Chris is a photography enthusiast and blogger. He enjoys learning new photography techniques and practicing old ones.
Are Your Landscape Photos as Sharp as They Should Be?
Taking a sharp photo seems simple, yet it is the single biggest point of failure during landscape photography. How do you take sharp photos when there are so many things to consider when capturing an image? Each year, camera technology gets smarter, and accessories get better, yet photographers still complain about soft-focused landscape images.
These are the most common reasons why most photographers fail to get an image that is fully sharp across the photo.
6 Common Mistakes Preventing You From Taking Sharp Landscape Photos
- Not Steadying the Composition With a Tripod
- Touching the Camera
- Using Image Stabilization
- Not Using DSLR Mirror Lock
- Avoiding Weight
- Using the Wrong Aperture
1. Not Steadying the Composition With a Tripod
Camera movement is the most common reason why a photo would not be sharp. The easiest fix to that problem is to simply use a quality tripod. One of the buzzwords used in conjunction with “quality” is lightweight when it comes to describing a tripod. I'd suggest that one get the heaviest tripod they feel they can carry. Backpacking with 10 pounds of tripod is not ideal, but the lighter the tripod, the more likely wind is going to have an effect. It's a balance that becomes a personal preference.
Many professional photographers discuss how nice it is to use a tripod to force one to slow down and think about the creative process of getting the shot. There are few times when you would be rushed to get the photo unless you simply were not prepared for that day's shoot.
Despite the deliberate manner of setting up a tripod and getting your camera place on it, one of the most common errors a photographer makes is not tightening everything down. All those movement options with knobs for release and tightening can be a point of failure in keeping your shot steady. Make sure everything is tight once you get the photo framed how you like it.
2. Touching the Camera
There is almost no way one can press the shutter button and not vibrate the camera, even on the sturdiest surface or tripod. Even if it were possible, there is no reason to touch the camera to take the shot when a remote shutter or the 2-second timer can be used.
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A remote shutter is going to cost a little cash, while the timer is a built-in feature for digital cameras. The remote shutter is going to be a nice thing to have in your camera kit as it can also be used for long exposure photography, among other photography disciplines.
However, if you are on location and the remote shutter is not functioning, or you simply do not have one, then using the 2-second tier is perfectly useful. The idea is to get your hands off the camera when the photo is being taken.
3. Using Image Stabilization
Using a tripod negates the need for lens stabilization. This is fantastic when hand holding your shots as the mechanism adjusts for the slight movement that is introduced. However, if there is no movement, the mechanism is trying to compensate for movement that is just simply not there. This can have the added effect of creating camera shake. Bottom line: turn off image stabilization.
4. Not Using DSLR Mirror Lock
If the camera being used is a DSLR, there is no reason not to lock the mirror to avoid the slight vibration of the mirror mechanism. Most cameras in the Live View mode already lock the mirror for the shot. However, it is worth looking into the manual to see exactly how to lock a mirror specifically for whatever camera is being used to avoid any possibility of camera shake. Obviously, using a mirrorless camera avoids this problem.
5. Avoiding Weight
Most tripods have the ability to add weight to the center column. Add sandbags, small weights, or a bag of whatever is available to hang in the center of the tripod. This will have the effect of stabilizing the tripod by anchoring the legs into the ground.
An interesting technique to further stabilize the tripod is to place a beanbag onto the top of the camera and lens. Obviously, this only works if the knobs and screws are sufficiently tightened across the camera base. However, it can help if there is a concern about movement from the shutter.
6. Using the Wrong Aperture
Landscape photography is one discipline where having the fastest lens is not necessarily needed. Most landscape photographers prefer using a smaller aperture like f/ll or f/16. A little experimentation to find the sweet spot of a particular lens is necessary. Cranking a lens down to, say, f/22 could introduce light infraction and make the image less sharp.
Using a shallow depth of field f-stop like f/2.8 is great if you are trying to create focus on a close subject while blurring the background. This is certainly a creative use of landscape photography, but for the most part, a smaller aperture will suffice in most typical landscape photography compositions.
Avoiding Camera Shake Is Key
Getting sharp landscape photography is a process of making sure that camera shake is avoided as well as ensuring the correct settings are enabled in the camera. Landscape photographers each have their own tips and tricks to avoid blurry images. Nothing is worse than returning to the post-processing rig only to discover there are elements of the photo that cannot be fixed due to camera shake or unfortunate focusing. Hopefully, these tips will help when trying to get the best landscape photo possible.