Friday, April 4, 2014

Sharper Photographs

      There are a lot of factors that can contribute to a photos sharpness or lack of it. Sharpness is important especially when printing larger images as this will magnify any deficiencies. There are many programs out there that can clarify and sharpen photographs, even reduce camera shake. But, as in all areas of photography, if you can get it right when taking the picture, the results will be much better. Are there any techniques that can be done in the field that will help make one's images sharper, even before the post processing stage. The answer is yes!
     Notice these photos of a corner of a picture frame. I used an 18-200mm lens zoomed out all the way as I thought this would exaggerate any shake. Then I made approximately 100% crops of a portion of the photo.     The first photo was shot at f8 to bring the shutter speed down to 1/4 second. The following four photos were shot at f22 for a 1 second shutter speed, settings fairly common in landscape photography. With these settings it is definitely possible to have a blurry image.

Picture #1- handheld, vibration reduction on lens turned on  f8 1/4 second
Picture#2- tripod. f22 1 second
Picture#3-tripod, remote shutter release. f22 1second
Picture#4- tripod, remote shutter release, mirror lock up f22 1 second
Picture#5- tripod, remote shutter release, mirror lock up, vibration reduction on lens turned off  f22 1 second
    The results are interesting. Picture #1 turned out not too bad considering it was handheld. No doubt the VR on the lens and the f8 setting helped. Surely we could improve. So for Picture #2 I put the camera on a tripod. WOW! Way worse! Even though the camera is on a stable tripod, it looks like my pressing the shutter button caused some camera shake. The biggest improvement came in Picture #3 where I used a remote shutter release. This eliminated that issue. Can we improve the sharpness even further? Yes, although the improvements were small in this test, they are sharper pictures. Picture #4 shows the results of locking up the mirror before pressing the shutter. Normally the mirror moves when taking a picture and some say this can cause a vibration. Finally, in Picture #5, I added one more step. I turned off Vibration Reduction on my lens. While VR is very helpful when shooting handheld, some feel it can degrade the sharpness of an image when the camera is on a tripod. And looking closely at this unscientific test, I would tend to agree.
   So what have we learned? I was surprised at how bad the quality was when putting the camera on a tripod as you would think this would automatically make the picture better.  For me, the biggest improvement was seen using a remote shutter release. Using the timer on your camera and setting the shutter to release a few seconds after you press the button would also help. Hope you find this informative!

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