7 Beginner Tips For Sharper Photos

Scott Kelby, the author of many digital photography books says, “If your photos aren’t sharp then the rest doesn’t matter”. Key to any image is its sharpness and in order to get those photos pin sharp you need to follow some basic guidelines.

“BURN” captured by Michael Moody (Click Image to Find Photographer)

There’s nothing worse than looking at a portrait photo and the eyes are out of focus with a perfectly sharp nose. The eyes are the windows to the soul and their sharpness is critical to a good image. There are times when we want slightly out of focus images or parts of images out of focus. But, mostly we want crisp and clear images. Here are some steps for sharper images.

1. Pin sharp starts with a tripod

Every professional photographer and many amateurs will tell you that a tripod is an essential part of your gear if you want sharp images. Of course it’s not always possible to use one, but, when you can use one. It stabilizes your camera and stops camera shake from unsteady hands. A good, sturdy tripod costs money but it’s a basic part of your kit and fundamental to sharp images. Many photographers also opt for small flexible tripods that can be wrapped around objects and work in virtually any situation.

2. Cable Release

Don’t press the shutter; use a cable release. A cable release is a cable that goes to a connection on your camera. By pressing the cable release you don’t transfer any movement from your hand to the camera. Unfortunately not many entry level compact cameras have this feature, but, there is a solution in point three.

3. Self-Timer

If you have forgotten to bring your cable release or your compact camera doesn’t allow its use, use the self-timer. All cameras including compacts have this feature. Although you still press the shutter, there is a time delay of 2 to 10 seconds allowing camera shake to subside before the shutter is activated. Still, you need to press the shutter button gently to limit any transferred shake.

sharp photo cityscape

“Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast” captured by Drew Hopper (Click Image to Find Photographer)

4. Mirror lock-up

This feature is something only for digital SLR camera owners. When the shutter is depressed a mirror, which is in between your sensor and the viewfinder, pops up to allow light to pass and hit your sensor. This micro movement can affect your final image so what manufactures have added is a mirror lock-up. It locks the mirror in position once you have composed your image. Although you can no longer see the image through the viewfinder it prevents the micro movement from affecting your image. Use it if you are fanatical about sharpness.

5. Use your lenses sharpest aperture

All lenses have a sweet spot. They are sharpest at this aperture, usually two stops below fully open. Unfortunately this applies only to DSLRs. You should be able to tell by looking at your images and finding which images are usually the sharpest. Check the EXIF data by right clicking on your image on the computer and seeing what aperture it was taken at. Then shoot at this aperture whenever you can.

6. ISO

Avoid increasing your ISO as this causes your image sharpness to degrade. Rather shoot on a tripod. Shooting on higher ISOs adds noise to the images which is the reason for images lacking in sharpness.

sharp photos black and white

Photo captured by Lisa Jayne Roe (Click Image to Find Photographer)

7. Turn off image stabilization

If you have a lens or camera that has image stabilization or vibration reduction, turn it off. There are tiny motors inside the lens which stabilize the image but also contribute to lack of sharpness through vibration. They are great for low light/handheld situations like weddings, but when you’re using a tripod, turn it off.

These are a just a few tips for getting sharper images. No single one will improve your sharpness, but used together they will improve you overall sharpness in an image.

About the Author:
Wayne Turner has been teaching photography for 25 years and has written three books on photography. He has produced 21 Steps to Perfect Photos; a program of learner-based training using outcomes based education.

Bring out the Best of Sharp Photos:

Topaz’s new tool Clarity, released last week, has been surprisingly popular and is designed to help you create compelling and powerful images by intelligently enhancing contrast and clarity without artifacts or halos. It can manipulate your micro, mid-tone and overall contrast while maintaining the “natural feeling” that is best to keep. Launch discount ends soon!

It can be found here: Topaz Clarity Advanced Contrast Adjustment

Travel Photography Tips and Techniques

With travel photography you want to convey not only the sites and scenes you have seen but also the feelings and emotions associated with the locations. The unexpected is always around the corner when you travel and with some careful preparation and a keen photographic eye you can produce some memorable results.

travel photography tips

“Burj Dubai” captured by Lensamson (Click Image to See More From Lensamson)

Good travel photography starts at home or the office before you leave for the airport and weeks in advance of your trip. Here’s how capture great travel images.

1. Research before you leave

Purchase the best travel guide you can afford and find out everything about the locations you will be visiting. Find out about the natural beauty, tourist sites and the culture. Look at the images in the guides and see what the important areas are and what you need to record.

Learn about local transportation and distances as well as timing to reach the areas you want to visit. Learn about the culture and find out what you can photograph and what is taboo, what the dress codes are and any local laws or rules. Buy a phrase book and learn some of the key phrases to communicate when photographing. You will be amazed at how this will open doors for you.

