It’s the biggest problem amateurs and even some pros face. Sharpness/focus issues dog everyone from the rank beginner to the seasoned pro. So once in a while I like to share some tips for making sharper images. These aren’t the only tips I have on the subject, but they are a good starting point.
1. Use a tripod. Camera shake is often the source of blurry, out-of-focus or unsharp photos. Using a sturdy tripod will almost certainly help reduce these problems.
2. Use a faster shutter speed. Fast shutter speeds help freeze the action and reduce blur from both camera and subject movement.
3. Use a higher ISO in order to get a faster shutter speed.
4. Make sure to use the correct autofocus mode on your camera. Not all autofocus modes are created equal. Some modes work better for moving objects while others are more appropriate for stationery objects. Read your camera’s manual to see which autofocus mode you should be using.
5. Use greater depth of field to make sure your camera has sufficient zone of focus for your subject. If you work at very large apertures such as F/1.8, you have a very narrow depth-of-field and this means you also have a very narrow zone of focus. Increase DOF to increase the zone of focus and accordingly, your chances of getting a sharp picture.
6. Subject movement can be a problem when you are shooting at shutter speeds below 1/1000th of a second. Yes even at 1/500th of a second a moving subject will often be partially blurred. Panning with a moving subject reduces the blur caused by motion. When possible, ask your subject to hold still. It can make a difference.
7. Clean your gear. Make sure your lenses and sensors are clean. If they are dirty it can throw off your attempts at perfect focus.
8. Use Image Stabilization. If your camera offers image stabilization – (IS on Canon or VR on Nikon) use it. Some cameras also offer stabilization at the sensor. In MOST cases, turn OFF stabilization if you are using a tripod.
9. If your camera offers the ability to select the autofocus point, start by selecting the center AF point. On most cameras, this is the most accurate AF point. Acquire focus using this point, lock the focus and then recompose.
10. Find better light. Most cameras use autofocus and most autofocus needs light to work. If your camera has an AF assist beam make sure to enable it. And try to get more light into scenes that are tough to focus on. You can remove the light later if you don’t want it there for creative reasons but using the light to acquire focus will help either way.