How to Get Sharper Images Through Proper In Camera and Post Production Routines

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm 56mm f1.2 review images (3 of 3)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 4.0

So you want sharper images? Sure, you already know that you should stop down your lens and shoot at a lower ISO; but do you know about how black levels and contrast affect your sharpness? Here are some quick ways that you can improve the sharpness of your images by starting with the results in the camera.

Deepen the Blacks

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Lulu's Shoot Zeiss 55mm f1.4 Otus lens photos (9 of 9)ISO 1001-80 sec at f - 1.4

One of the first things that you should know is that you’ll need to deepen the blacks. This means that you can underexpose a bit because you can always push the exposures as you need to in post. When you actually get to the post production stage you can also use the black levels to make them even darker. Deeper blacks also make an image look sharper even though they don’t really become sharper–so this is one that will stick out more if you and your clients aren’t looking at the image at 100%.

We recommend using Adobe Lightroom to do this or to just lower the shadow levels.

Add More Contrast to the Scene

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 85mm f1.4 portrait review images (2 of 3)ISO 1001-640 sec at f - 2.5

A contrasty scene can at least fake the look of it looking sharper when combined with deeper black levels. The reason for this is because it tends to boost the colors overall and it adds a bigger difference between the brightest brights and the darkest darks by cutting down the overall dynamic range in the scene. When not looking at 100%, it will make your subject pop out more.

Use a Diffused Flash to Increase Acutance

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm 26mm f1.2 portraits with Simon (1 of 2)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 2.8

Acutance is more or less to amount of details and lines that can be pulled out of a scene in a particular area. While many folks love shooting with just natural light, a diffused flash can give you sharper images by increasing the acutance due to the addition of specular highlights. While you can see great sharpness without a flash, a lens’s performance and the best of the resolution really comes out with a flash.

Of course, you’ll get even more acutance when you stop down the lens.

Remember the Reciprocal Rule of Shutter Speeds

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Profoto B1 First Impressions sample photos (8 of 10)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 4.0

One of the biggest ways to ensure that you get a sharp image is to remember the reciprocal rule of shutter speeds. To do that, you have to remember this rule: your shutter speed should be your focal length at the slowest. With that said, a 100mm lens on a full frame camera then that will mean that you should have a minimum of 1/100th of a second. Image stabilization can help you with this but you shouldn’t rely on it all the time.

If you’re shooting with a camera with a crop factor, you’ll need to shoot at the appropriate field of view. When you combine this with proper camera holding techniques you should get sharper images.

Use a Silver Beaded Light Modifier

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Impact Quikbox and LiteTrek photos (10 of 17)ISO 200

Lastly, our favorite way to ensure that you get sharper images is to use a lighting modifier with a silver beaded interior. There are softboxes and umbrellas with this texture and it helps to add more punch to your images over a white or simple silver. The reason for this is because a smooth silver will reflect just a normal smoothness. But when silver beads are added, the silver beads bounce light all over the place to give some extra punch and add even more specular highlights in certain areas.

We very highly recommend it.

To be fair though, it can bring out so many details on skin that it can make retouching difficult. However, if your model is flawless then go for it.

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.