How To Find Your Lens' Sweet Spot: A Beginner's Guide to Sharper Images

NEW to dPS: 101 Landscape Lightroom Presets Pack

Buy Now

101 Landscape Lightroom Presets Pack

How To Find Your Lens’ Sweet Spot: A Beginner’s Guide to Sharper Images

0Comments

Are you tired of blurry images?

It’s time to learn how to capture sharper images by finding your lens’ sweet spot. This will give you more confidence, save time, and help you take better photos.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • How to find your lens’ sweet spot (for sharper images)
  • Why you should shoot in Aperture Priority mode (and how to use it)
  • How to perform a test to get your sharpest image every time
  • How important is your lens’ sweet spot? Notice the difference

Mid range aperture sharper than wide open

In the above images of the clock, the one on the right is sharper. Look closely at the words and at the leaves behind the clock. The f/9 image is sharper throughout because it was shot in my lens’ sweet spot. The f/3.5 one was not.

First, take a look at your lens

In this beginner’s guide, we’ll use an entry level zoom lens as our example. Most kit lenses (the basic lens that comes with a DSLR) generally shoot their sharpest at the mid-range aperture settings. To determine the mid-range of your lens, you’ll need to know its widest (or maximum) aperture setting. It is located on the side, or end, of the lens and will look something like this 1:3.5-5.6.

For example, here it is on my Canon 18-55mm zoom lens.

Lens aperture range

This means that when my lens is zoomed all the way out, its widest aperture is f/3.5. When zoomed all the way in, its widest aperture is f/5.6.

The rule to finding that mid-range sweet spot, is to count up two full f-stops (aperture settings are called f-stops) from the widest aperture. On my lens, the widest aperture is f/3.5. Two full stops from there would bring me to a sweet spot of around f/7.

Use this chart to count your f-stops

Robin Parmar

By Robin Parmar

There is some wiggle room in the mid-range, so anything from f/7 to f/10 will capture a sharp image. Once you know the mid-range of your lens, you can do an easy test to get your sharpest image. To perform the test you’ll need to shoot in Aperture Priority mode.

Take control with Aperture Priority Mode

Shooting in Aperture Priority allows you to choose the aperture setting you want, which gives you more creative control than Automatic mode. By controlling the aperture setting, it’s much easier to get a sharp image, and because your camera still chooses the ISO (if you are set to Auto ISO) and shutter speed automatically, it’s very easy to use.

You’ve probably heard that apertures like f/16 and f/22 are best for keeping everything in focus. While that can be true, focus does not always equal overall sharpness. Choosing a mid-range aperture will give you sharper images throughout. You can improve them even further by reducing camera shake with a tripod and a remote shutter release (or your camera’s self-timer).

Here’s an example of how shooting in your lens’ sweet spot will give you sharper images.

Sharp images shot in lens sweet spot

Mid range f stop sharper than small f stop

In the above split-image, the f/9 image is sharper than the f/22 one. The needles and shadows are not as soft or blurry as in the f/22 shot (look at the crispness and sparkles in the snow too).

Switching from Automatic to Aperture Priority Mode

To take your camera out of Automatic and put it in Aperture Priority, just turn the large Mode Dial to Aperture Priority. This is what that looks like on my Canon (on Nikon and other brans look for the A).

Aperture priority on canon mode dial

Automatic mode is the green rectangle; Aperture Priority mode is the Av (or A on a Nikon). Once your camera is in Aperture Priority mode, turn the smaller Main Dial (shown here on the top of my Canon) to choose your f-stop.

Main dial canon

As you turn that dial, you’ll see the f-number changing on your screen. In the next picture, it’s set to f/9.5.

Aperture setting on canon LCD screen

Perform a Lens Sweet Spot Test

Once you have your camera set up on a tripod, performing a sweet spot test only takes a couple of minutes. To begin, put your camera in Aperture Priority mode, then compose your shot and take a photo at varying apertures. Start out with the widest, then click that main dial a couple of times (to the right) and take another. Keep doing that until you’ve taken seven or eight photos.

