Monday, April 16, 2012

Improving Focus: Mirror Lock-Up

There are a lot of ways in which you can fake a good photograph, but one thing is certain: 
you can not fake good focus.
No amount of editing will make a blurry image crisp and clear.


That means you must get it right in camera.
And that can sometimes be hard to do.

Last week I watched the live, online workshop Fundamentals of Digital Photography with John Greengo at While I knew a lot of the information would be review, I also knew I'd learn something!

When this workshop got to the section on focusing, I was all eyes, ears, and attention!

...and it turns out, I learned a lot more than I thought I would...

Over the next few days I'm going to share the three major "rules" or tips about focus that I took away from this course.

So, let's get started, shall we?!

1. Using Mirror Lock-Up will eliminate in-camera vibrations, thus resulting in crisper images.
Last year I upgraded my camera to a Nikon D7000 because the ISO capabilities are amazing. But every week it seems I learn something more about this model that makes it even better. The most recent "discovery" was that of mirror lock-up.

Let me first explain a bit about the mechanics of our cameras, using the below diagram as a reference:

When we look through the viewfinder we are seeing the image in front of us reflected into a mirror within our camera. When we press the shutter button to take the picture, that mirror must swing up and out of the way so the image can be recorded, or taken. Because this mirror swings up with such powerful force, it jostles the camera a little bit which can result in slightly blurry images.

{ click on the above image or HERE to read more about how your camera works! }

There is a way to stop that mirror from shaking the camera. Enter: mirror lock-up. It does just what the name suggests; it locks the mirror up before you take the picture.

On my D7000 there is an extra dial on the top that includes "MUP" - mirror lock-up. When I select this option, the first time I press the shutter button the mirror locks to the top of the camera. The second time I press the shutter button, the image is recorded. The downside to this option is that once the mirror is locked up, you can no longer see the image you're about to take.

If you want the benefits of mirror lock-up, but wish to avoid the inconvenience of not seeing what you're about to shoot, there is another option: Live View.
Live view will lock the mirror up and let you see what you're shooting!

Next time you're out shooting, give this trick a might be surprised by the results!

...see you tomorrow for tip number two!...


  1. Nice explanation. I've heard of this before but honestly never gave it much thought. I might try this for fun but I don't have a tripod. Is one required for this?

    1. That's a great question! I've found that a tripod isn't completely necessary, especially if you're using the live view mode. I've been playing around with the MUP button option while hand-holding my shots and have seen a visible improvement with it. Macro photography will get the biggest boost from the mirror lock-up method, but I would definitely use a tripod for that.

  2. Great blog entry. I watched the same workshop. :)

    I've been using the live view with the zoom/magnifier bumped up for at least a year now to do macro work. I do a much better job of manually focusing with the detail blown up in the LCD screen. When I switched over to the live view method I saw immediate improvement. I absolutely LOVE live view (with magnification) for macro work.

    Thanks Katie for introducing me to CreativeLIVE. I haven't missed one of their workshops since your "31 Days to Releasing Your Inner Artist" blog (day 20) that mentioned CreativeLIVE. I didn't find your series until you were about 3/4th done with it, but it was an awesome series to read through. :)

    Looking forward to tomorrow's blog entry.

  3. I have actually read about this in my photography book I have. My camera doesn't have mirror lock-up though. That darn D40 just isn't good enough I guess. Ha!


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