Written by Jeff & Angie

December 12, 2019

Red Dog Bison buffalo calf

First thing we need to do is understand what causes a blurry photos and then work on getting your digital images sharp. It can be challenging at time so let go over a few issues.

There are 4 main reasons that cause blurry photos so lets begin with

  • Poor Focus – is the most obvious way to get an image that is  ‘un-sharp’ is through having your subject out of focus. This might be a result of focusing upon the wrong part of the image, being too close to your subject for the camera to focus, selecting an aperture that generates a very narrow depth of field.
  • Subject Movement – the most common type of ‘blur’ in your photo is from the subject moving – that is usually caused by the shutter speed being too slow.
  • Camera Shake – This is another common reason you get blur. It is from the photographer generate movement while taking the image – this is often caused by the shutter speed that is too slow and/or the steadiness of your camera.
  • Noise – High ISO also know as ‘noisy’ shots are photos that are pixelated and look like they have lots of little dots over them.

Lets begin with our 5 things to get sharper images

#1  How to steady your camera

A lot of blur in photos that I have seen is a direct result of camera shake (the movement of your camera for that split second when your shutter is open). The best way to minimize camera shake is to use a Tripod (see below) of course there times when using a tripod is not possible and you will need to shoot while holding your camera. When doing this use both hands push your left elbow into your hip, keep the camera close to your body, support yourself with a wall, tree or some other solid object. One other way to help with camera shake is practice softly pushing shutter button. I have seen lots of photographers push the button hard which causes the camera to dip with every picture taken.

#2 Tripods

You will not be able to use a tripod all of the time but if you use one when you can it will improve your images. When choosing a tripod don’t just take your camera gears weight into considerations you should also consider your shooting environment. For example I live in a very windy area and a  tripod that is rated for my gear weight will not hold up in the wind which will result in wind vibrations from the tripod. The heavier the the tripod the better and carbon is the best option but not required. If you have any questions on tripods just message me and I could help you decide on a tripod.

#3 Focusing

Most of us use auto focusing on our cameras but you can’t assume that the camera will always get it right.

Need to check the image to see if it is in focus before hitting the shutter and if it’s not right try again or switch to manual focus mode.  The other thing to keep in mind is that if you are shooting with a large aperture like f2.8 (fstop) your focus point needs to be spot on or your subject will be out of focus because the focal distance is very small.

Most modern cameras have a range of focus modes you can choose to shoot try If you are shooting a still or semi still subject chose single point focus point. If you are shooting a faster moving object try a small group instead of all of the focus sensors.

#4  ISO (noise)

One of the element of the exposure triangle is ISO which plays a big role in the noisiness of your photos. Choose a larger ISO and you will be able to use faster shutter speed and smaller aperture (which will help with sharpness) but you will suffer from increasing the noise of your shots. The lower the ISO the cleaner your image will be which in the long run helps with sharper images. You should try shooting the same subject with different ISO and find out your camera limits are. Most cameras handle ISO great up to 400 others higher.

#4 Shutter Speed

Shutter speed plays a huge role in the sharpness of your image. you can take out two of the equations of a blurry image with just this one thing (subject movement and camera movement). The faster your shutter speed the less impact camera shake will have and the more you will freeze any movement in your shots. . Remember the rule for handheld shutter speeds:

Choose a shutter speed a little faster than your focal length

So for example

  • if you have a lens that is 50mm in length shoot at  1/60th of a second or faster
  • if you have a lens with a 100mm focal length shoot at 1/125th of a second or faster
  • if you are shooting with a lens of 200mm shoot at 1/250th of a second or faster
  • Just keep in going from here

Just remember the faster your shutter speed is the larger you’ll need to make your Aperture to compensate. That will mean you have a smaller depth of field which makes focusing a little more difficult.

#5 Aperture

Aperture impacts the depth of field (the area that is in focus) in your images. If you decreasing your aperture (increasing the number – say up to f/18 will increase the depth of field meaning that the zone that is in focus will include both close and distant objects.

Do the opposite (for example moving to f/3.5) and the foreground and background of your images will be more out of focus and you’ll need to be more exact with what you focus your camera upon.

Just always keep in mind that the smaller your aperture the longer your shutter speed will need to be which of course makes moving subjects more difficult to keep sharp.

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