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


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.

  • Sandra Ducot

    Very good advice that I’m going to try.

  • Spoonydawg

    great info…just got a d810… I think I’m over my head… but its fun drowning…

  • Thazin Oo

    I can’t simply understand how f/7-9 could be mid way between f/3.5 and f/5.6.
    The chart you referred to did not explain. I tried aperture priority mode and it does not provide any sensible answer.

  • Majekodunmi Olaolu

    this is a really great and befitting article i find resourceful,but i have a question i thought when using a higher aperture the outcome of images are dark,but the sample pictures are still a lot brighter or is that the change has to be countered by increasing the ISO?

  • or adjusting the shutter speed

  • Akay

    Being a student of science, and hence of Optics included,
    BRAVO !

  • So why cant there just be a table of each lens sweet spot? I am assuming it is pretty much constant regardless of the camera it is fixed to?

  • Jschneir

    Another B.S. artcle. What good does shooting at the sweet spot of your lens when the shutter speed is to slow to capture a sharp image? I tell my students to set their ISO as high as they can without getting muddy images and then shoot in shutter priority. The camera will adjust the aperture. Yes, you may not be in the sweetest aperture but at least you will have an acceptable image. Yes, on some cameras you can set the ISO to operate within an acceptable range and still get great images, and yes, a few may be a bit dark but that is a hell of a lot better than a blurred image with good blacks and whites.

  • Sandip Manna

    I have recently bought Canon 1300d & 18-55 mm Kit lens and follow the tips & tutorials for improvement.

    I have a question about focal length. In auto focus mode may I adjust focal length manually? This is important for Depth of field.

  • Amaren

    Helpful article. Considering the sweet spot, can I achieve the better sharpness and shallow depth of field together? For a high end lens with f 1.4, when to use the aperture 1.4

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