Want Sharper Photos? Do You Know These 6 Sharpness Stealing Thieves?

If you want to have sharper photos, like super tack sharp photos, you better start saving for a $1200 professional lens right?

Well, while a professional lens, might sound like a cure to your blurry photo woes, in reality, the vast majority of blurry photographs are not caused by the equipment, but rather the person who’s taking the photograph.

So before you go blaming your gear and maxing out another credit card, how about making sure you’re not falling victim to one of these sharpness stealing thieves first.

#1 – You Don’t Know The Shutter Speed Rule

sharper photos learn the shutter speed rule

There comes a point that it’s simply impossible for us humans to hold the camera steady. I don’t care how stable you think you are, if you’re getting blurry photos this is probably a good place to start.

The rule simply states that your shutter speed should be no slower than 1/(focal length). This means that if you’re photographing with a 50mm lens your minimum shutter speed should be 1/50th if you’re photographing with a 300mm lens your slowest speed should be 1/300th. If you’re on a crop sensor, say a 1.5x Nikon 7000 your minimum shutter speed becomes 1/450th.

Things get a bit murky at the wide end of the focal length spectrum where at less than 30mm you end up getting close to shutter speeds that are simply to slow to handhold regardless of your lens. Therefore I try to keep my handholding shutter speed no slower than 1/50th or so, but you’ll need to figure out which minimum works best for you.

#2 – You’re Using Cheap and Poor Quality Lens Filters

Your camera’s lenses are made with high quality glass and optics, but when you go onto Amazon and buy the cheapest UV filters you can find on your lens, you end up reducing the sharpness of your images. In general anything you put in front of your lens is going to affect the way the light hits your sensor and as a result will affect the sharpness of the final photograph. Higher quality filters are made with better glass and more precise manufacturing processes which reduce these effects.

When it comes to lens filters B+W is probably one of the best brands for quality and price. Check out the latest B+W Lens Filters on Amazon today.

#3 – Too Much Confidence in Your Tripod

sharper photos don't put too much faith in your tripod

Tripods are great in most situations, but if you’ve gone with a super budget option from Wal-Mart’s camera section, you might find that on a windy day it just can’t keep your camera steady.

A great budget tripod, the one I personally use, is the Manfrotto 190XB and it retails around $170. If you have a bit more money to spend, or want the best combination of strength and weight than I’d suggest going carbon fiber.

Regardless of what you pick though – the key is that there are situations where the tripod will fail you. High winds are certainly one of those situations. Forgetting to turn of your vibration reduction is another situation where your tripod might actually cause more blur than it’s stopping.

When using a tripod try to use a remote shutter release – or at the very least – the timer on your camera. This allows the camera to be as still as possible prior to your shot.

#4 – You Don’t Know What Diffraction is and How to Avoid It

Closing down the aperture to f/22 or f/36 might seem like a great idea if you’re trying to create an image that is sharp from foreground to background, however, there’s a little problem called diffraction that starts to work its way into the mix at these very tiny aperture values.

Basically what happens is that the light has to bounce around so much as it gets pushed through the tiny pin-hole opening that it bends and warps and you end up with a softer photograph in the end. Want more information on diffraction – check out Wikipedia.

Of course, there are times that you might need to use the super small f-stops in order to cut down on the brightness of mid-day light or if you wanted to blur water with a longer exposure. In these cases you might just have to deal with a photograph that’s a bit softer than you’d like given the conditions.

#5 – You’re terrified of shooting at higher than ISO 400

sharper photos don't be afraid of high ISO photography

Listen – if the lighting conditions aren’t there it’s better to have an image with a little bit of noise than a little bit of blur. It’s simply a much easier post production fix to reduce noise than it is to fix camera shake. Take a look at the photograph of Riley above. What ISO setting do you think it was shot at on my D7000? 500? 800? 1000? Not even close.

It was after sunset, inside a poorly lit room, without any additional lighting. Full EXIF – 165mm, f/5.0, 1/500th, ISO 4000!

#6 – You’re simply being lazy

Ultimately all of the reasons above, and the countless others that I’ve left off of this list, boil down to this final point which is simply that you’ve been lazy. So stop being lazy and make sure you’re not being robbed by these sharpness stealing thieves.

How Do You Ensure Sharper Photos?

Which ones have you suffered from? What else can you think of that might cause you to lose sharpness in your photos? Leave your response in the comments below!


  1. Ron

    just wanted to say that .. this website always inspired me …

  2. Nancy Stewart

    I take photos of senior and geriatric horses and find that the only way I can get clear sharp images are with the rapid fire (action) setting on my camera. Unless they are standing absolutely still…which doesn’t happen that often…and carting a tripod around sends them all into flight mode. Any suggestions?