Sharper photos

Sharp image of a rose.
Incorrect focus leading to blurred image of the a rose.
Camera shaking leading to blurred image of the a rose.

Sharp

Camera shake

Every now and again you might have been frustrated by the odd blurred image, but once you know that there are only really two causes of blur – missed focus and movement (either by the subject or the camera) – it becomes easy to avoid it. Here are a few tips to help you take sharp shots every time.

Get a firm hold

Holding a camera far away from your body, without adequate support.
Holding a camera close to your face or body, providing support.

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Supported

Stand with your feet facing towards the subject of your photo, about shoulder width apart. Grasping the camera firmly, hold it close to your body, with your elbows tucked in against your chest for extra support. If you’re using a viewfinder, your face can also help to brace the camera.

Leaning against a solid object such as a wall or table can help to steady the camera more, as can pulling the camera strap tightly around your elbow.

When you take the photo, press the shutter button down smoothly rather than jabbing it. Try to keep the camera as still as you can while taking the shot. Some cameras display a blinking camera icon in Auto Mode or Hybrid Auto Mode, to warn you that an image is more likely to be blurred by camera shake.

Shutter speed

If the shutter speed is too low, you’ll struggle to hold the camera still during the exposure and you’ll end up with a blurred image. You can check the shutter speed in the viewfinder or Quick Control screen. Ideally you want to use a shutter speed that is at least as fast as the 'effective' focal length – which is the focal length of the lens multiplied by the crop factor of the APS-C-sized sensor (x 1.6). For example, with a 50mm lens, you should aim for a shutter speed of 1/80 second. You may need an even faster shutter speed if your subject is moving. If your camera has a Sports mode, it will automatically try to set faster shutter speeds, although the easiest way to control shutter speed is to use Shutter Priority (Tv) mode.

Image Stabilizer

Lenses that include 'IS' in their name feature Image Stabilizer technology. Some cameras also have in-body Image Stabilizer (IBIS) that reduces the effect of camera shake, even if your lens doesn’t have Image Stabilizer. When a lens with Image Stabilizer is used, IBIS works in combination with the lens. IS and IBIS reduce the effects of camera shake so that you can shoot at slower shutter speeds and still get sharp results. It’s important to note that IS can only compensate for camera shake and not subject movement (you'll still need a relatively fast shutter speed for a sharp photo).

To enable the Image Stabilizer function of an RF, EF or EF-S IS lens, use the switch on the lens. It's worth turning off IS when the camera is fixed to a tripod, otherwise it may create a slightly blurred result.

When a lens with Image Stabilizer is used, IBIS works in combination with the lens to reduce camera shake at significantly slower shutter speeds. IBIS is enabled by default, but it’s worth turning off IBIS when the camera is on a tripod, otherwise it may create a slightly blurred result. When you turn off the lens IS, IBIS will be switched off too, for lenses without IS, turn off IBIS in the camera menu.

Using a tripod

A tripod will help you get the best results from your camera by letting you use the low sensitivity (ISO) settings when light levels fall or you’re using a small aperture. It enables your camera to remain stationary in the perfect shooting position, making it a great addition to your kit for shooting landscape, still life and macro subjects.

When your camera is fixed to a tripod or resting on a stable surface, use the two-second self-timer or a remote release to take the picture rather than pressing down on the shutter release button. Alternatively, you can control a Wi-Fi-enabled camera using the Camera Connect app on a mobile device.

Focusing

Your camera’s autofocusing system should get the image sharp for you, unless there's something between the camera and the main subject that could divert the focus. If you manually select an AF point rather than letting the camera do this automatically, you can then make sure that it is over the right part of the scene.

Choosing the aperture

Changing the aperture allows you to control the depth of field in your image. Small apertures, such as f/22, provide lots of depth of field, which means more of your image will appear sharp. Large apertures, such as f/2.8, reduce the depth of field, so just a small area of the picture appears to be in focus.

You might think it would be sensible to choose a small aperture most of the time, but small apertures reduce the amount of light available and this can lead to slower shutter speeds and a greater chance of blurred photos.

Large apertures let in lots of light to enable faster shutter speeds, but the shallow depth of field means that any focusing errors will be noticeable.

Choosing an aperture somewhere in the middle of the range, such as f/8, often gives the best compromise of depth of field and shutter speed. You can take control of aperture in Aperture Priority (Av) and Manual (M) exposure modes.

Setting sensitivity (ISO)

The ISO speed determines how much light your camera needs to capture an image. In bright conditions you can use a low ISO for the best picture quality, but in low light you may need to increase the ISO to prevent the shutter speed from becoming too slow for sharp pictures. Even in bright light, you may want to set a higher ISO to enable shutter speeds that are fast enough to freeze moving subjects or to reduce the effects of camera shake.

You can, of course, let the camera set the ISO automatically by using Auto ISO. Check the results you get and then experiment with different settings.

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