How can I take sharper photos?


Oct 5th, 2017, 03:24 AM
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How can I take sharper photos?

(I'm asking here, because I know there are a bunch of good photographers here.)

What is the best way to take sharper, clearer photos? I just take touristy snaps -- I'm the most amateur-ish of amateurs -- but I am often disappointed by the lack of sharpness in my photos, and Photoshop only helps so much.

I use a Nikon D-something dslr, and just the lens it came with. Also, I keep it on automatic settings for everything. (I am basically lugging around a really heavy point-and-shoot camera.)

Would a different lens help? Any other advice?
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Oct 5th, 2017, 03:31 AM
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Do you mean they are out of focus?

I I have traveled with several different light weight point-and-shoot cameras, usually with manual overrides I don't use, and as much zoom as I can get, and have no complaints about focus. I think you need a new camera. I have been happiest with the Panasonic Lumix brand.
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Oct 5th, 2017, 03:36 AM
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No, my photos are in focus, they just don't have that ultra-sharpness and clarity that it seems to me that more professional photos do have.

It can't be all lighting, can it?
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Oct 5th, 2017, 03:42 AM
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You should test out your camera by taking pictures of people, objects. See if those images are crisp, and if not, head to the camera store. But do realize most OTC point-and-shoot cameras are designed for taking pictures of people/family/children/pets. So discuss with the vendor your desire to have crisper panoramas when you travel.

We might differ in taste, but 99 percent of the photos I see accompanying trip reports are touristy, in that they are flat shots of some very beautiful place -- which of course is beautiful to see even in a picture but has little interest as a photograph.

To me a non-touristy photo of a place tells a story about that place, an unexpected or new story. It's not just a nicely framed snapshot of a picturesque locale I've seen umpteen times before. (My favorite non-touristy photos have human beings in them.)
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Oct 5th, 2017, 03:51 AM
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Hi Pavot

I would definitely recommend taking a course to learn how to use your camera. You have invested a lot of money and by using the auto settings you may as well just bring along a point and shoot. I did this for a long time and the course I took changed how I use my camera drastically. It teaches you about how the camera works with light and once you understand that with practise you will learn how to adjust your settings to ensure you get the best picture in the given light.

I am not sure what you mean by sharpness. Taking pictures in sun means there can be lots of contrast in the lighting, so if you have lots of shadows that may be it?

I hope this helps - if you can be clearer about what you mean I can perhaps help further.
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Oct 5th, 2017, 03:56 AM
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Not to be snarky, but most people do not read the manual that came with the camera. I didn't, anyway.
I would not invest in a course, but read the manual and try to take some photos with it.

When I finally got tired of looking at blurry photos, I finally read the manual and got outstanding photos.

Or maybe - if you wear glasses - like I do - you should see your eye doctor.
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Oct 5th, 2017, 03:57 AM
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Hi again

If your shots are in focus are you disappointed by the photo itself?

I think the single biggest thing people can learn about is composition. You can take great photos on your phone if you know about composition. A good book on photo composition can transform your pictures. Look up the 'rule of thirds' as a starting point.

A lot of pics that I see don't have a focus. So they are a picture of a scene for example, but there is no subject of focus (person, church tower, fountain, element of a statue etc). To me that leads to just a boring photograph because it is a picture of nothing of interest really.

I hope that makes sense!
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Oct 5th, 2017, 04:30 AM
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Determine also why you are taking the picture -- and whether you want a great travel photo or a snapshot of what you saw to keep for yourself or proud to show other people.

If your use of a camera when you travel is basically to have it handy while you walk around snapping at everything you see that delights you, talk it over with the vendor or take a camera course about how to snap efficiently & accurately for what you want. But a willingness to actually spend time to see more and snap less when you visit someplace new to you is an interesting way to travel.
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Oct 5th, 2017, 04:43 AM
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Some cameras take a second to adjust to the distance. Also check your batteries
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Oct 5th, 2017, 05:00 AM
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A photo can be in focus but not be sharp due to several things. One is camera shake. Is it possible your camera is selecting too slow a shutter speed for the focal length of your lens, and you are not holding it steady enough? Can you post the shutter speed and focal length used for one of the photos you are not happy with?

