how to take sharp photos

How to take sharp photos

Hi everyone, hope you are doing well. In this article, I will show you some tips and ideas on how to take sharp photos in macro photography.

In macro photography, taking detailed images, we have to work and focus mostly on sharpness. You don’t want to miss any detail from your subjects.

But, when you are just starting in macro, oftentimes you have to take several pictures of a subject to finally nail one image of them sharp. Been there, I know how it feels.

So, what should you do in this situation, how should you take the images to nail the sharpness.

Below are the tips on how to take sharp photos from the first attempt, because if you take pictures of moving subjects like bugs, the chances are that you can miss them if the image comes out blurry or out of focus. And this could become very frustrating.

10 Tips on taking sharp macro images

Lack of sharpness in images can be from the handshake, high f-stop number, slow shutter speed (without using a tripod or other source of support), lack of knowledge of your camera, and many other mistakes. These tips will help you take sharp images not only in macro photography but in other genres too.

1. Know you camera settings

As a beginner, if you shoot images in manual mode, the chances are that most of the time your images will not come out as you expected.

My advice is to learn the exposure triangle first. Below is the image with the triangle.

How to take sharp photos
WClarke and Samsara, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This way you will know how aperture, ISO, and shutter speed works when you set them correctly. Of course, there are the auto mode and macro mode settings, but, sometimes, shooting with these modes, the camera will set the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed for you, to be able to take the best image. And most of the time will raise the ISO number.

And as you raise the ISO, more noise will be visible in your images, this could lead to a lack of sharpness. In some cases, you will need to set your camera as YOU desire.

Learn more about exposure triangle by reading the article below.

>>What is exposure triangle<<

2. Adjust aperture settings

Now that you know the exposure triangle, and how aperture, ISO, and SS work, the sweet spot of sharpness on most lenses is between f/5.6 and f/8, occasionally f/11. But, don’t go beyond f/11, because, as you narrow the aperture, less light enters into the sensor. And this will cause lens diffraction.

To compensate for the amount of light, in manual mode, adjust your camera to a slower shutter speed between 0″3 and 2″ seconds to control the amount of light.

If you have a hard time setting everything in manual mode, you can set your camera to aperture priority (A/Av). Here you set your desired ISO and aperture, and the camera will decide what shutter speed will need to compensate for the amount of light.

3. Use a good tripod

When you work in aperture priority mode, your camera will set the shutter speed according to the environment and lighting. Sometimes will be slower or fasters. And if you shoot handheld, your images will come out blurry because of the handshake.

To avoid this, put your camera on a tripod and control it with a remote shutter release or from the app of your camera. And yes, you can use tripods not only when you work with slower shutter speed, but you can also use it every time you want.

Almost every camera and lenses have image stabilization (IS for Canon, VR for Nikon, SS for Sony), this feature is great to decrease camera shake. But you have to know when to turn it off to avoid blurriness. So, when you put your camera on the tripod, is advisable to turn image stabilization off.

>>>>Best tripods for macro photography<<<<

4. Camera hold

Sometimes you want to shoot without a tripod. So, how should you hold the camera to avoid shake and blurriness?

To avoid shakiness, first of all, make sure you have the image stabilization turned on. Then hold the camera from the lens to give support and bring it closer to your eye so you can see through the viewfinder. Like this.

How to take sharp photos

From here you can adjust the zoom and focus easily.

But, what if you wear glasses and you love to take photographs? There are solutions for this too. You either adjust the diopter of the viewfinder according to your eyesight from the +/- settings or view the image through live preview. Canon cameras have a button for live preview near the viewfinder.

Now that you know how to hold your camera and if you have longer lenses, not the standard ones, you should adjust the shutter speed to counteract your handshake. For this, you have to do a little math. You have to multiply the mm of the lens by the size of the sensor of the camera. Check the manual to know the size of your camera’s sensor.

