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What's that there on the photo?
Yes, unfortunately, this question is often on the lips of your friends when they try to make out the features that are not sharp on your photographs. « What is this landscape I can barely see? Who are these relatives who can hardly be recognized? »
Let's say from the start that several factors can cause out-of-focus images. In this article, we will cover some of these factors and their solutions.
1. Basic Causes
How many times did you place your fingers on the lens and leave your fingerprints there? Is it possible that a whole layer of dust has accumulated on your camera since the last time you used it? If you answered yes to one of these questions, your images will certainly be fuzzy and lack contrast.
Clean your lens! Use lens tissue and an optical cleaner. Regular cleaning will make all the difference in the world: your friends will no longer look like ghosts in your images.
2. Action Shots
Perhaps the wind is blowing up a storm, the artist on the stage is jumping like a maniac, or cars are driving at 200 miles an hour. If you shoot these three examples at low speed, you will get a fuzzy blur.
To avoid this, increase your camera's shutter speed. The shutter speed priority or SPORT mode should be used on cameras with automatic exposure.
3. Lenses Used
Do you like to take animal pictures, but find it quite a challenge to bring back proofs of your exceptional observations because the subject is always out of focus or only part of the animal is sharp?
It is important to understand that the higher the focus number of your lens, the shorter the depth of field. To match the depth of field of a 135-mm lens at F5.6, you must set the aperture to F11 for a 400-mm lens.
90mm lens at F5.6
320mm lens at F5.6
If your image has a double outline or if the outline is difficult to identify, this probably means that you should have used a tripod.
1/10th without a tripod
1/250th without a tripod
5. Autofocus Detection Area
How come the subject you want to capture, whether in a crowd, in a forest or in a restricted area, is never sharp? And yet, the people in the foreground are sharp, and so are the trees on each side of the subject, and even the edge of the table in the small kitchen!
This is partly the fault of the automatic focusing system (autofocus), which identifies the focus area. Many systems only select 1 to 3 points of reference for the image. Therefore, the table in the foreground may just as well be the subject selected by the system, and your parents, sitting behind the table, will be out of focus. Certain more recent cameras have smarter sensors that detect seven areas, both horizontally and vertically.
If, despite all this technology, you still cannot clearly see the plumage of your robin or the piercing eyes of your owl, there is only one solution: MANUAL focusing!
6. Optical Quality
Well yes, sometimes it's worth paying a little more! Too often, the customer believes that the consultant at the photo shop only wants to make fat sales. Actually, most of the time, his zeal is quite justified: he is only trying to help you make the best possible choice to meet your goals and satisfy your passion for photography.
Obviously a professional consultant is well aware of the differences in optical quality between the various brands of cameras on the market. He will therefore propose a solution that takes into account both the quality of construction and your requirements in terms of the results you expect and your budget. There is obviously a difference between a $300 and a $900 lens!
Higher quality lenses will give you remarkable sharpness and more accurate color rendition. In addition, the multicoating of these lenses means you can say goodbye to the milky look of certain images shot in full sunlight.
"After all is done, you will be much happier focusing on your marvelous photographs than frowning at your out-of-focus pictures".
Go for it, and Happy Shooting!
With the cooperation of Jacques Bourdage, PFE.