Find Good Light & Use a High Quality Lens (4 Days to Sharper Photos)

Why Good Light is Important for Sharper Photos

Finding Good Light & Using a High Quality Lens

Day 3 of “4 Days to Sharper Photos”

Now that you have figured out your camera’s focus settings and you have practiced and understand how depth of field and shutter speed can help you out, you should be well on your way to achieving sharper images.

In this post, I will discuss the role that good light and high quality professional lenses play in getting sharper photos.

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1. Good Light & Good Exposure Will Give You a Sharper Image

You need good light for sharp photos.  Good light will help in so many ways but it is especially helpful with achieving sharp photos.

An important fact that you NEED TO KNOW is that your camera can’t focus without light.  In fact, when there is poor lighting your camera has a built-in light that shines that is meant to help assist in the process of focusing.  The camera knows it needs good light to get a good focus so you should too.

When determining whether a photo is sharp or not, we generally look to the subject’s eyes first.  In fact, I set my focus point over one of the eyes for most shots to ensure they are the MOST in-focus part of my image.  Good lighting will allow light to fall in the eyes and make focusing on them much easier.

Using Professional Lens is Important for Sharper Photos

Here are Some Places to Look for Good Light:

Open Shade

Photographing in open shade is when your subject is standing in shade, but are looking out into an area that isn’t shaded.

For instance, imagine your subject is standing in the shade of a building.  Having them stand with their back towards the building and looking out towards an area that isn’t shaded is a good example of using open shade.  But if you have your subject facing towards the building that is providing the shade, that would NOT be considered using open shade.

Open shade can be found in many other places too: under an awning, beneath leafy branches of a tree, or any other area the direct beams of the sun are blocked and create a shadow.

Lighting is Important for Sharper Photos


Backlighting your subject means having the light coming from behind them.  Knowing how to use backlight is helpful because you can use it at almost any time of the day.

Personally, when I use backlight, I try not to have the sun directly behind my subject and/or shining directly into my camera.  This produces a little too much sunflare for my liking.

Instead, I try to position my subject so that the light is just slightly off to one side and not shining directly into the camera.

Using a High Quality Lens Will Help You Take Sharper Photos

2. Higher Quality Professional Lenses Will Give You a Sharper Image

Most of us start out shooting with some kind of “kit” lens for our cameras.  However, it probably won’t take long before you get frustrated trying to shoot sharp photos with a kit lens.

Typically, a kit lens is far below the quality of the best lens in any camera manufacturer’s lineup, with many lenses of varying quality and price in in between.  They are also generally the least expensive and lightest because they are using less glass inside.

The better quality lenses (which typically equates to more expensive) will help you achieve better images.  They contain more glass and optics which will help with sharpness but because of the extra glass, can be quite heavy too!

Keep in mind that a prime lens tends to be sharper and a little less expensive than a high quality zoom lens because the manufacturer doesn’t have to ensure that the lens is sharp at multiple focal lengths since a prime lens only has ONE focal length!  And because of the multiple focal lengths, a high quality zoom lens is usually one of the most expensive lenses a manufacturer can offer!

The one exception I have found to this is the 50mm f/1.8.  This lens is relatively inexpensive but, for both Nikon and Canon, is one of their sharpest lenses.  They are totally worth checking out.

Lighting for Sharper Photos

Note: Prime lenses are sharp lenses.  But be aware that it may take some time to learn to shoot at the more open apertures a prime lens offers.

The more open the aperture is, the less depth of field there is.  This means that any small movement forward or back by you or your subject could result in an out of focus image.

It took me a month or two of shooting with my prime lens to feel confident about getting a sharp image at an open aperture.

how to get sharp photos cheat sheet

Previous Posts in Our “4 Days to Sharper Photos Series”:

Day 1. Getting Sharper Photos In Camera (4 Days to Sharper Photos)

Day 2. Understanding Depth of Field & Shutter Speed (4 Days to Sharper Photos)

Day 4. Sharpening in Lightroom (4 Days to Sharper Photos)

Do you have any questions or comments about How Light & Lenses Affect the Sharpness of an Image?   Leave us a comment below – we would love to hear from you!  And PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!

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