Upload your photos to your computer and zoom in on them. You’ll quickly see which aperture settings gave you the sharpest overall image.

This next photo of my daughter was shot using natural light. Shooting in my lens’ sweet spot gave me a pretty sharp image, even in this low light setting.

Mid range aperture sharp image low light

Find your lens sweet spot for sharper images

The close up of the mugs shows the advantage of shooting in the lens’ sweet spot. Whenever you want to make sure you get the sharpest capture possible, take a shot at each mid-range setting f/7, f/8, f/9, and f/10.

Getting Your Sharpest Images

Now that you know your lens’ sweet spot, it’s time to practice. I hope you’re as pleased with the results as I’ve been!

Mid range aperture for sharper images

I love shooting in natural light, and learning how to capture sharper images in low light has made me so much happier with my photos.

Tips for capturing your sharpest images:

  • Shoot in Aperture Priority mode
  • Choose a mid-range aperture (usually f/7 to f/10)
  • Use a tripod and a remote shutter release (or your camera’s self-timer) to reduce camera shake
  • Take a series of shots at f/7 through f/10 when a sharp capture is especially important

But don’t stop here. Keep playing with settings in Aperture priority mode. It’s awesome to get images that are sharp throughout, but there’s a lot more to aperture than that.

Learn more about aperture and depth of field here.

Do you have any lens sweet spot tips to share? Please do so by commenting below.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Dena Haines is a photographer and content marketer. She blogs about GoPro and action camera photography on Click Like This. Check out: 32 Cool Things to Do with a GoPro.

  • Penny Goodstein

    I am relatively new to non-automatic camera photography and I am trying to learn about my camera. I followed the article, using my Canon 18-135 mm lens (my favorite). I put ISO on A (automatic.) I tried shooting in AP mode. Every picture came out WAY overexposed. What did I do wrong?

  • DavidR8

    Did you have any luck sorting this out Penny?

  • Penny Goodstein

    no. I tried several lenses, thinking perhaps it was the lens. EVERY time I try to use AV mode it comes out blurred and overexposed.
    Up to now I have taken a shot with automatic, then switched to manual and played with the settings. I have gotten some good shots that way. I like changing the aperture, but AV isn’t working for me.

  • DavidR8

    Interesting.
    When you set up a shot, where is the indicator the exposure meter in your viewfinder?
    Is it on the + end of the scale?

  • Penny Goodstein

    It is. I didn’t notice that before. How do I correct that?

  • Penny Goodstein

    It is. I didn’t notice that before. How do I correct that?

  • DavidR8

    I don’t know what model Canon you’re using so it’s a bit hard to give exact instructions. Basically you need to adjust the exposure compensation.
    I recommend digging out you manual and looking in the section dedicated to Av mode for some guidance or in the index for something like “exposure compensation”.
    It will be pretty easy to do 🙂

  • Penny Goodstein

    THANK YOU! I found it in the manual.

  • bundle of joy

    @fedeopfinger:disqus it is a good suggestion for pure focal distance http://bundleofjoy.co.in/

  • mushtak

    thanks dear these tips help me lot to improve my photograhy. i want to learn some more of these kind of tips. is there any book which have these kind of camera skils?

  • Akbar

    When to use Aperture f10 to f22

  • Stephen Walter

    It’s really even easier than that. On my Cannon T6s, F stops are measured off in 1/3 increments. All I need to do is roll the wheel till it clicks 3 times and I have moved one full stop. For those who are mathematically challenged, this is truly the fool proof way to go.

Join Our Email Newsletter

Thanks for subscribing!


DPS offers a free weekly newsletter with: 
1. new photography tutorials and tips
2. latest photography assignments
3. photo competitions and prizes

Enter your email below to subscribe.
Email:
 
 
Get DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS feed