One of the most admired qualities of a good photograph is sharpness. No matter if the subject is a landscape, a portrait, or an object, a good photo allows you to see the subject clearly and accurately, with no fuzziness or imprecision whatsoever.
Granted, it is very important to make sure you have a camera with a good, sharp lens and a reliable focusing system, be it manual or automatic. Fortunately, there are cameras today in all price ranges that meet these expectations very well.
But a photographer also needs to understand that the most important condition for getting a sharp image is that the camera be absolutely stable when the shutter is pressed.
Il you’ve ever had the opportunity to play with a laser pen or small pointer you know how difficult it is to hold the tiny red dot motionless; every small muscle twitch or movement of your hand makes the point jump around. This is a great way to observe exactly how very still your camera needs to be when shooting.
In a perfect world, photographers would use tripods everywhere, all the time. We would all gain tremendously in sharpness. However, we would also lose a lot of what makes photography fun and spontaneous: the instant candid shot, the ability to carry a camera everywhere, and the ease of carrying it around without a heavy bag of equipment.
Here are a few very simple things you can do to improve your hand held shots.
First, always consider the possibility of using a higher shutter speed or a higher iSO value. Both will help.
Beyond changing your settings, also remember that the way you hold your camera and the way you release the shutter can also make a big difference.
Our preferred way of holding a camera is to place the palm of your hand under the body and lens, like a platform, in this way your fingers can access the zoom ring easily. This leaves your other hand free for changing settings and operating the shutter. If there is a structure nearby, a table, a tree, a lamp-post, by all means use it to lean on. Don’t forget, you’re looking for rock-steady stillness! If there’s nothing around, then you need to hold your elbows against your chest and relax….
You also need to make sure you’re not transferring motion to the camera when you press the shutter. After all, this is absolutely the worst time to move! Make it a habit to never press the shutter nervously, even if you’re after a difficult, fast-moving subject.
Whenever possible, steal a page from the sniper’s manual: slow down your breathing, keep yourself calm and relaxed, and gently squeeze the shutter rather than use a pressing motion.
You’ll get sharper images every time. That’s a promise.