2. Prepare a checklist

Essential for any photographer is a checklist of everything you will need for the trip, photographically as well as you normal travel needs. Check that all your gear is covered by insurance and that it is up to date. Take proof that you purchased your equipment at home and not abroad so you don’t get landed with customs duty on your return.

3. Avoid cliches

Don’t return with all of the images that are in the guide books which everyone has seen. Use new angles and try get to viewpoints that are not traditionally used for photos. Leave the tourist path and get away from the bus. If you can afford it, hire a private guide to take you off the beaten track.

travel photo techniques

“looking glass” captured by Micah Dravland (Click Image to See More From Micah Dravland)

4. Photograph local life

Local life in foreign countries is rich with sights and scenes that are brand new to you. You’ll often find that you will experience your photography much more by getting to know the local folk and seeing just what their daily life is like. By capturing the essence of their lives and homes you will experience the journey and capture memories that are unique and far more interesting.

5. Make yourself the subject

As the photographer you probably find that in all aspects of your life there are few images of you in front of the camera. So go out of your way to include yourself in photos while touring. Ask a travel companion, a guide or another tourist to take photos of you experiencing the local life. With digital you can see immediately the results of their work and whether you’ll need to reshoot it.

6. Take portraits

By respecting the local culture and as I mentioned learning a few of the most important phrases most locals will allow you to shoot their portraits. When photographing them close-ups are great and reveal character and the beauty of people you aren’t familiar with. But, this is the time to photograph portraits of people within their environments so shoot fewer head and shoulders and more with some of the background. Use wide angle lenses more often for great shots.

7. Shoot candids

With a longer lens and the ability to stay in the background and keep your distance you are able to photography people without them knowing. Unposed photos have people behaving totally naturally in their environments without the pressure to pose. The key here is to remain unobserved. Reveal yourself only once you have your shots. Look for opportunities that will reflect the local culture and people naturally.

travel photo

“In the Million Insect Storm, the Constellations Form” captured by Thomas Hawk (Click to See More)

8. Look for detail

By getting in closer and photographing the traditional clothes and jewellery you will see details in the colour and styles. Look for details in the architecture, transport and local costumes that reveal something more than a traditional shot. A macro or telephoto is great for this type of shot.

9. Tell a story

By shooting a series of shots at a location you will be able to tell a story of the life of the local people. How they dress, work, have fun and where they live and relax. Select a theme or shoot at a market and try to think about the end result and how you will tell friends and family about your trip in just pictures. Maybe shoot a day in the life of a local you have befriended from morning till bedtime.

10. Take lots of photos

Work out how many images you think you should shoot and then double it. And then double it again. You can never take too many images. This may be the only opportunity for you to see this country and rather edit later than lose the memories by shooting too little. Not every picture will be perfect but it will be a memory. You are not just looking to create perfect photos but also great memories. Digital film is inexpensive so take lots of memory cards with you.

photography while traveling

“Manhattan Tourists” captured by Ray Devlin (Click Image to See More From Ray Devlin)

Travel is often a once in a lifetime opportunity for many people so go well prepared and come back with memories that will last a lifetime. Happy shooting!

About the Author:
Wayne Turner has been teaching photography for 25 years and has written three books on photography. He has produced 21 Steps to Perfect Photos; a program of learner-based training using outcomes based education.


Create Your Own Custom Landscapes in Photoshop

Preview of Final Results


Tutorial Resources

Step 1

Open the image ‘Landscape 1′.


Step 2

Open the image ‘Lanscape 2′ and place it above the ‘Landscape 1′ like you see below.


Step 3

Place your mouse on the ‘Landscape 2′ image and add a clipping mask by clicking the button I show you below.


Step 4

Now we have to delete the unwanted parts of ‘Landscape 2′ image by painting with black on the clipping mask.

I painted with a big soft brush at 100%. When I was closer to the image below I set the Opacity of the brush at 20% so that the blending is better. We want the effect that it’s only one image!


Step 5

We have now to fix the light of this field. Add a Curves Adjustment Layer only for the ‘Landscape 2′ image and set it like you see below. (Output 110; Input 141).



Step 6

Open the image ‘Mountains’ and place it above everything.


Step 7

Now we have to fit this image with the rest. You have to activate only the first layer (like shown below).


How to Take Better Photos With Your EOS Camera

Final Reminder: Only 1 Day Left! in the deal on the: Understanding Canon EOS Guide

The marketing departments of the camera manufacturers would like you to believe that buying the latest versions of their digital cameras will make you a better photographer. That’s not true. All you are doing is buying a better tool.

Becoming a better photographer is something different. It requires a deeper understanding of light, composition, and your subject matter. It also requires good craft skills – a mastery of your camera and an understanding of photography’s technical aspects.


