Best Ways To Get Sharp Images: 04 Steady the tripod
Sometimes even though your subject is in focus and the camera is on a tripod, images don’t look absolutely sharp when you blow them up to make large prints. There are usually two explanations for this.
The first is that the camera is actually moving very slightly during the exposure, while the second is the pesky matter of diffraction. Fortunately, it’s possible to combat both of these common photography problems and create pin-sharp images using the following techniques.
It’s not easy to select the perfect tripod. The steadiest models that keep a camera the stillest are also usually the heaviest, and while this is fine indoors when you’re shooting still life photography or a macro scene, it’s less attractive when you’re planning to stride out across the hills to find the perfect landscape.
As a result we are often forced to compromise a little to find a more convenient balance between weight and sturdiness. However, there are a couple of things that you can do to ensure that a tripod holds your camera still.
The first thing is to try to avoid setting your camera up in the full force of the wind as this can whip round the tripod legs and set them vibrating. If possible, find a little shelter or create some shelter with your body.
It’s also a good idea to hang a weight (your camera bag is ideal) on the shoulders of the tripod to anchor it more firmly onto the ground. Some tripods even have a hook at the base of their centre column precisely for this.
You need to adjust the length of the strap so that the bag pulls down on the tripod, but just rests on the ground and doesn’t not swing about. Any movement of the bag is likely to be translated into camera movement and that’s exactly what you are trying to avoid.
Some photographers also place a small mouldable weight like a beanbag over their camera or lens to held dampen down any vibrations.
This is particularly useful when using long telephoto lenses that emphasise any movement and are more prone to catching the wind than a shorter wide-angle optic.
Best Ways To Get Sharp Images: 05 Get a remote release
Even though you may be using a high quality quality tripod and tripod head, every time you touch the camera you make it vibrate very slightly and pressing the shutter release can result in blur-inducing movement at exactly the wrong time.
The solution is to use a remote release to trip the shutter without touching the camera. Remote shutter releases come in two forms: cable and wireless. Cable releases are usually the more affordable option and they connect to the camera’s remote port.
Wireless releases for SLRs come in two parts, one bit that connects to the camera (and sometimes mounts in the hotshoe) and the other that you hold and has the release button.
Wireless releases are often the best choice because you can trip the shutter from several meters away and there’s nothing swinging from the camera that can introduce a little movement, but they tend to be the more expensive option.
However, its worth bearing in mind that they often double up as exposure timers and intervalometers making them very useful pieces of kit. The Hahnel Giga T Pro II is a great choice and it comes in a variety of fits.
A neat trick if you don’t have a remote release to hand is to set your camera to self-timer or exposure delay mode so that the shutter fires shortly after you press the shutter release button.
This should ensure that any vibrations created by you touching the camera have died down before the exposure is made.