My pictures aren’t sharp – Blame technology

Michael Willems shared with me a story about a new photographer who complained that her pictures weren’t sharp. Michael had a look at her brand new mid-range DSLR and fired off a couple of frames which were… wait for it… sharp as heck. So what went wrong?

Back in the old days when I was a full-time newsphotographer working on a daily newspaper I owned (and loved) a M4 Leica. 41closeupThis legendary camera had no automatic or semi-automatic modes. It didn’t have focusing points or even auto focusing. While you could buy a motorized frame advance nobody would call it a motordrive and it was horrendously expensive. The lenses were almost $1,000 each and the camera itself back then was around $2,000. So why would anybody in their right mind buy such a beast?

Because the lenses were so expensive, they were tack sharp. Because there was no automatic mode (heck the M4 didn’t even have a lightmeter. You had to use an external lightmeter and then dial the settings onto the manual shutter control and manual aperture ring), every shot was in focus. Finally the Leica’s of those days were not DSLRs. In other words you didn’t look through the lens to focus but used a rangefinder that moved frames within the viewfinder to match the limited range of lenses. The camera itself was no bigger than some of today’s point-and-shoots and the shutter (unlike DSLRs that sound like a pistol went off when pressed, was almost silent).

And the images were … Beautify. Breathtaking. Tack sharp. (And I sold this camera. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.)

So let’s get back to our lady with her new camera which took unsharp images. What went wrong?

It’s a long list:

  • The camera might have been set in manual focus by mistake;
  • The focusing mechanism may have been set to one-point and the one-point might have been set to some other location than the centre point (I see this mistake all the time.);
  • Our new photographer might not have realized that her camera was setting a shutter speed too slow for her to hold the camera steady when she took a shot indoors (In other words, the image would be in focus but because of the camera blur, it appeared fuzzy or blurry);
  • Using a slow (note I didn’t say bad) lens, like the kit lens that came with the camera, won’t allow enough light into the camera so as to allow the automatic mechanism to set a sufficiently high enough shutter speed to again avoid blurry images. (The solution is to buy a fast (notice I didn’t say expensive) lens like a 50mm f/1.8.

If all of this seems like a mystery to you and you live in southern Ontario, why not spend an evening or Saturday or Sunday afternoon with us by attending a Henry’s School of Imaging class?

Michael and I are also available to teach one-on-one or small group classes. We can show you how to get the most out of your new digital cameras and software (We teach classes in Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom and Nikon’s Capture NX2.) plus we are also available to visit your camera club or other clubs and associations where we offer a variety of workshops including lunch-and-learns for corporate clients.

Visit our teaching website at CameraTraining.Ca for more information. And, signup to be the first to be notified when our new photography “cookbook” is hot off the presses. Should be later this fall.

2 thoughts on “My pictures aren’t sharp – Blame technology

  1. Brings back happy memories of my first SLR which was a Zenet. I may have the spelling wrong – I did buy it about 35 years. Anyway, it was a Russian camera. I bought it at a camera shop in Winnipeg. The salesperson told me that it was built strong “like peasant woman”. You had to set everything. I bought a hand held light meter to go along with it. I sure learned a lot about photography with that camera.

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