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F/8 And Be There

F/8 And Be There!

As a photographer, if you haven't heard this phrase used by another photographer yet, you will. It's not's actually been around for quite some time in photojournalism. This famous phrase serves as a great start to the series I'm writing on How to Take Sharp Images." This article answers the question, "Is there a particular aperture setting that offers more sharpness than others? The answer: YES!

While it differs from lens to lens, it is generally accepted that apertures f/8 and f/11 are the sharpest apertures on the lens. That's right...there are camera settings that provide better sharpness, all other things being equal. What needs to be stated here is that upgrading one's gear is not necessarily the answer to getting better shots while learning to use one's camera more thoroughly definitely is.

To demonstrate this, I left my apartment and photographed the first thing I could find, a flower. It's not a very interesting photo but should prove the point. I shot it three times at these f-stops: f/4, f/8, and f/22. Here's the image:

The red circle in the center of the image indicates what I was focusing on.

I've blown up the three images to 100% to see how sharp there are.




The f/4 and f/8 are pretty close but the f/8 is still a tad bit sharper.The image shot at f/22 is the least sharp by far.

When I shoot studio images, I generally shoot at f/8 with a shutter speed of 1/250 and an ISO of 100. With the use of off-camera flash, these settings provide me with absolutely the sharpest images and I'm able to do so with a hand-held tripod.

To test for yourself which apertures are sharpest on your own lenses, simply set your camera on a tripod and shoot the same image at each aperture. Then open the images in Photoshop and amplify each of them to 100% or more until you see a noticeable difference between them.

What does 'F/8 and Be There' mean?

F/8 generally provides a great starting place for photographers learning how to use manual settings on their cameras and exploring various apertures.

Why f/8?

F/8 offers a great middle of the road depth of field focus. This means that photographers can get a nice balance of focus at all depths in their composition while not losing much in one of two tradeoffs (1) Slowing shutter speeds too far risking unintentional motion blur and/or (2) increasing the ISO and thereby the image noise as well. 'F/8 and Be There' means a kept aperture setting of f/8 and being ready for any shot is where photojournalists tend to feel a sense of reliability.

Try it out and see for yourself. I'll be covering other tips at various other aperture settings in future articles in this set on taking sharp images. Grab our RSS Feed so that you're first to get these articles as they're published.

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