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some advice on crisper images… | Macomb, Illinois Family & Wedding Photographer

“hello:)i was looking through some of your photography, and im amazed at how clear your pictures are. i love your work, and i was wondering if you could give me some tips?
thank you! :)”

I get asked this question frequently and decided to just respond via blog post in order to share the information.

Parenthetical remark here:

I make no claims to be the ‘all knowing’ photographer or to have all of the answers on any topic. All I know is what works for me. If it helps someone else, great! If not, like my good friend Shannon always says regarding information, “Take what you want and leave the rest.”

My answer to the above message is as follows:

Hi. Thank you very much.
I can give you some tips that will be easy to implement and some that won’t be. That isn’t to say they are impossible to implement, just not immediately perhaps.

In order to get the clearest images possible:

1. I don’t use automatic settings. Manual gives me the control I need to make each image look as clear as possible.
2. I try to find the best lighting. Sometimes it’s possible to choose the location and sometimes it’s not. If it is in your power to find the best lighting, do so.
3. I keep my ISO low, around 200. If you have good lighting, this should be no problem.
4. I keep my shutter speed as high as possible (or as high as the light dictates).
5. I keep my aperture somewhat low, around 3.0 (depending on the number of subjects and lighting of course). For 1 subject I tend to use anywhere between 3.0 and4.0. The more subjects I have (that obviously need to be in focus), the higher I raise my aperture. A low aperture gives me a nice depth of field. This is definitely personal taste and the ability of your lens to open wide, but not too wide. Unless you have a VERY steady hand (which I do NOT) shooting at a low aperture like 2.8 or lower might yield some blurry images.
6. I keep as still as possible. I have very good equipment, but I don’t rely on that by wobbling around and being sloppy. I practice breath control, compose, focus, recompose, then shoot.
7. Equipment. I use professional grade equipment. This and this alone isn’t enough, but anyone who says it doesn’t matter is kidding themselves. I noticed a BIG difference when I went from the top of the line pro-sumer camera to my full frame camera. Nice equipment isn’t everything, of course, but it sure does help.:)
8. Finally, I use Adobe Lightroom for all of my post process sharpening. I stay away from gimmicky editing software like Piknik and Picasa. Those post processing mediums are fine for amateurs or kids who like to play with their images from their point n shoot, but that kind of software is cheap. Therefore it makes the image look cheap. They have a tendency to take any crispness out of the image.
Lightroom has a 30 day free trial and if you or ANYONE you know works at either a university or community college you can get an AMAZING discount. Besides, even without the discount, it’s very reasonably priced. One VERY VERY useful thing about Lightroom is in the Develop mode, it tells you exactly what your camera settings were for the displayed image. I can’t say enough about how much this has helped me. When I pull up a grainy picture or one that’s blurry, I look over at what my settings were and I can almost tell immediately what I did wrong or why the picture looks the way it does. Conversely, for a really good image, I can easily look over and see what I did right.

Photoshop is a BIG help. You can’t take a blurry or substandard image and make it crisp in PS, but you CAN take a crisp image and take it to WOW in PS.

The last thing I want to say is, KEEP PRACTICING. I can’t say it enough. I’m still practicing. I think any good photographer, professional or not, is always practicing. I don’t think we ever stop. You may look at an image of mine and think it’s clear/crisp, but believe me, I look at it and see the mistakes and so can others. It’s seeing the mistakes and working to eliminate them that will make you better. That goes for me too.

…and a blog post is boring without pictures so here are a couple images where I employed the above techniques.



One more thing:
I have no doubt that other photographers (much more skilled than I) can pick apart this blog post and define why my advice is inaccurate, but it is MY advice. It’s what works for me. I don’t pretend to be something I’m not. I’m just a girl with a camera trying her best. Someone close to me once told me, “Find what you absolutely love to do, and try to make money doing it.” That’s what I’m doing.
I hope this helps you and anyone else who reads it. If you are a photographer and you’d like to add to the discussion or feel like you have something to offer, please feel free to do so in the comment section.

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Heather Frykman - April 6, 2012 - 4:17 pm

Great job!… for just a girl with a camera trying her best 😉
Love how you made the point about piknik and picasa without being rude or arrogant as I have read others!! Thought it was great how you offered info about the trial download of LR, very thoughtful and caring! I <3 LR. Very well written, not arrogant or boss…but friendly and informative!

Erin Stevenson - April 6, 2012 - 5:13 pm

Great post! Thank you for sharing. It’s good to hear that someone who I think is amazing is still practicing. It gives me hope! :)

admin - April 6, 2012 - 9:31 pm

Thank you so much for commenting Erin. I think it’s important to remember, we are ALL still learning. :) No one is exempt from that rule. <3

admin - April 6, 2012 - 9:35 pm

Heather, I’m so grateful you took the time to comment. Seriously. I honestly believe that we are all just trying to do the best we can with what we have and if what we have can offer some insight, we should share. That’s all I’m trying to do. Maybe some people are on a different path and my help doesn’t mean much, but I firmly believe that there’s someone out there that might be on the same path as me. So I hope that the info I share, can help them. <3

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