Also the kit lenses that come with many otherwise decent cameras are often not the sharpest kit on the block. (Pun intended, I guess.) Look at reviews for your lens and see if it gets dinged for poor sharpness, especially at certain apertures. Most lenses are sharpest at the middle range, usually between f8-f11.
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Oct 5th, 2017, 05:03 AM
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You have a sensitive eye and I believe I may know exactly what you are talking about. It is called image noise or digital noise. In a digital camera, it has to do with how light is reflected around the pixels and the type and size of sensors on the camera. In earlier, low pixel number cameras, there was actually less pixel related noise because the pixels were larger and light was less scattered at the edges of images. Higher pixel numbers give more definition within the image, but also create more rather than less noise. As pixel numbers and optical numbers increased, manufactures have done things (which I do not fully understand) to help eliminate the noise. In reviews of cameras, sometimes reviewers will mention noise issues.

I am not sure exactly how, but zooms at max can also affect noise levels.

I have a great Panasonic LUMIX and while I like the Camera and all it does, plus it is light weight, it does have some noise depending on distance and settings, and I find it annoying and disappointing. Some photos I took with one earlier digital (can't remember if it was a Cannon or Kodak) were superb in that respect.

Know that using a long zoom may make it more noticible. There is also something called jitter. I find it almost impossible to hold a camera completely still, and that can be a problem. Most cameras have stabilizers to eliminate that, but sometimes a tripod helps. So a different camera or lens will likely not solve the issue for you, except in the case of a different type of sensor and I do not know what is best. The best you can do is learn more about your camera and the settings.

There is more to understand, which I do not know, regarding optics, pixels, noise and sensors, but you get the idea. Read the article I linked above for an understanding of noise, versus jitter, versus focus. Hope this helps.
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Oct 5th, 2017, 05:03 AM
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I have the same camera as you do. It does take a few seconds to settle down and focus.
It helps if you can steady your arm or hand on a support of some kind. Maybe a tripod would help.
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Oct 5th, 2017, 05:06 AM
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Most digital cameras have sensors that are packed densely enough with pixels (measured in the millions, i.e. megapixels or mp) that they exceed the "grain" that one had in film media. Unless you're enlarging the image way beyond the "normal" level (for example by severely cropping an image so that just one corner is being used for the whole image) it's unusual for "grain" to be a source of loss of sharpness.

And most DSLRs come with lenses that are more than adequate to generate very sharp images. But three factors that are still important are sensitivity, shutter speed and the degree of enlargement.

On "full auto" many cameras increase the ISO (what we used to call the "ASA") - the sensitivity of the sensor element - so that the fastest shutter speed is possible. That will do two things. First, it means not every pixel is acting independently, so that there is bigger "grain" on closer (microscopic) examination, and second, it will cause the aperture - the lens's ability to close partly - to remain more open, which in turn decreases the "depth of field," which is the distance from the lens in which things are in sharp focus. The camera lets more light hit the sensor in the shortest possible time.

The final and most important element is the degree of enlargement. First, the camera's built-in programming needs to "compress" the data coming from the sensor in order to keep saved images from being so big (in data terms) that you can't fit too many on a standard memory card. If you save images as "jpegs" they take up way less memory than if you save them as "raw" images.

That data compression basically merges the individual pixels into clumps (that's not really accurate but it will do) so that the data is more compact when it's saved.

But when you enlarge that image in order to print it, publish it on a website or blog, or to send it to someone as an email attachment, the process of enlarging doesn't restore the individual pixels that the camera amalgamated in the first place. The result is that the image loses sharpness.

