Hints and Tips

Totally Sharp Photographs

St John's Point Lighthouse
All you need to know to take totally sharp photographs.
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Landscape photographs

In the photograph shown here, it is important that the rock in the foreground and the lighthouse on the horizon line are both in sharp focus. The various techniques that I use to ensure that my landscape photographs are sharp throughout are described briefly below:


Probably most important is the use of a sturdy tripod. This elininates the danger of camera shake that comes from hand holding the camera. In landscape photograpy, where the photographer usually has plenty of time, using a tripod has the added advantage of slowing the whole process down, encouraging a more careful approach to composition. [See also "Mirror Lock Up" below.]

Remote Timer

I also use a remote timer (the camera's own shutter release timer is equally effective) so that I don't have to press the shutter to take the photograph - even when on a tripod, pressing the shutter can cause camera shake.

Mirror Lock Up

This technique is definitely a bit "nerdy"!! In a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera, the image is viewed through the lens (via the viewfinder) because of a mirror that sits at 45 degrees within the camera and which reflects the image from the lens to the viewfinder. When the shutter is released, and just before the photograph is taken, the mirror has to flip out of the way to enable the light coming through the lens to reach the sensor (or film). This movement of the mirror can also cause some vibration in the camera which can lead to an, admittedly small, amount of vibration. Using the mirror lock up facility enables you to flip the mirror out of the way a number of seconds before the photograph is taken, thus eliminating even this small amount of vibration.

There are a few things to note. First, once the mirror is flipped out of the way, you will be unable to see the image through the viewfinder. This is why it is essentiel to have the camera on a tripod when you are using this technique. Second, for this reason, this is the last part of the process before you actually take the photograph eg composing the picture and focusing, etc must be completed first. Finally, it is worth noting that not all cameras have a mirror lock up facility.

Of course, none of this section applies to the so called mirrorless cameras which are increasingly being produced. As the name implies, there is no mirror in this type of camera, with the image in the viewfinder being created electronically rather than as described above.


While there will be exceptions, on most occasions the photographer wants landscape photographs to be in sharp focus from the near foreground all the way to "infinity". I use the hyper focal focusing technique - I will not go into the detail of this technique here, but in essence it means that I focus about a third of the way into the photograph, which helps to achieve maximum depth of field in the photograph.

Aperture Settings

I set my camera in aperture priorioty mode, which enables me to select the aperture, with the camera selecting the shutter speed to secure the correct exposure. I choose a small aperture, as this also helps to maximise depth of field. However, it is important to note that this does not mean selecting the smallest aperture available on the lens, as this can also lead to some unwanted softness in the image. It is best to select an aperture in the "sweet spot" of the lens - this can differ from lens to lens, but lenses are normally at their sharpest around f8 to f16. This is another good reason for using a tripod, because at smaller apertures the shutter speed will be longer, increasing the risk of camera shake if the camera is hand held.

Lens Vibration Reduction

Finally, while helpful when being hand held, if your lens has a vibration reduction facility you should switch this off when using the camera on a tripod - strangely, not doing this can also introduce some camera shake.

In Conclusion

This seems like a daunting list of things to do. However, these techniques really will improve the sharpness of your photographs, and it is surprising how quickly they become second nature.

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