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Do you get frustrated that your photos always come out a bit blurry? This is one of the most common questions that I am asked by beginners. It can be very frustrating when you get back to your computer and realise your image isn’t as sharp as you thought it was! The problem could be caused by a number of reasons so it’s really hard to give a ‘one answer fits all’ solution. In this blog post, however I am going to go through 5 common reasons that cause unwanted blurry shots in the hope that one of these works for you.

1. You aren’t holding your camera the right way

I am going to start with this as I see this problem all of the time. To take a sharp photo the first step is to make sure you are holding your camera as steady as you possibly can.

The best way to hold your camera is to stand with your feet slightly apart to stabilise your body. You don’t want to be wobbling backwards, forwards or side to side. You might make it helpful to bend your knees slightly, place one foot in front of the other and make sure your elbows are tucked tight to your chest. Support the camera with by holding the lens from underneath, and use your other hand to grab the grip and gently press the shutter button.  I always recommend that (when you can) you use the viewfinder rather than the live view screen as holding the camera to your face will also help hold it steady. 

The key is to make sure you are steady and the camera is locked to your body for maximum stability.

2. Your shutter speed is too slow

Shutter speed relates to the duration of time that passes between your shutter opening and closing when you take a picture. Any movement that happens between the opening and closing of the shutter will be recorded in your photo as blur. Something as simple as the action of pressing the shutter release to take a picture or simply hand holding your camera by hand can result in a blurry image if your shutter speed is too slow.

You might think you can hold perfectly still for half a second, but it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to do so. When hand-holding your camera, remember this rule of thumb to avoid blur caused by camera shake – your shutter speed should be the reciprocal of your lens focal length. For example, if you’re using a 60mm lens, your exposure should be 1/60th of a second or faster. Camera shake is amplified as your focal length gets longer (the more you zoom in) so if you are taking a picture using a 200mm focal length be sure to use at least 1/200th of a second. 

My advice is to try different shutter speeds when you are hand holding your camera to find your happy minimum speed. Start with the guidelines above and see how you get on. Everyone is different, some people are more wobbly that others and it also emphasises the importance of holding you camera as steady as possible!

If you would like to use a slower shutter speed than the minimum for hand holding then you will need to use a tripod or steady your camera on a firm and secure surface. Be sure to use a remote trigger to activate the shutter release or, if you don’t have one, set the auto timer. Simply press the button and step back and wait for your camera to take the picture. 

3. Your aperture is too big

Aperture is the hole in your lens that lets light into your camera. The size of the aperture also has a direct effect on depth of field, which is how much of the image is in focus from front to back.

If you use a wide aperture, like f/2.8, your depth of field will be very shallow. Think of it as a slither of focus – with a big aperture this slither is very narrow, with only a small proportion of the depth of your image in focus. When shooting with a big aperture there is a risk that you’ll end up locking focus on something outside of this thin slither of focus which will result in an out of focus image.

If you are trying to get everything in the shot as sharp as possible, try using a small aperture (such as f/11 or f/22). With a smaller aperture, the slither of focus will be much thicker (or deeper) so more of your image from front to back will be sharp.

4. You’re not focusing in the correct place

Even if you are following all of these tips to the letter, it doesn’t mean much unless you can get the camera to focus on the right thing in the first place. Often photographers (especially beginners) leave their cameras set on automatic focus mode which tells the camera to use its best judgment to decide what part of the picture should be in focus. Most of the time modern cameras are pretty good at this, particularly if the subject is a big part of the frame. However, the camera can get confused and try to focus on the wrong thing. But you can pick the focal point yourself by switching to single point AF area mode.

When you look through your viewfinder (or LCD screen), you should see a number of little dots or laid over the display. These are your focal points, they show you where in the frame the camera is capable of finding focus. In single point AF mode you can select which of these points you want the camera to focus on by moving the red (or green dot) with your directional button located on the back of your camera. By selecting a specific point in single point AF mode your camera will always focus on that point and that point alone. This will give you more control to ensure you are focusing on what you want to focus on rather than the camera making that decision for you.

5. Your lens is dirty

Always make sure your lens is as clean as possible. Any smears or fingerprints on the front of the lens (or filter attached to your lens) will result in your image not being as sharp as you’d like. Be sure to always clean your lens with a specialist cloth which can be purchased in any camera store for very little money. Using the wrong type of material to clean your equipment may result in scratches to the glass.

Remember, there is rarely a single reason which explains why your images are blurry. The reasons can change with each image and each situation. It will also depend on the camera settings you are using at the time. You might find that one of the above reasons or even a combination will fix your issue however the best way to truly troubleshoot your images is to ensure you have a thorough understanding of the basics principles of photography in the first place. Cameras are amazing tools and with a good understanding about how your camera works you will be able to ensure you are utilising all of the functionality to ensure you capture the images you want every time.

If you’d like to really take control of your camera, don’t forget to sign up for your FREE trial of Get Camera Confident by clicking here.