When you think of what you want your photos to look like vs what they do look like, are those two things the same? Or is there a disconnect? If so, what is that disconnect?
If you're like a lot of the beginner photographers I've met and mentored as a RI children's photographer, your answer may be, "my images aren't focused." Whether they are totally out of focus or just not sharp enough, frustration about out of focus photos is a complaint I hear over and over again.
Getting focused photos can be tricky at first. There are multiple things that go into it, and it can take awhile for everything to "click" together. You WANT those perfectly focused photos, but something isn't quite right. I've talked with photographers who are ready to throw in the towel because they just can't get the focus they want...but usually, it's just one little thing they need to tweak to get focused photos. Below, I've put together four tips that are crucial to getting in focus photos. If you're looking to get sharp, in focus photos, read these tips!
1. Make sure your shutter speed is fast enough.
This is one of the biggest errors I see when photographers have photos that are not in focus. Having a shutter speed that is too slow can cause camera shake (meaning your own minor movement is visible, and the image is soft). Also, if your subject is moving, a shutter speed that is too slow will show motion blur in your subject. (You know where you can see that blur where their arms or legs moved? That's motion blur.) To avoid both of these, keep your shutter speed up. The "rule of thumb" is to have a shutter speed that is 1/focal length, so if you were shooting with a 50mm lens for example, your minimum shutter should be 1/50. However, this is just a guide, and if you still notice camera shake, raise your shutter speed higher. Also, if you are photographing children or animals, I recommend a shutter speed of 1/250 minimum, and for sports, at least 1/500.
2. Don't shoot wide open.
It can be tempting to shoot your lens at its widest aperture (especially if you have a "fast lens" like a 50mm 1.8 or 85mm 1.8) to get that background blur that everyone loves. Heck, I really love background blur! That said, shooting a lens wide open can cause focus issues. Some lenses are not their sharpest at wide apertures, which can contribute to soft photos. And sometimes a wide open aperture will not give you the depth of field you need, so parts of your photo that you wanted to be in focus are not in focus. Take a look at your photo and decide if you REALLY need to shoot wide open. A lot of photos benefit from the greater depth of field that you get from stopping down, and lenses also get sharper as you stop down. In my studio, as with the photo above, I stop the lens down quite a bit for sharpness and depth of field, and because in a studio setting, there's no need to blur a background. There are still times you will want or need a wide aperture, but there are plenty of times you can use a narrower aperture and get a sharper photo.
3. Don't focus recompose.
Focus recomposing is the practice of focusing on your subject using the center focus point, then holding down the shutter button (or pressing and releasing the back button) to maintain focus while you frame the shot as you want, then shoot. There are lots of people who do this. So why shouldn't you do it? Here's the thing. When you recompose your shot, it's very easy to move your focal plane so focus is no longer falling where you want it. This is especially easy to do if you're shooting wide apertures (see #2!) or are a newer photographer and don't have your technique down yet. Instead of focus recomposing, toggle (move) a single focus point in your camera's viewfinder to where you need it to be and focus with that point. This will help your focus to be much more precise.
4. Use the correct focus mode for what you're shooting.
All DSLRs have a focus mode that is suited for focus on still subjects (commonly called one shot, AF-S, or something similar) and also a movie suited for tracking and keeping focus on moving subjects (common names are AI-Servo, Servo, or AF-C, depending on your camera brand). Using the wrong focus mode for what you're shooting can cause out of focus photos, especially if you are photographing moving subjects, but are using one shot mode, which means your camera is not tracking focus on your subject as they move. Conversely, using servo/continuous focus on a still subject also has the possibility of causing soft photos, because your lens' focus motor continues to run, looking for a moving subject, when your subject is actually still. Check your camera manual to confirm the modes in your camera and determine how to switch them.
If you're looking for more photography tips on focus, editing, shooting, business, and more, consider joining my online mentoring group...click the image below for more info. If you're local, I offer private as well as group lessons and classes. Got something you want to learn? Get in touch with me to set up a lesson or class!