Anne Jensen Photography: Family and Wedding Photography in Colorado Springs, Falcon and Monument, CO » Anne Jensen photographs families and weddings in Colorado Springs

Just a note before we begin- the techniques that I talk about in this tutorial are best applied when you are shooting in manual, or a partial manual mode on your camera. Not sure how? Stay tuned… I’m working on another tutorial that should help.

How to get sharp, clear images. A few simple tips for clearer, sharper pictures.

1. Focus

Can you see the difference between these two images?

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 9.09.25 AM

It’s easier to see if we zoom in…

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 9.09.09 AM

The left image is nice and sharp; you can see her individual eyelashes. The image on the right is out of focus. Her eye is a blur.

Making sure your image is perfectly in focus is the first step to sharp images.

There are several things that can cause missed focus:

  • Too slow of a shutter speed
  • Too large of an aperture (really low f-stop number)
  • Movement- if you or your subject move after focus is locked

And a few tips for making sure to nail your focus:

  • Keep your shutter speed high enough- a general rule is to keep your shutter speed twice as fast as the length of your lens. 50mm lens- >1/100 shutter speed. I like to keep mine above 200 just to be safe, but sometimes I will go down to 100 if I need the extra light.
  • A wide aperture (low number) produces a very small focal plane, so it’s easy to miss focus. Close your lens down slightly to give yourself a little more room. Try somewhere around 2.8 or a little higher. With practice, you can nail focus at wide apertures.
  • Steady yourself- make sure your arms are tucked against your body.

2. Light

sharp clear image tutorial

The only thing I changed on this image was to lower the exposure. When your image is correctly exposed it will be nice and clear. If it’s too dark, or underexposed, it looks sort of muddy.

When I took this image, I opened the window shades and turned her towards them. This ensured a nice, even light on her face that is very flattering. If she was turned away from the light, or placed in the shadows, then the image wouldn’t be as clear, and the catchlights in her eyes wouldn’t have been as bright.

3. Sharpening

unsharp mask settings in photoshop

In post-processing, the last step I take before sharing an image is to sharpen it. I use the Unsharp Mask in Photoshop, starting with amount: 300, radius: 2, threshold: 2, and play around until it looks right. You don’t want to over bake it, or it starts to look funny:

over baked too sharp picture in photoshop


Here’s the before and after sharpening for comparison:

using the unsharp mask in photoshop to sharpen your pictures

If you have any questions about this tutorial, or would like to request another, please let me know using the contact form above, or comment below!

  • Amy Ek - Anne! This is super helpful!!! I would love more how to tutorials from you. I love how you give examples and are really great at explaining what you are talking about. I want to buy photoshop but am trying to decide if I should get photoshop Lightroom instead of elements or get regular Adobe Photoshop. What do you think about Photoshop Lightroom?ReplyCancel

    • annejphoto - Hey Amy! So glad you found this helpful.

      When I started photography years ago, I got Lightroom. I soon found out that there were things I wanted to do that I needed Photoshop for, so I purchased Elements as well. I wish I’d known then what I know now, cause I wouldn’t have wasted my money buying 2 versions of Lightroom! It’s a good program, but you can do everything you need and more with just Elements (or regular photoshop, but elements is a great starting point).

      Here’s a helpful article from someone who really knows his stuff:

      And in case you’re curious- right now I use Photoshop CS6 along with Bridge (for viewing and organizing)ReplyCancel

  • Brandi Williamson - Great post!! Thank you for sharing. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Dominique - What a great tutorial! So easy to follow and I like the examples you gave with it.ReplyCancel

  • Nicole S. - What a great tutorial! I use Lightroom and probably don’t use sharpening as strategically as I could. Look forward to trying this out!ReplyCancel

  • Chelsie - Great post!!ReplyCancel

  • Justyna - Great tutorial!ReplyCancel

  • Melissa KLein - Great post – very informative.ReplyCancel

I often like to take recipes and tweak them to suit my family’s needs. If found this one on Food Network, and adjusted a few ingredients. They are fantastic! I keep making them with the intent to freeze some for later, but they never make it that far.

whole wheat blueberry muffin recipe made with honey, no refined sugar


Better-for-you Blueberry Muffins

an adaptation of blueberry whole wheat muffins

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, pastry or regular
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup blueberries

Mix dry and wet ingredients separately, then fold together, adding blueberries at the end.

Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees; until the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Cool on wire rack.

Makes 12 muffins