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6 Reasons Why Your Photos Aren’t Sharp

Blur can ruin a perfectly good image. Here's how to get better sharpness.
Photo of sharp portraits

Do you struggle to capture sharp photos? It’s a common problem with beginner photographers and it can be extremely frustrating.

How many times have you shot what seems to be the perfect photo in terms of subject matter and composition only to realize later the image looks slightly out of focus, blurry or generally “soft.” It can really ruin an image.

Fortunately, there are experienced photographers who have learned the hard way about the importance of image sharpness and how to achieve it. In the below video, professional portrait photographer Julia Trotti shares six reasons why your images are not sharp.

“A question I get asked all the time is how can I make my photos look sharper,” Trotti says. “Or, when I shoot, my photos just don’t look as sharp as yours. So, in today’s video I want to go through six main reason your photos are not sharp and how to fix it.”

All of these reasons for a lack of sharpness apply to any camera you use, she adds. So, if you’re using a mirrorless camera, DSLR, or even a compact camera, listen up.

“I’ve bunched up our sharpness issues into two categories,” Trotti notes. “We have external reasons your photos are not sharp and internal reasons.”

External Reasons

#1 Dirty Gear

“The first reason your photos might not be sharp is something that is super easy to fix, and you should be doing this before every single photos shoot anyway, which is to clean your dirty gear,” she says. “Even if you’re really careful with your camera gear, using it and changing lenses will inevitably lead it to getting dirty in one way or another. You might get fingerprints on it; ocean mist can create a fine layer that affects the front of the lens. Or, in general, you might just have dirt or dust on the lens that will stop you from achieving the sharpest results possible.”

#2 Filter Issues

“If you use a filter on your lens, whether it’s a clear UV filter, an ND filter, a polarizing filter, basically any kind of filter, this could be affecting your sharpness as well. Depending on the quality of your filter it can cause extra lens flares or make your photos softer.”

#3 Lens Issues

“Different lenses have different levels of sharpness. If you’re finding that the lens you’re using isn’t tack sharp when wide open, you can try stepping down your aperture to find a sharper point in the lens.”

Internal Reasons

#4 Aperture Issues

“If you’re shooting wide open at f/1.2 or f/1.4, you may be expecting too much from your photos. Taking photos with a shallow depth of field can create some beautiful results but it is also a tricky way to shoot. Depending on your focal length, the angle you’re shooting from or how far or close you are from the subject, it can really change what parts of your frame are in focus.”

#5 Motion Blur

“There are three main ways that motion blur can affect sharpness. The first one is motion blur from your camera. The second is motion blur from your subject. And the last thing to keep in mind that can affect motion blur in your images is the focal length that you choose to shoot with. The longer your lens, the more change there is for motion blur.”

#6 Focus Settings

“The first focus setting that you need to take a look at is pretty universal between cameras and that is whether you are shooting in one shot or continuous autofocus. I like using one shot for photographing a stationary subject. On the other hand, with servo modes or continuous autofocus, when you select a focus point and half press your shutter, it won’t lock off focus. Instead the focus will  continuously change as you or your subject moves around.”

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