Review: Tack Sharp by James Brandon

James Brandon - Tack SharpOne of the most basic things you need to get straight when taking a photograph is to make sure it’s sharp – tack sharp! If you like a softer look in your images, you can always add that later in your post-production. But making a blurry image sharp is far more difficult and in many cases even impossible.

In the 3rd edition of his book Tack Sharp: A Step By Step Guide To Nailing Focus James Brandon teaches you all the different ingredients to creating the sharpest possible images. And there are many ingredients to this. It’s not just about using a tripod.

About the Author

James Brandon is a landscape and travel photographer James-Brandonfrom Texas. Initially, he was mainly doing portraits and commercial work at the beginning of his career. But then he discovered his new passion: teaching others about photography. He built a new business publishing eBooks, selling presets, and holding workshops.

The Topic

When you start out in photography, you probably learn that there is one simple approach to creating sharp images: using a tripod. Of course, that’s one vital ingredient, but as James uncovers in this book, there are so many other factors that can make your images blurry, soft or out-of-focus. Many of these factors are often overlooked which leads to frustration and possibly to the false belief that new gear could solve the problem.

Save your money and get this book instead. Your photos will thank you for that.

The eBook

The book starts with a discussion of the basics (aperture, shutter speed and ISO) and how they influence the sharpness of your images. Low shutter speeds, a wide-open or fully-closed aperture and high ISO settings are all choices that you will make when you try to capture a scene, but they are also main factors in getting unsharp images. Having a fundamental knowledge about these correlations is important and James gives you that knowledge briefly and to the point.

Then he carries on to explain how lenses affect sharpness, how to hand-hold your camera correctly and what you need to know about tripods.

In the part about advanced techniques, James covers several helpful camera functions like the self-timer, Live View, setting the focus manually and back-button focus.

In the part about focus modes, James discusses single-point focus techniques, which problems they entail and how to use them correctly. In the latter part of the book, he discusses additional advanced concepts and techniques and their impact on sharpness like: Using small apertures, wide-angle lenses and the widely-used focus-recompose technique.

The book closes with a number of sample images and the tricks James used for making them tack sharp.


James has a few sample pages from an earlier edition of the book up on his website. You can check these out to get a feeling for the book. The current edition (the one reviewed here) is still similar enough.

Other Things You’ll Learn

Especially in the sections about lenses and tripods, you will pick up some tips that will make your decisions with respect to buying new gear much easier. You will also learn more about your camera in general.

The Style of Teaching

James’ teaching style is precise and to the point. He does not waste his or your time. So, this read will not be entertaining, but very informative.

The Summary

The Pros

  • With this book, James Brandon has created a reference for learning how to take truly sharp images. It is brief, concise and full of tips and techniques that will help you become a better photographer.

The Cons

  • None, really.

My Personal Tips for this book

Here are my personal tips on how to work with this book:

  • Grab your camera and your lenses and try James’ tips straight away. Most of them can be practiced in the comfort of your home, and having your camera next to your keyboard will make this a much more effective learning experience.
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