Luckily, all this stuff is learnable as none of it is terribly complicated. In that spirit, here are seven things you can do right away to start taking better photos with your EOS camera.

1. Use the Creative Zone.

If you own any of EOS Digital Rebel series (called the xxxD and xxxD ranges in Europe) then you will know that your camera comes with multiple exposure modes. That includes fully automatic modes such as scene intelligent auto, portrait, landscape, and so on.

Try to familiarize yourself with the manual mode.

Avoid using your cameras “Auto” settings.

These modes are unnecessary. Worse, they will hold you back and prevent you from developing as a creative photographer. There are a number of reasons for that, but here are the key ones:

* You can’t use the RAW format or set white balance or Picture Style.

* The camera selects the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings. To become a creative photographer, you need to control those settings yourself.

There are only four exposure modes that you need. They are Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual. They occupy what Canon calls the ‘creative zone’. If you don’t already, learn to use these four modes as quickly as you can. Your photography will improve.

2. Use the RAW format.

If you’re not doing so already, then please start using the Raw format for all your photography. RAW files contain much more highlight and shadow detail than JPEG files. There is much more you can do with them in post-processing.

Regardless of what anyone tells you, there are virtually no good reasons to use the JPEG format. Wedding photographers and photojournalists or sports photographers who shoot extreme high volume or photos that need to be sent to a picture editor’s desk as rapidly as possible may prefer JPEG for the speed. But everybody else should use RAW.


Many photographers prefer to work in Lightroom instead of Photoshop because of it’s ease of use.

3. Definitely Consider Lightroom 4.

Canon’s Digital Photo Professional (DPP) is an excellent piece of software and is more than good enough to get you started with Raw processing if you are new to this aspect of post-processing. But Lightroom 4 is much better.

Lightroom is so good now that it might well be the only processing software you ever need. The days of Photoshop CS being the must-have software for photographers are over. Lightroom is quicker, easier, more intuitive to use and far cheaper.

If you have any doubts, download the Lightroom 4 trial or the Lightroom 5 Beta (it’s free) and test it out.


4. Demand beautiful light.

Some photographers will tell you that there is no such thing as bad light. That’s nonsense. There’s ugly light, mediocre light, and beautiful light. Learn what beautiful light is and how to use it.


Light Matters

5. Get a prime lens.

I regard a prime lens as an essential purchase for any photographer. Here’s why:

* Prime lenses have excellent image quality.

* Prime lenses have wider apertures. They let you take photos in low light and use wide apertures for creative composition.

* Prime lenses teach you how to get the most out of a single focal length.

They don’t have to expensive either. The EF 50mm f1.8 lens costs less than $100 and the EF 40mm f2.8 pancake lens is not far behind. Or spend more if you want a lens with better build quality and autofocus performance.


Learn how to read the histogram to help you get better exposed photos.

6. Get to grips with the histogram.

The histogram is your friend. It tells you every time whether the exposure of your photos is accurate or not. Your camera often gets exposure wrong, and when it does it’s up to you to use exposure compensation to put it right. Good exposure leads to good quality Raw files that are easy to process. It also keeps noise levels to a minimum.


7. Shoot black and white.

If you’re new to digital photography you may be wondering why anyone would shoot in black and white. The answer is simple. It’s hard to create a good black and white image. You need to be aware of things like tonal contrast, line, texture, shape and form, and how they translate into a monochrome image. But once you master these things, it makes you a better photographer. Your colour images will benefit too.

The idea behind this article is to give you some good ideas to work on to improve your photography. Your EOS camera is an amazing machine. Photographers have never had it so good. The quality and spec of modern digital SLR’s far exceeds that available just a few years ago.


Your camera is fantastic – but the next step is up to you.

Create Burnt Parchment Paper from Scratch in Photoshop

Step 1:

Let’s start out by creating a new file. I used a 1000×600 pixels canvas set at 72dpi, and I filled my background with black using the Bucket Tool.

Step 2:

Select the Rectangle Tool, on the Options Window, activate FILL PIXELS and check ANTI-ALIASED. In a new layer, draw a large rectangle with #FFAE5F color shade. In this tutorial, the size of the rectangle is 500 x 210 px.

Step 3:

Apply a Drop Shadow, Inner Shadow, Inner Glow, Satin, and Gradient Overlay layer styles to the large light brown rectangle layer.

Texture FILE:

Layer Styles Preview:

Step 4:

Select the Eraser Tool and set the Brush type to Chalk 36 pixels(Default), any similar grudge style brush will work. Now, do some erasing on the corners of the parchment paper design, as shown below.

Step 5:

Keep erasing parts of the parchment paper until you’re satisfied with the results.

Step 6:

Add a marquee selection around your parchment paper design. Do this by going to Select > Load Selection, use default settings. Create a new layer and fill the marquee selection with white color. Remove the marquee selection once you are done.