Here are two versions of a picture I took earlier this year in Seattle. The first one - - is what came out of the camera. This one - - is the same picture after I changed its brightness, cropped it, and shrunk it so that it fits on most people's computer monitors or phones. The second image obviously contains much less detail than the first. If I were printing the image on a big sheet of photo paper (say 16 x 20 inches for framing) I'd use the bigger image in order to capture as much detail as possible.

So this is long winded, but the punchline(s) are: (a) using "auto" settings on your camera can lead to less sharp images, which in most instances will be fine; and (b) reducing the file size and/or cropping images once saved will also result in lost detail. These can be compensated - within reason - using photo software; look at "sharpness" or "edge" controls, but as with soft focus, the computer can't add detail that another computer already took away.
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Oct 5th, 2017, 05:44 AM
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All great advice above!

This is the type of thing you learn on a course. Once you understand how your camera works, and how changing the settings (ISO, shutter speed, aperture etc) will impact your photos you can manipulate things to ensure your photo quality is high.

I needed someone to walk me through these things and demonstrate, so I found a course valuable. We got homework that forced me to practise. It is so easy to forget if you don't actively use what you have learned.
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Oct 5th, 2017, 06:01 AM
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Place the main object in your photos at the intersection of the rule of thirds as mentioned by jamikins

be aware of the light - avoid shooting into the sun

put something interesting in the foreground
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Oct 5th, 2017, 06:05 AM
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Just chiming in to say that this is all really great advice. I am currently looking at getting a mirrorless camera to take on a trip to Rome in November, and the reviews I look at often talk about noise, sensor size, megapixels, stabilization, and everything else mentioned above. There is so much that can go into creating a crisp photo, so all of the info being shared is helpful.

Sorry to hijack, carry on!
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Oct 5th, 2017, 06:20 AM
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pavot -
I hear you. The photos are in focus but aren't crisp and lack a beautiful clarity. I'd consider looking at a new lens. Some of the kit lenses are fine and some are disappointing. I often prefer using a prime lens as they are just faster and pull in more light.

I use a mirrorless camera (an Olympus OM-D EM5) and the lens I have on it most often is a prime lens, 25mm. I use the viewfinder and not the LCD because I find I compose better with that tool and then the camera is at my head and more likely to be level and with no shake.

The dpreview website and forums have a wealth of info and help at all skill levels.
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Oct 5th, 2017, 06:37 AM
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There has been some very good information offered here, and it's always best to read the book that comes with the camera. It does help.

Nikon entry level cameras typically come with a mini-zoom lens as part of a kit, like the D3400 with a 18-55mm F3.5-F5.6 VR Lens. The VR stands for Vibration Reduction for the sharpest handheld photos and videos. VR can help a lot, but if nothing else, try using a tripod or monopod.

If your images still appear out of focus, you may need to have the camera checked to see if the sensor is functioning properly. Nikons can take a pretty good beating and still work without any problem, but if you've dropped it once too often, or if moisture has gotten into the camera, you should have it checked by a professional.
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Oct 5th, 2017, 06:43 AM
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If using a Mac at home, try Photoscape X, which has several features that might help you. It offers a dehazing, a vibrance, and a clarity feature. The program is free.
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Oct 5th, 2017, 06:59 AM
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pavot, it might help if you could post a link to a few examples to show what you are talking about. Perhaps a Flickr or Google Photos account or something?

"Camera shake" is worse the slower the shutter speed, which tends to be slower the less light there is. The longer your camera's shutter is open to allow light in to capture the image (slower the shutter speed), the more likely the image is to be "shaky" or blurry.

A snapshot taken on a clear, sunny day should give you a crisp, sharp picture; a snapshot taken at dusk or on a cloudy day or inside a building gives the camera lens much less light and requires slower shutter speed or other adjustments (ISO or aperture aka "f-stop") to capture the image with less light.

Are pictures you shoot in good, bright light not sharp? if not, then camera shake is probably not your problem. If those are sharp but pictures shot without good light are shaky, then camera shake may be your problem.
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