‘Why are my photos blurry I used to ask myself?’ sound familiar?
Firstly, if you’ve never asked yourself this question as an aspiring photographer then you won’t need this guide. Secondly, well done on mastering sharpness!
Knowing why your photos aren’t tack sharp will only help you improve your photography in the future.
If you find yourself constantly questioning ‘why are my pictures blurry?’ then the answers quite possibly lie in understanding camera shake and motion blur in photography.
It is what it sounds like – camera shake is when your camera vibrates during a photo. These little movements will affect how light through your lens and hits your sensor.
Given that light travels in straight lines, if the point that you’re aiming for it to hit (the sensor) moves while the light is landing on it then the resulting image will be blurred in parts.
Long exposure photographs are the most susceptible to camera shake as the sensor is exposed to light for longer periods. But you can even register camera shake from shutter speeds as slow as 1/60th.
Fortunately stopping camera shake occurring, or at least minimising the chances of it happening, is quite easy.
Here are 4 ways to stop camera shake.
1. Always use a tripod when shooting slower when 1/60th with your shutter speed.
2. For long exposure photos use a remote shutter trigger to start the start. Pressing your camera’s shutter button can cause micro-vibrations.
3. Alternatively start your long exposure using a self-timer. Set the camera to 2-seconds, press down on the shutter button and stand back until the exposure cycle completes.
4. Follow the reciprocal rule when using telephoto lenses. The rule states you should use a shutter speed that is equal to, or greater than, the focal length you are shooting at. i.e. shooting at 200mm requires a shutter speed of 1/200th or faster to reduce camera shake.
Motion blur is different from camera shake as it is a result of your subject moving and not the camera – but it is possible for both to affect your image if you don’t take precautions.
You’ll see instances where motion blur can be used intentionally and creatively such as ghosting or panning techniques.
If you are finding your shots are still blurry and it’s not down to camera shake, then it’s probably due to the movement of your subject in the photograph.
Since cameras register light that is bouncing off a subject, then if that reflected light moves during an exposure. Then the subject becomes blurred if the camera settings aren’t optimised.
Just as with camera shake, motion blur can be easily eradicated with a few simple steps during shooting.
1. For action shots use a shutter speed that is faster than the subject’s movement.
2. Perceived motion is relative to the camera’s position. A car travelling 30mph 100 yards away will require a slower shutter speed than the same car being 20 yards away at the same speed. This is important to remember and adjust for.
3. Use a continuous focus mode to help your camera track motion and place the focus points in the right place.
4. Don’t shoot handheld at shutter speeds slower than 1/125th where possible.
5. Open your aperture to compensate for a faster shutter speed. If this isn’t possible then raise your ISO.
Now there’s no excuse for a blurry photo anymore! If you understand what is causing your soft shots, then use our action points to set it right.
Just remember to consider your camera’s shutter speed and the speed of the motion in the shot.