You can opt to purchase a manual sod lifter that's capable of small or large area use or, if you're more than your average hobby gardener, then you're better off using a power cutter for sod removal.
They're the kind of tool that are handy for what they were designed for. Trust me - a garden shovel won't cut the mustard. Most will work with the depth at hand, and level out nicely as you work the area.
Once you've got a rhythm going, you'll find the grassy top soil will start to lift off relatively easy, depending upon the ground you're working with.
If you need to remove turf for whatever reason, you're advised to invest in one of these rather handy garden tools. You don't need to pay the price of a small island either - unless you need a machine driven cutter, a manual one will work just fine.