Essentials of Photography – How to Avoid Blurry Pictures


Taking blurry pictures is one of the most common mistakes made by photographers. It’s not just a problem for casual snappers, even serious photographers get focussing wrong sometimes. There’s nothing worse than taking a great photograph and realising it’s blurred when you later view it. Sharp pictures always look fantastic, and it’s worth a little extra effort each time you press the shutter button to ensure focussing is right.

There are several reasons why pictures can look blurry, and the following are the most common problems.

English: In photographs, the camera shutter sp...

In photographs, the camera shutter speed can have a dramatic effect on the appearance of moving objects. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1)    Shutter speed too low.

So called ‘camera shake’ is a blurry look to pictures caused by the camera moving during the exposure. The minimum safe shutter speed depends on the type of lens you are using, and a couple of other factors. Mounting the camera on a tripod is the best way to avoid camera shake, but this isn’t always practical. A shutter speed of at least one hundredth of a second is generally fast enough for most standard lenses.

If there isn’t enough light to expose correctly at faster shutter speeds, the photographer may have to compromise. Changing aperture or ISO settings is one option. Using a flash for lighting is another option, but may not produce the required lighting effect.

Law keven - Floating on air (by-sa)

Law keven – Floating on air (by-sa) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2)    Auto-focus failure.

Modern digital cameras have advanced auto-focus systems, but these aren’t completely reliable. Auto-focus systems can struggle to work in low light, and may not find a subject to focus on. The camera doesn’t understand what a photographer is trying to achieve with ever picture, and may focus on the wrong part of the scene. For example, focussing on the subject’s eyes is critical in portrait photography, but the camera may choose to focus on another part of an image.

Sophisticated cameras have multiple focus points, and these can lead to mistakes if the photographer doesn’t fully understand them. The latest digital SLR cameras have over fifty focus points. Setting a camera to a more simple focus point selection can reduce the number of errors. Although technology advances in leaps and bounds, camera’s aren’t able to read a photographer’s mind. The best solution is often to switch to manual focus mode, and focus the lens using your eyes rather than technology.

Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus), Morr...

Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus), Morro Strand State Beach, Morro Bay, CA, 31 jan 2008 31jan2008 – Photo by Michael “Mike” L. Baird bairdphotos.com Canon 1D Mark III w/ 100-400mm IS lens with 1.4X II TE (center-point auto-focus) and circular polarizer, handheld. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3)    Subject movement.

Sports and action photographers understand the importance of fast shutter speeds for freezing motion. Any moving subject can look blurry in a picture if the photographer isn’t using the camera correctly. Shutter priority modes are great if you are working with moving subjects. Many digital SLR cameras allow you to set a minimum shutter speed, and this is ideal for ensuring movement is frozen.

4)    Dirty lens.

If you are constantly disappointed with blurry pictures, it may be that there is dust or grease on your camera’s lens. A camera cleaning kit is an essential item for photographers, and is a quick and easy way to ensure lenses are free from dirt. This is a very common problem when taking pictures with mobile phones as the lenses pick up lots of dust and grease with their heavy use.

Follow the tips in this article to ensure your photographs are as sharp as possible.

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