So, I'm just about to head out to a class I'm taking on studio portrait lighting. What better way to spend the day when my girls are out of town? Turn on sports, invite the guys over, hire some professional dancers and get some fireworks? Nope... I'm taking a photography class. Wait until you hear what my plans are for tomorrow morning. I'll give you a hint... it involves getting up at sunrise and a lighthouse, but that's all I'm saying for now.
I wanted to dedicate this post on taking sharp photos. It's really important when you're taking photos, if you want them to look good, to keep them sharp! When shooting at shutter speeds that are lower than the focal length of the lens you're using, you have to keep the camera as steady as possible to avoid camera shake. So, what does that mean. We'll if you're shooting with a 200mm lens, it means shooting at a 1/200sec or faster, or if using a 50mm lens, it means shooting at 1/50sec or faster. So if you're using at 85mm lens and shooting at 1/20sec, you run the risk of camera shake. If you're wondering what camera shake is, it's simply movement of the camera and lens that's captured when the shutter is released and a photo is taken. The resulting photos look blurred even when the subject is focused and you haven't been drinking! For the record, if you have been drinking, all your photos will probably appear blurry... this is not from camera shake. This is from eyeball shake and a lack of focusing ability and it will go away within a few hours.
Many lenses have a feature known as image stabilization (IS) or vibration reduction (VR). This is a mechanism inside the lends that counters movement, allowing the you to shoot at shutter speeds lower than normal. So, if you're shooting with a 50mm lens, to be safe you might be able to shoot with a shutter speed as slow as 1/30sec. This feature is pretty amazing. If your lens has it, you'll notice when you're looking through the viewfinder that you're image will stop shaking right before your eyes, once the feature if activated. The thing you have to remember about image stabilization is that even though it will help you to shoot at shutter speeds slower than normal, you still have to keep the camera as steady as possible. This lens feature can be very effective, but it can't perform miracles.
The best way to shoot at slower shutter speeds is to use some form of support. This can be a tripod, but it doesn't have to be. You can use rest your camera on a car window if you're inside a car, a rock if you're outside, or even a half eaten, beached, whale carcass if one should happen to wash up on shore while you're shooting on the beach. Using a support will illuminate camera shake and will allow you to take pictures will as long of a shutter speed as you need.