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Are Your Photos Not Sharp? Here Are 15 Reasons Why

It's taken me years to figure out the myriad reasons why my photos weren't always as sharp as I expected. You can cut out all of that learning time by watching this one video that sums it all up.

Coming at you from Tony and Chelsea Northrup is quite possibly the most excellent roundup of all of the reasons you may not be getting sharp photos. I'm not kidding there; I've fallen down so many of these rabbit holes myself trying to figure it out and I wish I had something like this to help me get there.

There's not enough space to dive into the exhaustive list that Tony and Chelsea go through, but from personal experience, I can wholeheartedly agree with quite a few of these. Their last tip about micro-adjustment particularly stings, because it took me so many hours of painfully adjusting my 5D Mark III and still never completely feeling the focus was where I wanted it to be. Hindsight being 20/20, it feels good to be validated there. It probably had nothing to do with the micro-adjustment of the camera. Thankfully, as Tony mentions, this is a problem that has largely gone away with mirrorless cameras, one I discovered when I dropped my Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 II ASPH. lens on the ground at a wedding, where it broke into three pieces. I slapped it back together, and it held well enough, but more to my amazement was that it still took perfectly sharp photos. Seems like focusing directly on the sensor had the benefit of cranking the lens to wherever it needed to be to get things in focus, damaged lens elements be damned.

One tip that I don't use often enough that they share is to keep the continuous shooting on for almost every image you shoot. By doing this, the first and last shot in the series where your finger rolls on and off the shutter may not be in focus, but the shots in between will stand a better shot of being sharp because there's less movement from just the simple action of pressing the shutter. Chelsea adds to this by mentioning that shooting with a self-timer can eliminate the shake, something I often do for long exposures to avoid camera shake when I've forgotten my remote release. It's not like you wasting film by taking multiple photos to get one, so go for it.

There's a whole host of other esoteric reasons for shaky photos that took years of research for me to understand — I'm looking at you, shutter shock and diffraction — but there are plenty of more mundane reasons your photos can be out of focus.

This is seriously a good list. Check out all the reasons in the video above.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

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