Tack sharp photos … how the hell do you do that?


In my circle of Photographer friends, we talk about each others work. We help each other define our styles, as it’s first and foremost one of the most challenging, yet incredibly important, aspects of becoming a successful photographer in an era when photography can be a very difficult profession to make a living in.

If I had to define my style, it’s clean, color-filled if not colorful, and sharp.

Above is a 100% crop from my recent self portrait. I spent a long time making sure my focus was spot on using Hasselblad’s focus feature in it’s capture software called Phocus. You can move focus in small steps using a button in the program from my laptop. It’s very helpful.

Someone sent me an email yesterday asking, “I noticed how sharp your photos are. Do you take care of that in post-production or there are certain lenses you use that give you such crisp effect? I can achieve that in post-production but I wonder if there are lenses on the market that can eliminate extra work.”

My response was long. But in a nutshell, my response amounts to the following:

  • Nail your focus points. Shooting a portrait, make sure your focus point is on the eyeball. If you focus/reframe, be aware that your lens might not accommodate this exactly and you may lose the focus.
  • Know your lenses. Not all lenses are sharp from center to edge. Especially wide open. I have a 16-35 mm/f2.8 lens that needs to be at f10 or f11 to have a decent focus from center to edge.
  • Follow the rule that the shutter speed must match your focal length (at least). If you’re shooting 50mm, shoot at 1/50th or faster. Image stabilization helps, but be careful.
  • Be aware of mirror slap. Many people don’t realize that the mirror in many DSLRs can affect the overall stability of an image. Handheld with a full frame camera, 1/30th is about the limit to a handheld shot. Maybe 1/20th depending on the lens. With my Hasselblad, 1/90th is pushing it, as minor handshake will screw up the image.
  • Consider shooting prime lenses. Double check the reviews for how they perform wide open.
  • Familiarize yourself with sharpening methods in post. I use Photoshop’s Smart Sharpen tool on many images, especially out of my Canon cameras. I have my own workflow that works right for me.
  • Calibrate your camera to the lenses you use. This is something I’m not as familiar with, but it’s a thing and it can be googled at your leisure.

That’s my bullet list. I could go into great detail on this topic as it’s something I push in my work to the point of obsession.

There are things that other lists include like steadying yourself against something stable when a tripod or monopod is unavailable. There’s a long list of things people do to get sharp images. Find what works for you and go with it.

What are things you do to guarantee tack sharp focus.

2 thoughts on “Tack sharp photos … how the hell do you do that?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s