters can ruin the sharpness of your shot doesn’t matter what lens your use. That also goes for UV filters.


Aperture

The aperture (Controllable in AV mode) impacts the depth of field in your picture or in other words how sharp or unsharp the fore or the background is.  If you use a wide aperture (f/1.8) you will have less sharpness in the fore and background. If you close the aperture (f/19) everything will be sharp.

how to take sharp pictures even at f1.8


Focus Mode

If you try to shoot something that moves very fast (like a rugby player) switch to AI Servo. So the camera will continue pulling focus on the subject. If you don’t shoot a moving object always us one shoot focus to get the most precision.


Focus Selection

Of cause, you want to use AF but there are different types of AF that you can choose from. Choose spot focusing to have maximum control over where you want to focus.


Check Your Focusing Sensors

This was my biggest problem. Focusing at f/9 is no problem for anybody. Right? Using aperture under f/2.8 is a bit harder. It doesn’t really matter if you put your camera on a tripod and what not. It all comes down to your focusing point. Unless you have a high-end DSLR you camera probably only has one sensor that is keepable of nailing the focus every time in shots with an aperture under f/2.8. It is called dual-cross sensor and it sits in the middle.

how to take sharp pictures even at f1.8


Tripod

If you have shaky hands or shoot at low light it can always be helpful to use a tripod. So you can eliminate all the motion from the camera. The downside is that you won’t always be able to use a tripod in every situation. Nevertheless, if you know you will shoot with a longer exposure or in low light it’s always smart to take a tri or monopod with you.

how to take sharp pictures even at f1.8


Image Stabilization

It is great for freehanded shots in low light. However, when you shoot on a tripod make sure you turn it off. Because the camera will still try to compensate movements and will actually make the picture less sharp through the vibrations of the IS motor


Lens Sweet Spot

If your picture actually is in focus, but you feel like it could be sharper, try to find your lenses sweet spot to get the maximum sharpness possible out of it.

Understanding ISO Settings


Iso

As always try to keep your iso as low as possible (especially with an entry-level DSLR) Because the higher you turn it up the stronger will the Iso noise become. Which ultimately will result in unsharp pictures.


Keep It Clean

One thing that might be obvious, but I will say it anyway is to keep your lens clean. Not with your sleeve. With an extra soft and clean camera cloth. To keep scratches and dirt away from your lens.

how to take sharp pictures


Your Lens

Most people will think that they just have a cheap lens, and that is the problem. Of course, there is some truth to that, but the difference between cheap and professional lenses actually isn’t that big. I know that sounds weird but you would be surprised. To prove it to yourself, just go to a camera store and try a prime L lens from Canon without buying it. 😉 If you can’t get the focus on point with it, it’s not the lenses fault. There is no nice way to say it, but it is you. 🙂

how to take sharp pictures
This is a picture taken with an 18-55mm kit lens at Iso800 f/5.6 (not even the sweet spot) and it is super sharp.

Double Check

This isn’t an actual tip to make you picture sharper, but it is a tip on how to make sure your pictures are sharp and crisp. Always double check the picture after you shot it. Push the review button and zoom in as far as you can.

how to take sharp pictures even at f1.8


Alright, That’s already it for my guide on how to take sharp pictures even at f/1.8. I hope I was able to resolve your problems with Focusing and sharpness. If I did share the post with your friends or leave a comment below if you have any questions or opinions on it. I will get back to you as quick as possible. 🙂

 

Cheers Aaron.

 

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6 thoughts on “How to Take Sharp Pictures Even at f/1.8

  1. Glenys

    Thank you for writing these great tips about how to take sharp pictures. Taking sharp pictures really can make or break a photo. I did not know the impact that shutter speed can have on the photo. I did not know that cheap lens filters could have such a negative impact as well. I did know that you need to keep the lens cover clean. I was wondering what is your #1 tip for when you get “floaties” or mould in the lens itself?

    1. Aaron

      Hey Glenys, thank you for the nice feedback. To get rid of mould or fungus in a lens you should go to a camera store. Because in it is absolutely crucial that there comes no dust or anything like that in them lens. Plus when you go to a store you are guaranteed that the mould won’t come back.

  2. Ganardineroporcjc

    Hello Aaron,
    Excellent images are the ones I see on your site, it shows that they were taken by a professional photographer. The truth also did not know the care that the photographer must have before, during and after taking a sharp picture. Possessions when taking a photo can sometimes be strange. How to take the camera, the position of the fingers and elbows against the chest, to achieve greater stabilization. Finally, you learn a lot by reading this excellent article. Thank you very much!

    1. Aaron

      Hey Ganardineroporcjc, thank you for your nice feedback I really appreciate it. 🙂 

  3. R.J.

    Hey FreshD, I like your post. I liked how you discussed the importance of keeping your lens clean so the pictures don’t come out blurry.
    You know, I used to want to do photography for a living once upon a time, but my interest changed but it is still a lucrative market though.
    Do you earn any money from photography and if so, when did you get your first gig?
    Ultimately, I like the passion that you put in your post, so good job on that.

    1. Aaron

      Hey R.J. I think it has never been easier to become a photographer. If you don’t want to become a wedding or any other standard photographer there are all kinds of ways to do that via social media. Just start building your personal brand and when it grows all kinds of agencies will come to you as you get better. 🙂 

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