We've all had it, images where our subject looks soft, and out of focus and we wonder where the heck it has all gone wrong!
There can be several reasons why your images aren't looking as tack sharp as we want them to be, and (luckily!) few things we can do to make it better.
So here are THREE things to check if you feel you are constantly getting soft or out of focus images. Of course, there are a other involved in getting a tack sharp images, but chances are if your images aren't as sharp as you want them to be, it's one of these :)
Before we dig in, make sure you download the freebie that goes along with this post - a step by step guide to getting sharp photos! You’ll learn which camera settings to change for both still and moving subjects, so be sure to grab it by clicking on the image below!
#1 - Where you focus
Many times, the problem is not that your image is out of focus, it's that you have the wrong part of the scene in focus!
If your focus point falls on something OTHER rather than your subject, for example let's say the trees behind them, the camera will ensure that the trees are in perfect focus - but that means that your intended subject will be soft and out of focus. (How much so will depend on the aperture you are using - see point 3!)
Although that is an extreme example, even just a very small margin of error can mean your subject looks soft.
For example, you may inadvertently focus on someone's hat rather than their eyes - which will again cause your SUBJECT to look soft or blurry, but that hat rim will be in gorgeous focus!
This is super common when using Auto Focus, as your camera will simply grab focus on the closest thing to it, which may very well not be your intended subject.
The solution? Take control of your focus on your camera and either toggle your focus point, or use focus recompose. (Tip: Toggling is best!)
#2 - To Slow a Shutter Speed
Although blur or soft images can be caused by many different things, one of the most common is too slow a shutter speed.
That's because if you are shooting on AUTO or even AV mode, and letting your camera pick the shutter speed for you, it will frequently pick too slow a shutter speed for what you want to photograph.
Remember, If your shutter speed is very slow, even the slight movement of your hand pressing the shutter will be enough to give you a blurred image even if your subject is stationary. (Anything under 1/60 is pretty much guaranteed to blurry!)
You'll also get a blurred image If you are trying to catch a photo where your subject is moving and your shutter speed isn't high enough to "freeze" the motion.
The solution is to make sure your shutter speed is fast enough by increasing the amount of light reaching the sensor another way - you could do this either by opening up your aperture, or raising your ISO.
This is why shooting in manual mode is so fantastic and I thoroughly recommend it, as YOU get to decide the best aperture, ISO and shutter speed for the scene you are trying to capture, so you can the image looking EXACTLY the way you want to.
(That's why I have two whole modules devoted to it in my Auto to Awesome course, because it is so valuable! And we have yet another one devoted to getting tack sharp images, so you can see how it all fits together. Well worth checking out!)
#3 - The Aperture You Use
Another reason for soft photos is how wide open your aperture is.
If you have a lens that is capable of stopping down to a very low aperture, like 1.4, and you are shooting at this aperture range, then you may have a really hard time getting your subject sharp. .
The reason for this is you could be trying to focus on the eye, but be ever so slightly off with your focus, so that focus lands on the nose instead. In this case, when looking at the eyes they will be soft, but the nose will be in perfectly sharp!
Until you are super confident with your focusing abilities, try shooting with a slightly smaller aperture, which helps give you a lot more wiggle room with your focus.
As you can see there are a few reasons why your photos are blurry, but hopefully this will give you some tips on what could be going wrong, and how to fix it when it does!