We've all been there. You take a cracking photo and merrily skip home like Charlie with his golden ticket, eager to upload and view it on the big screen. Annoyingly though, the photo you were so excited to see just isn't sharp enough to satisfy the perfectionist in you. Taking consistently sharp images takes a bit of practise, but with patience and persistence, I reckon you can nail it in no time.

Here's a few tips on how to get those crisp, clean, sharp images we all strive for:

1) Focus.I always set my AF point to a single point of focus rather than allowing my equipment to auto-select my focal point for me. This gives me total control. If your subject isn't moving, set your focus mode to One-Shot AF (Canon) or AF-S (Nikon). If you're just starting out, set your focus to the centre AF point, but don't be afraid to move and reset your focus point once you feel more confident.

Typically when I'm shooting landscape I'll use my centre AF point, but if I turn my camera to shoot someone's portrait I'll most likely change my focal point to the AF point that is now at the top of my viewfinder.

By doing this, I'm now using the focal point which is going to be closest to my subjects eyes. Once I have my focus sorted, there is still the small matter of composition and the more I have to move my camera from the original point of focus, the more chance I have of losing that pin sharpness.

2) Focus on the eye.
When shooting a portrait, focus on the iris of your subject. If their head is at an angle, pick the eye that is closest to you. This can be tricky if you are photographing children as they are always on the move but if at first you don't succeed, try, try again!

3) Avoid camera shake.
Camera shake can wreak havoc on your sharp intentions and even things like breathing or not holding your camera properly can cause problems. To avoid camera shake try taking your photos at the end of your outward breath. You can also hold your elbows in to your body or use a wall or a door frame to help stabilise your camera. Darren Rowse of Digital Photography School also suggests that a good general rule is to choose a shutter speed with a denominator that is larger than the focal length of the lens. For example:
  • if you have a lens that is 50mm in length try not to shoot any slower than 1/60th of a second
  • if you have a lens with a 100mm focal length try to shoot at 1/125th of a second or faster
  • if you are shooting with a lens of 200mm try to shoot at 1/250th of a second or faster
If do you need to shoot at a slower speed for whatever reason, simply get down low and morph into a human tripod.

4) Use prime lenses.
I find that prime lenses (fixed focal lengths) are always sharper than zooms. My last post was all about the joys of owning a nifty fifty but I also regularly shoot with my 35mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.8. I just love prime lenses and that's all I have to say about that.

5) Try to avoid shooting at your widest aperture.
Most lenses are at their sharpest one or two stops above their widest aperture. So for example, with a lens that goes as far as  f1.4, try shooting at f2 instead.

6) Shoot at a low ISO.
If you've opted for a large ISO you’ll be able to use faster shutter speed and smaller aperture but the down side is that you'll be increasing the noise of your shots. For pin sharp images try keep it as low as possible.

7) Keep it clean folks!
Invest in a lens cleaning kit to keep your equipment at its best. Rocket blowers are good for removing dust from your sensor too but nothing beats a regular service. If, like me, you are based in London, Fixation do a really thorough job and I try to get my equipment serviced with them at least once a year.

What do you mostly take photos of? Let me know in the comments below:

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