Stop Your Heart for Sharper Images
Digital Darrell Blogs
© Darrell Young  

This is Digital Darrell's response in a forum whereby someone made fun of DD's suggestion that stopping your heartbeat would result in sharper images. Is DD being "silly?"

Now come on...I'm the guy who made the "silly" post that you should stop your heartbeat to get a sharp shot.

First, only if you are a Tibetian Monk can you stop your heartbeat. Unless drastic measures are taken.

Second, stopping your heartbeat WILL result in sharper images, although you wouldn't be able to enjoy them afterward, and would only have upwards of 15 seconds to get the shot before you fell down.

What I actually said is that SHORT OF stopping your heartbeat, you should hold your breath when you make a shot, use a heavy tripod, pass no wind yourself, or stay out of strong wind from mother nature, and use a cable release and mirror lockup when possible.

If one's camera won't make sharp images under those conditions, well, that person needs another camera. I agree with [name witheld], that many are having problems getting sharp images because pro camera's are more demanding. I had the same problem for nearly 1000 frames, with my Nikon D2x, before I was getting great images. I learned to use the camera well, and my images improved drastically. But, even though I agree with [name witheld yet again] about the hysteria surrounding this issue, and its cause for MANY people, I also acknowledge that an experienced photographer has the distinct ability to detect a problem with his/her camera, and is smart enough to know that an unsharp image taken under ideal conditions is NOT caused by the photographer.

Honestly, from my own experience, I think that 90% of the users having soft images are causing the soft images, or are not aware that the digital images usually require sharpening and a contrast increase in postprocessing, and the other 10% are truly having camera problems. I was in the 90% myself at first, and it was compounded by reading earlier hysterical threads on the focus and sharpness issues. After I settled down a bit, I started testing my camera under ideal conditions, and got razor sharp images. Only then did I realize that it was ME causing the unsharpness. I corrected my technique and got great images thereafter.

Had I continued getting unsharp images out of my pro-camera under ideal conditions, I would have known that my camera was bad. In that case, I would have immediately sent my camera to the manufacturer and fought to the death with the repair department until they gave me a camera that I knew was working. Many that have real problems are now doing that, and have stopped posting hysterical postings. (I am sure I would have felt hysterical if my $5000.000 pro camera had not taken good images on a tripod, so I don't blame anyone in particular)

What do I do to make sharp pictures? These are my techniques:

1. I use my tripod for lenses over 200mm. (no negotiation)
2. I bought a short fat ball-head so that my tripod was more solid.
3. I use Mirror Up ALWAYS, with at least two seconds delay.
4. I use an electronic shutter release, or cable release.
5. I don't shoot until the wind stops blowing.
6. I make sure my strap is NOT swinging by using one of the Optech® straps with disconnects so I can remove the bulk of it.

1. I use a monopod when possible for extra stability.
2. I stand with my feet well spread, and one in front of the other.
3. I place my elbows on my stomach/sides to form a more solid base.
4. I hold my breath.
5. I squeeze the shutter gently.
6. I use anti-shake lenses when possible.
7. I use 1.5x shutter speed over the focal length. (100mm requires at least 1/250th shutter speed)
8. I press my camera solidly into my big nose and leave a print on the LCD cover. (It helps to have a big nose to cushion vibration)

Now, I must admit that the above points are CAMERA 101 stuff. But, how many of us are truly taking the time to do these things? I wasn't and I paid with soft images. I thought it was JUST my Nikon D2x giving me soft images, UNTIL I got my first sharp image and realized what a really sharp image looked like. Then I realized with horror that I had never seen a sharp image before. Even though I have been shooting for 30 years, I had never seen a sharp image. I thought I was making sharp images with my Nikon D100 and F5, but I wasn't. They were almost sharp, but not quite. Once I saw the D2x output, I was simply blown away and realized my laziness as a photographer. I now beat myself into submission (my wife helps and enjoys it) and MAKE myself follow the above rules. With my Nikon D2x I now get the sharpest images I have ever seen from a camera this size. Even my RB67 ProSD doesn't come close, even though I used the tripod rules above with it. (too heavy to do otherwise)


Keep on capturing time...

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