Capture sharp portraits with these eight tips


posted Monday, November 16, 2015 at 2:57 PM EDT


Portrait photographers know how challenging it can be to get sharp portraits. You have to consider a lot of aspects of an image in addition to sharpness, but some of these considerations are actually related to sharpness. Dzvonko Petrovski wrote an article, The 8 Immutable Laws of Sharp Portrait Photographs, that discusses what you need to do ensure that you get sharp portraits.

Light is critical for capturing sharp portraits. You need to have enough light, and it needs to be directed well. By having enough light for your desired shutter speed and aperture, you'll be able to keep your ISO sensitivity low and therefore capture more details in your images.

The lens is also important. There are many excellent lenses available and different lenses serve different purposes. Using an 85mm f/1.4 lens at f/1.4 will provide a very shallow depth of field, but the same lens at f/11, for example, will allow more of the image to be sharp. Relatedly, you've got to get your focus correct to have a sharp image. There are many aspects of an image that post-processing allows you to fix or enhance the image, but focus is not one of them. If you don't achieve correct focus in-camera, no amount of Photoshop will make your image sharp. Autofocus is very good with modern cameras, but it is not perfect, so don't be afraid to manually focus to fine-tune your focus.

Michel Thierry Atangana, 2015

Shutter speed and aperture decisions both have an impact on sharpness. You must select a shutter speed that is high enough to eliminate any motion blur. People are always moving a little bit, so choosing a very slow shutter speed can mean a blurry image. Aperture affects more than just depth of field, it can also affect the optical qualities of a lens. Even the best and most expensive lenses don't often perform their best completely wide open. An 85mm f/1.4 lens is not at its optical best at f/1.4, but will rather have vignetting and some softness. Stopping down your lens will typically reduce vignetting and improve sharpness throughout the image. Stopping down too far can lead to diffraction though, which will soften an image. Every lens performs differently, so read up on your particular lens.

Karolina, photoshop, 2015

To see the rest of Petrovski's 8 immutable laws of sharp portraits, check out his full article here

It's not easy to get sharp portraits, but by taking into consideration these eight laws, you'll be well on your way to capturing tack sharp portraits.

(Seen via Light Stalking. Index image, PUNK, 2014 from Flickr user Luis Alvarez Marra. Michel Thierry Atangana, 2015, from Flickr user Michel Thierry Atangana. Karolina, photoshop, 2015,  from Flickr user Ada Vogel. All images modified and used under Creative Commons 2.0 license.)