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.
Can you see the difference between these two images?
It’s easier to see if we zoom in…
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.
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.
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:
Here’s the before and after sharpening for comparison:
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!