checking my technique to ensure sharp images
I love sharp images. Crisply sharp. However, I’m not stuck on the idea that the image has to be sharp over the need for an image to have impact. Images that draw us in, usually have emotional impact of some kind. But still, I like sharp.
How sharp your subject appears, is a balance between a bunch of factors we have to balance,. These factors might be with careful forethought, or just something we intuitively adjust for. Shutter speed, choice of aperture, subject movement, your own movement, choice of equipment, and our own technique. All of these things splinter further into numerous choices we have to make at the moment we take the shot.
I offer the following as an anecdote about recent problems I had with soft images. There’s no real advice here, except perhaps that we sometimes need to step back from our habits, and look further to find the actual source of a problem.
I noticed that when I shot vertical portraits with my Nikon D3 and Nikon 24-70mm lens, that I would often have soft images. They would either be slightly back-focused or slightly front-focused. The horizontal images though would be pin-sharp. I even tried a second copy of the lens on my other D3 body as a way to isolate the problem, and see whether it is my camera or the lens that were causing the image softness. Big surprise … the same thing would happen. I’d randomly get unsharp vertical photos.
I just couldn’t entertain the thought that two lenses were faulty in exactly the same spurious way. There had to be another cause for the problem.
Then during one shoot, I noticed something in my handling of my camera and lens ..
In switching to a vertical positioning of the camera, the bump in the front of the camera’s grip would push my hand slightly forward as I moved my left hand. This bump on the camera’s grip would then also change my grip on the lens. My edge of my palm moved forward slightly when I held the camera vertically, and I’d accidentally keep the focus ring from moving with a light touch .. or perhaps I would accidentally nudge the ring. This would unpredictably change the focus for me, without me realizing it.
It was something as simple that, yet subtle as this, causing me problems. Of course, now that I know, I can easily avoid it. But it took me a while to figure this out because I instantly looked at my equipment, rather than my own technique.
This is similar to when I used my first Nikon D-series body – the Nikon D2H. The camera would occasionally refuse to focus. It turned out that with my large hands, the edge of my palm was pressing the vertical shutter release when the shutter release was enabled .. with this this, the camera would “refuse” to focus, since I was already accidentally doing the focus-and-lock thing with the edge of my hand. I felt very foolish when I realized it was me, and not my camera.