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If there’s one deal breaker in stock photography, here it is: missing focus.

Submitting a photo to your stock agency that isn’t sharp is a sure way to get your image rejected.

Luckily, there’s an easy way to avoid this – zoom in to 100% to check.

When you view a small version of your photo, odds are it will always look sharp at first. It’s not until you zoom in for a closer look that you’ll actually be able to tell if the shot is truly in focus.

There’s two ways to zoom in:

  1. With your camera. Right after you take a photo, review the image on the back of your camera, and use the magnify button to zoom in to check focus. Usually, the “zoom” function is a button or dial marked by a little magnifying glass with a “+” in it. Dig out your camera manual if you’re not sure how to do this.
  2. On your computer. Most editing programs allow you to easily zoom in to 100%. In Lightroom, simply click the 1:1 button in the Navigator Panel.

Photo focus check in Lightroom

It’s important to do both: check focus while you’re out shooting and also during the editing process on your computer. If you get in the habit of doing this, you’ll save yourself a lot of work and frustration… and it may force you to slow down while you shoot so you get better focus from the get-go.

Note: When evaluating sharpness, be sure not to zoom in past 100%. For example, if you are looking at your photo at 200%, it will never look sharp because it’s too magnified.

Sometimes it’s ok to submit a blurry shot for stock if you’re purposely going for a soft look, such as in the photo below. The trick is that the blur should feel intentional to the viewer. Otherwise, try to keep your subject tack sharp.

Stock photo of blurred bokeh

Although it’s always important to check your focus, you’ll especially want to watch it when you’re shooting with a telephoto lens since it’s easier to end up with camera shake with these types of lenses. Premium Members – since your Challenge this month is all about shooting with telephoto lenses, this is something to look out for!

If you’re getting out-of-focus shots and you’re not sure why, next week I’ll share some easy tricks for beating the blur… so stay tuned!

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