Secrets to Obtaining Sharp Images: Steady as She Goes

McDill Pond, an impoundment on the Plover River, showing it’s morning splendor. Stevens Point, WI.

I have been capturing, producing and selling landscape images in central Wisconsin for over a decade.  Although not a professional photographer, I have achieved a certain measure of success with numerous large pieces displayed in prominent public locations through out the area.

I am often asked what type of camera I use.  After a little discussion about equipment, I usually try to turn the discussion to technique.  You see, most of these folks have better equipment than I had ten years ago when I first starting printing larger images. Typically they note having difficulty achieving sharp images.

Here is my single best piece of advice: take every effort to keep the camera as steady as possible when capturing an image.

How?

  1. Thou shall obtain a tripod and use it religiously.
  2. Thou shall read your camera’s instruction book and learn how use the self-timer; then use it religiously.
  3. Thou shall always use mirror lockup if using an SLR.

Most people have considered using a tripod but haven’t realized that is nearly impossible to keep the camera from moving when depressing the shutter button.  The camera even shakes a little when the SLR mirror swings up while taking an image.

Without following these commandments of camera stability, you can change the ISO, shutter speed, aperture, obtain new glass or a new camera and your image sharpness will still be compromised.

Now a confession, I do not follow my own advice all the time.  When I am traveling with my family, I do not even try to capture landscape images.  I carry a Canon G12 during these occasions. For critical images, I brace the camera against a steady surface.  The self-timer is easily accessed on the back of the camera. I do not have to worry about mirror lock-up.  This process works fairly well but there is not always a convenient steady surface to brace the camera against.

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