If you have a 100mm lens and a sensor size of 1.6, multiply 100×1.6, which equals 160. You will set the shutter speed a minimum of 1/160 or higher. If you have a 200mm lens, 200×1.6 = 320, so the shutter speed should be a min of 1/320 or higher.

If you have a full-frame camera, the math is simple, you multiply it 1×1. So, a 100mm lens multiplied by one will be 100. You will set the shutter speed to 1/100 or higher. Did you get the point? For the standard lens, set the shutter speed to 1/60 or higher.

5. Set the ISO to a lower number

For sharp images is advisable to keep the ISO low to avoid noise in your images. An ISO of 100 or 200, max. 800 should be fine. And to compensate for the amount of light, adjust the shutter speed and use flash.

Most of the ruined images are caused by noise, try to avoid it as often as you can, keep it low. You can reduce the noise from an image in editors like Lightroom but, note that as you reduce the noise, the image becomes softer. The sharpness of your subjects will disappear.

6. Make use of focal points

Let’s say you want to take a picture of a flower that has another flower in the background. You want to bring them both in focus, how you will do this?

First of all, put your camera in manual mode and manual focus, and on Canon cameras, you have two buttons with a magnifier which has a + and a – sign. Press the magnifier with the plus sign.

How to take sharp photos

Then turn the gear dial near shutter button to switch between focal points.

On Nikon cameras, press the Menu button, make sure you’re on the Camera setting, then choose AF-area mode, then choose Single Point, press OK. Now when you look through the viewfinder, you will see the highlighted points, to choose between them, press the toggle buttons.

7. Focus stacking

Now that you know how to focus on the desired areas with focal points, another great tip to take sharp images is focus stacking.

Focus stacking is when you take a series of images of the same subject, with different focal points, to emphasize the specific subject. And later on, you stack them together in Photoshop to achieve a single sharp photo.

8. Clean your lens

Now, this might sound a little awkward, but a dirty or a greasy lens could make your images look blurry.

My recommendation is to clean the lens carefully (both rear side and front side) after you are done photographing with a soft cloth, like those for glasses. And put the protection cap on the lens.

The same is for the sensor of your camera, clean it periodically at a specialized camera cleaner. As you switch between lens or extension tubes, the chances are that it can enter dust, and your images will come out with spots.

Those spots are visible when you take pictures at a higher magnification.

9. Choose RAW over Jpeg

As for image quality, if you want to capture as much detail as you can, the recommendation is to set your camera’s image quality to RAW format.

RAW file formats are as it sounds, a raw file of everything that the camera’s sensor captured in the frame. This includes lighting, white balance, contrast, etc.

A Jpeg file is a compressed file by the camera which leaves only a little detail in the image. The rest of it is lost, this is why Jpeg’s are small files.

The advantage of RAW files is that you can edit them numerous times without losing quality.

10. Use flash

The last tip for sharp photos is to use flash or another light source to illuminate your subjects and capture every detail of them.

But, you have to be careful when you use flash because it can cast shadows in the images. When this occurs, use a flash diffuser to compensate for lighting.


If you want to tack sharp images, follow these tips or choose one of them and master it until you get used to it.

These tips will also help you nail sharpness from the first attempt if you follow them carefully.

Nobody wants to see a smudged, spotted, or blurry photo. This could distract your viewers. Only if you take abstract images, blurriness can be acceptable.

For any questions or concerns please let me know in the comments section below, and I will be more than happy to help you out. Be safe and take care.

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  1. Hi Roberta, 

    Such a wonderful article on sharp pics. I always think I will remember to clean my lens and forget at the last moment. I have benefitted immensely from your article and I am encouraged to read more of the stuff you write. 

    There is no end to the number of articles and material available on the internet, but it is seldom that we come across some great work. that is why I wished to write and thank u. This is really well done.



    1. Thank you Aparna for your kind words. Sometimes a dirty lens or sensor can be the culprit of out of focus images, always check for fingerprints or grease on the lens, and dust particles on the sensor, before you go out for a photoshoot.

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