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5 Ways to Take Stunningly Sharp Images

You can take sharp images. You can take them consistently, quickly, efficiently. However, you just may not realize it yet.

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The Problem

The thing is, getting acceptably sharp images is a common problem among photographers. It’s something that I myself often struggled with getting consistently. I can’t tell you the number of times I used to come home, only to find my memory cards full of blurry or out of focus images.

I used to think the problem was my camera optics. In order to take pin-sharp images, I thought I needed a top of the line camera and lens. But it turns out that, when it comes to sharpness, the problem is generally the photographer (or the choices that the photographer makes).

And fortunately, that problem is very easy to fix.

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In this tutorial, you’ll learn five ways that you can get sharp images. And then, next time you go out shooting, you’ll consistently take pin-sharp images. Sound good? Read on to find out how.

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1. Use a fast enough shutter speed

When you press the shutter button on your camera, the internal sensor is briefly exposed to the light. This is how the camera actually captures an image.

The length of time that the sensor is exposed to the light is called the shutter speed.

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Depending on your camera settings, the sensor might be exposed to the light for a long period of time (a slow shutter speed) or a short period of time (a fast shutter speed).

One of the main reasons your images are coming back blurry is that you’re not using a fast enough shutter speed. If you use a slow shutter speed, then your camera sensor remains open to the light for too long. It captures too much. That is, it captures motion.

But if you want to freeze the motion and capture only a sliver of a second so that everything is crystal clear, frozen. To do this, you need a fast shutter speed.

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Fortunately, it’s not difficult to do this. In your camera’s settings, you can generally increase the shutter speed. Or you can use the Action (Sports) setting, which many cameras have.

Even if your subject isn’t moving, your hands might not be rock-steady. This causes camera shake which in turn causes image blur.

A faster shutter speed will help fix this.

2. Tuck in your elbows

A shutter speed increase solves many issues with blurry photographs. But what if you can’t use a fast shutter speed?

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When the light is low, for instance, when you’re indoors or when you’re outside at night – a fast shutter speed lets in too little light, causing the image to be dark (we call this underexposure). Your camera will compensate for the low light by keeping the shutter open for longer, exposing the sensor to more light.

This is when it becomes important to eliminate camera shake completely. If the camera shakes, your image will come out blurred. So how do you stop your camera from shaking?

The first way that I’m going to talk about is simple: You tuck in your elbows. Don’t shoot with your arms out. Instead, firmly grip your camera while pulling your elbows in. This will serve to stabilize the camera and reduce camera shake.

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I tucked in my elbows in order to get a sharp shot of my model in low light.

3. Stabilize your body against a wall (or the ground!)

Sometimes, tucking in your elbows isn’t enough. If the light is really low, you may need to take more drastic measures to reduce camera shake.

One big tip is to stabilize your body against a feature of the landscape, something solid.

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When photographing birds, I often stabilize my elbows against the ground, ensuring a sharper image. If you’re a street photographer, for instance, you can search for walls to lean against. If you’re a landscape photographer, you can hold onto a rock or tree.

It also helps to get down on the ground. You can kneel and stabilize your arms on your knee. Or you can get down on your stomach and use the grass, concrete or dirt as a stabilizer for your camera.

Trust me, it works!

4. Use a tripod

I’ve been talking a lot about stabilizing your camera, and the ways I’ve suggested will generally work well, especially if you’re in a pinch. But there is a more dedicated solution – use a tripod.

With a good tripod, you can completely eliminate camera shake. This will do wonders for keeping your images sharp.

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I used a tripod to capture this image of a musician at night.

There are a few downsides to using a tripod, however. The first is that you lose flexibility. It takes time to set up a new composition when you’re using a tripod, time that you might not want to spend. This is especially true if you’re photographing in a fast-paced atmosphere (e.g., portraiture or events).

The second downside is that good, solid tripods are expensive, especially if you want one that’s lightweight. Cheaper tripods may seem like a bargain, but they often don’t do the job well, or at all and replacing them costs more than buying one good one in the first place.

So be careful before choosing to invest in a good solid tripod.

5. Use a Shorter Lens

I have one more recommendation for eliminating blurry photographs, that is to use a shorter lens.

This is for a few reasons, but I’ll focus on the simplest one. A longer lens is harder to keep steady. It destabilizes the camera (and the image is magnified), and will, therefore, cause camera shake.

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I used a wide-angle lens to photograph this golden retriever as the sun dipped below the horizon.

Hence, this tip is short and sweet. Especially when shooting in low light, put away your longer lenses and your telephoto zooms. Bring out your wide-angle and portrait lenses, ones that you can easily hold steady.

That’s how you’ll take sharp images.


Capturing consistently sharp images may have seemed daunting, but I hope that you now realize the truth. Getting sharp images is easy!

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I urge you to get out and try these tips now.

  1. Use a fast shutter speed.
  2. Tuck in your elbows.
  3. Stabilize your body.
  4. If you want, invest in a tripod.
  5. Use a wider lens.

And admire those crystal clear images!

Do you have any other tips for taking sharper images? Please share them in the comments below.

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Jaymes Dempsey
Jaymes Dempsey

is the Managing Editor of Digital Photography School, as well as a macro and nature photographer from Ann Arbor, Michigan. To learn how to take stunning nature photos, check out his free eBook, Mastering Nature Photography: 7 Secrets For Incredible Nature Photos! And to see more of Jaymes’s work check out his website and his blog.

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