10 reasons why your photos aren’t sharp (and how to fix them)

10 reasons why your photos aren't sharp (and how to fix them)

Reason No. 9 Your Photos Aren’t Sharp: Depth of field too shallow

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With a few creative exceptions, when you’re shooting landscapes you usually want the image to be sharp throughout the whole scene, from the foreground to the background. This requires using a small aperture to get lots of depth of field.

Using a small aperture and a low sensitivity setting for maximum detail and sharpness means also using a fairly slow shutter speed, making a tripod essential.


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Reason No. 10 Your Photos Aren’t Sharp: Aperture too small

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Although using a small aperture increases depth of field (the size of the focused area in the shot) it also increases the impact of diffraction, the bending of light as it passes over the edge of the aperture blades.

This bending prevents the light from focusing on the sensor and thus softens the image. The smaller the aperture, the greater the proportion of unfocused light reaching the sensor, so the greater the softening effect.

This means that there is a compromise between depth of field and sharpness. Rather than closing the aperture right down to its minimum setting, it’s better to open up by stop or two.

To discover how aperture size influences sharpness with your lenses, set your camera up on a tripod and focus on an object with lots of detail. Then take a shot at every available aperture setting.

When you’ve finished transfer the images to your computer and examine them at 100% on the computer screen.

Look carefully at the point of focus and you’ll see that the images go from being a little soft when the aperture is wide open, to being progressively sharper as the optimum aperture is approached.

Beyond this the image becomes softer again as diffraction becomes more of an issue.


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  • Fabio Amorim

    The number 9 and 10 are the same. Small apertures make shallow deep of field.

  • Christopher B

    That’s incorrect. Shallow depth of field is created by using a large aperture (small F number). Number 10 is about shooting at an aperture that is smaller than F8 (meaning, F8 and upward). Nice and confusing with a small aperture being a large F number, and vice versa.

  • Rick

    Excellent article. Well written, concise and to the point.!

  • John Comerford

    Number 11. Turn OFF image stabilization when using a tripod, mirror lockup, and remote. The stabilization motor will actually create motion blur as it tries to stabilize a lens/camera that’s not moving.

  • Filippos Georgiades

    All these tips ar all too basic.. Any serious amatuer knows them all after a couple of years in photography

  • Sandy Scott

    Another state the obvious article!

  • Sandy Scott


  • Brilliant! I managed to sort out the issue I had with my camera, thank you!

  • callmebob

    I refer to apertures like 1.8 as “low” and those like 11, 16, 22 as “high”… then explain the field of acceptable focus is “low” with a “low” ap, and “high ” with a “high” ap number. Seems to make sense to people I’ve tutored… for about 40 years now, even when all you had to know was “f-8 and be there !” 😉

  • IslandBearPhotography

    Love it! So helpful thank you