Monday, August 29, 2011
How Not To Make Sharp Photos—08/29/11
Seven tips for blurry photos at every turn
|This Article Features Photo Zoom|
1. Never use a tripod. I hand-hold everything, regardless of the slow shutter speed. Working in the dark at 1/15th of a second? No problem! If for some reason I’m forced to use a tripod to hold the camera steady, I definitely never rely on a cable release or the mirror-lockup feature to keep camera shake to a minimum.
2. Use a slower shutter speed, especially with a long lens. You know that rule about using a shutter speed that’s equivalent to the length of the lens? Like, if you’re using a 400mm lens you need to shoot at 1/400th of a second or faster? Ignore it. Completely. I hand-hold with normal lenses well below 1/60th of a second all the time, and I love that my photos are blurry because of it.
3. Misuse image stabilization. I bought a lens with vibration reduction specifically because I knew it would help me make blurrier pictures. How? Because I use it at ridiculously slow shutter speeds that it definitely can’t help—after all, it’s only good for a couple of stops of hand-holdability. Even more, though, I make sure that if somebody tricks me into putting my camera on a tripod that I keep the IS switched on. It’s actually counterproductive in that case and it will ensure my pictures have motion blur.
4. Autofocus all the time. I know it's difficult to use autofocus in low light, but that's why it's so effective at making my pictures blurry. It's not motion blur, this time, it's simple out-of-focus blurriness. The darker the better, as far as I'm concerned, even though I could probably focus more effectively with manual focus in these situations, that would make my pictures too darn sharp! The other time I make sure to use autofocus is if I'm shooting a subject that's just not moving. Let's say my camera is stationary and so is the subject. Why would I need to autofocus every time? I don't! But doing so just ups the chances that I'll get a missed focal point and end up with a nice blurry picture. (Better yet, sometimes I make sure to use the wrong AF mode—continuous focus—so it's constantly searching for a focus point to no avail.
6. Never use a flash. I read somewhere that flash durations are super-fast—like 1/5000th of a second. No way am I risking using a flash then, because a flash exposure like that could freeze a fast-moving subject in perfect sharpness without even trying. Flash exposures also mean that I can use faster shutter speeds too, which also hurts my chances of producing a blurry photo. I go ambient all the way, even when it's dark and a flash would "help."
7. Don't use good posture or a good grip. The way you stand and hold your camera have a huge impact on the sharpness of your photos, so instead of standing with my feet shoulder width apart, elbows in to my stomach to brace the camera and lens with two steady hands, taking a deep breath and slowly exhaling at the moment of exposure. Instead of that, I just shoot one-handed without ever worrying about steadying my camera. It works wonders, as my pictures are rarely sharp. I definitely never lean my body on a stationary object to help steady the camera, because trust me that works great for sharp photos in almost any scenario.
8. Don't harness the power of post-production sharpening to set the picture's sharpness precisely to its use. If you wanted the perfect sharpness in your photos, you might add more sharpness to an image destined for printing on matte paper because the ink is more likely to bleed and make the image appear less sharp. You might also use a little less sharpening for an image destined for glossy paper, and even less for an image set to be seen only on screen. But not me. I don't mess with sharpness at all. It's the best way I know to make sure my unsharp photos stay that way. You'll never see me using the Clarity or Detail sliders in Lightroom to boost sharpness, nor will I touch the Unsharp Mask or Smart Sharpen filters in Photoshop.