Before you snap the picture, either you or your camera decide three things that make your picture. Shutter speed, aperture  and ISO. The tips below will help you achieve sharper photos based upon the subject or scene you’re shooting.

In this article, we’ll focus on shutter speed and how it correlates to making sharp pictures. For those of you not aware, your shutter speed is the amount of time your camera opens its shutter to take a picture. Look for a number like 1/30 or 1/100 or maybe even 1/8000 if your outside on a bright day.

Most of the time when I hear people complain that their camera or lens ins’t sharp, its because they are not using it properly. The difference between a 18-55mm kit lens and a 35mm f/1.4 lens both shot at f/8 will be undetectable if shot correctly. Also, post processing tools such as RAW sharpening, high-pass filter and unsharp mask can do wonders for a dull photo. They will however, not remedy motion blur or out of focus shots.


They move. Even when you ask them to stand still, they’re still moving, slightly. If your shutter is too slow, this can cause for motion blur. A general rule of thumb I follow is, never shoot people with a shutter speed slower than 1/50th. At a dimly lit wedding reception, I keep my camera locked at f2.0 and 1/60th. Most of the time, this is fast enough for wedding activities. Moving a little faster, lets say Basketball, we’re going to want at least 1/400th to freeze the action. Anything slower, and the ball will be an orange smudge. Nascar? Lets keep that shutter in the 1/2000th range. Rule of thumb, never go below 1/50th when photographing people, and if possible, keep it higher.

Focal Length

Taking people out of the equation, lets say you’re capturing the Denver skyline with a 70-300mm lens. You zoom into 150mm and snap your picture. Its blurry, because your shutter speed isn’t fast enough to compensate for camera shake. As I said earlier, people move, and so do you. Another rule of thumb, your shutter speed needs to be equal to or greater than the focal length of your lens. So, if we’re at 150mm, we need to have a shutter of 1/160th or faster. Remember in 4th grade when you learned about angles and degrees? Your teacher used the example of a plane’s flight path being off 1 degree. It may not seem like much, but over a long distance, it makes a huge difference. The same applies for focal length and camera movement.

Stabilizing Your Camera

Getting into photography, if you ask for buying advice from a professional photographer, they probably told you to buy a tripod. How boring is that? Well, tripods can do wonders for delivering razor sharp photos. By making your camera completely stationary, you eliminate the possibility of camera movement, which can compensate for slower shutter speeds and longer focal length lenses.

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