Step 7:

Set the white shape layer’s blending mode to DARKEN. Then add an Inner Shadow, Inner Glow, Bevel and Emboss, Satin, and Pattern Overlay styles to the white shape layer.

Layer Style Preview:

Step 8:

In a new text layer, type your written content. Set the text layer’s blending mode to Color Burn.

Final Image:

How To Take Professional Quality Portrait Photography

Portraiture can be one of the most satisfying forms of photography for an enthusiastic amateur. The tips below can be of use whether you are using a digital compact, a DSLR camera, or a fully manual SLR.

"Amy 4" captured by Glass Portraits by Elijah. (Click image to see more from Glass Portraits by Elijah.)

“Amy 4? captured by Glass Portraits by Elijah. (Click image to see more from Glass Portraits by Elijah.)


Background clutter will interfere with a good portrait. Similarly, use natural light where you can, and if you must use artificial lighting, use as little as possible.


So you don’t keep your subject waiting, know which location you’re using. If shooting in a studio, have the lighting set up and the camera ready. Take some test shots before your subject arrives so that when they do turn up they won’t have to wait while you fiddle around.


It is important to master the rules before you choose to break them. One of the primary rules governing composition is the rule of thirds, which deals with where focal points, or points of interest, should be placed in a photograph.

In portrait photography, the primary area of interest is usually the eyes. Experiment by putting the eyes in the middle of the frame and then off centre to see for yourself. It can help if you imagine drawing a grid across your photograph, i.e. two vertical lines down and two horizontal drawn across the image, dividing it into nine equal squares. The four corners of the middle square in the grid make better locations for your focal points than do points with the square itself.

Again, experiment. In some shots, it might be best to place your subject dead centre, in others, on one edge.

Eye contact

The direction of a subject’s eyes has an enormous impact on a photograph. Having the subject return the gaze of the photographer can give a sense of connection for those viewing the image. However, focusing on something else can give a sense of mystery and engages the viewers in speculating as to what they are looking at, and what it is that is intriguing them, amusing them, or surprising them. An alternative is to have your subject looking at someone or something within the shot, which sets up a relationship or a story within the image and gives a second point of interest.

"Bria's Prom" captured by Yvonne Perkins. (Click image to see more from Yvonne Perkins.)

“Bria’s Prom” captured by Yvonne Perkins. (Click image to see more from Yvonne Perkins.)


Portraits are most commonly taken at the same eye level as the subject. Playing around with the angle can give a completely different perspective, literally and metaphorically. For example, shooting down on your subject from above, or up at them from ground level can change the viewer’s perceptions of the subject’s power or vulnerability.


It’s worth experimenting with lighting your subject, as there are boundless possibilities. Silhouetting, back-lighting, and side-lighting can enhance the atmosphere you are trying to create by emphasizing or hiding your subject’s features.


Posed portraiture can look very unnatural. Photographing a subject doing something they love or spending time with friends or family can result in a much more natural image, especially if you can lurk at a distance using a powerful zoom lens. This works well with children and with people who are particularly self conscious.


Adding a carefully chosen prop can both add insight to the subject and give the eye another point of interest within the image.

"Katrina at Springbrook" captured by Trish O' Donnell. (Click image to see more from Trish O' Donnell.)

“Katrina at Springbrook” captured by Trish O’ Donnell. (Click image to see more from Trish O’ Donnell.)

Close Ups

A close up on a body part can be a powerful way of photographing a subject. A section of the face, the hands, or the feet can speak volumes about what has been left out.

Covering Up

Obscuring part of your subject’s face or body is another way to draw attention to or away from parts of your subject.

Continuous Shooting

Firing a number of shots at a time gives you either a series of images that work together or it can help you achieve one image that is natural. This is useful when you are photographing somebody engaged in an activity or when you’re working with fidgety children.

About the Author:
Miranda Wilson writes on behalf of Calumet Photographic, offering information on digital slr portrait photography. Calumet is a camera retailer founded in Chicago in 1939.

Freebie: 8 Cinematic FX Photoshop Actions

Cinematic FX Preview

Using snapshot prerendering, you can switch between the effects as your video is playing. This is extremely convenient and a huge time saver.

There are 8 cinematic effects. The warm/cool effects uses the same color tone as the 2012 movie, “Skyfall”. Other sampled effects are “Surreal” from “Alice in Wonderland” (1951 film), Process 2 from “The Phantom of the Opera” (1925 film), “and “Old Film” from “The Sound of Music” (1965 film).

Premium Version

In the premium version, you get access to 19 cinematic color effects and 6 tonal adjustments. You can see all the effects in the video below.

Download Cinematic FX Photoshop Actions

8 Cinematic Effects

19 Cinematic Effects + 6 Tonal Adjustments