Photo Tip Friday: Why Photos Turn out Blurry and Tips to Help

by Mary Denman  @MaryDenman

Have you ever experienced the frustration of taking shots that turn out blurry? 

There are several different reasons why your photos can end up blurred. 

Today, we're going to cover the 4 most common causes of out of focus pictures and what to do to correct for each one. 

Let's get started.

PHOTO 1: Example of proper focal point
Problem 1) Focusing on the wrong area in the picture. While looking inside your viewfinder, you will notice little red dots that light up as you depress the button to take a photo. Where those dots are lit indicate where the camera is focusing. By learning to pay more attention to where they're focusing, you can correct for out of focus shots. 

PHOTO 1: In the first example the fence and barbed wire are completely
in focus. The little yellow flowers in the field are nice and blurred so the focus is where I wanted it. The foreground is clear.

PHOTO 2: Example of wrong focal point
PHOTO 2: But in the second example you can see how the camera focused beyond the barbed wire to the field of flowers. All of the foreground is blurry and the background is clear. This did not create a very pleasing shot. 

Here are tips to help correct focusing in the wrong place:

a) Pay attention to where the camera is focusing if you're using auto focus. Once you're aware, you can avoid many blurry shots in the future.

b) Depress your shutter release half-way down to lock it on the point you want to focus on. Keeping it partially depressed, re-frame the picture and then take the shot you want. 

For this particular photo above, you could focus on the huge fence post since getting a clear focal point on the thin wire is challenging. Depress the shutter and re-frame with the pole to the side like I did. 

Problem: Moving Subject
Problem 2) Moving subject. When you're photographing either people or animals, there's a chance your subject be blurry from movement. 

If you see these two photos of the same cat, you can see that one shot is clear and in focus while the other is only partially blurry

The timing was off and didn't capture the movement quickly enough. 

Here are tips to help correct a blurred moving subject.

a) Use a faster shutter speed. If you shot the picture at 1/25 sec, then try going to 1/80 sec. 
b) Use a faster ISO. 100 ISO needs the most light while ISO 800 and above need much less light. This means the shutter speed can be faster. 
c) Use a faster aperture or f-stop. F/2.0 lets in the most amount of light while f/22 lets in the least amount of light. 

Problem 3) Camera movement. Notice how this shot of the surf is completely out of focus? Nothing in the picture is clear. This is because the exposure was too long and it was impossible to hand hold. 

The sun had set and the light was disappearing. I was trying to get a shot of surf but there wasn't enough light and the shutter was open too long. Since I was holding the camera and hadn't grabbed my tripod, the entire photo was out of focus. 

Here are tips to help correct camera shake. 

a) Use a tripod or solid surface to place the camera on for long exposures. Otherwise, it will be blurry. If the exposure is around 1/30 of a second or longer for a 50mm lens, it will be very hard to hand hold.
b) Use a faster shutter speed.
c) Use a more sensitive ISO.
d) Use a wider aperture or f-stop.

Problem 4) Auto-focus isn't fast enough for a moving target. This cat was so sweet and kept wanting to come see me while I was taking his pictures. But, as he ran at the camera, the auto-focus couldn't keep up and so the entire shot is soft and unfocused. 

Here are tips to help correct for auto-focus issues.

a) Use manual focus. If you're in the middle of a shoot, you'll need to switch to manual. 
b) Move farther away from your subject. This helps when they're active.

Study my examples learn to recognize the different kinds of problems so you can solve them quickly when you're actively trying to take pictures. 

FOR BLOGGERS: Keep practicing your photography and improving so you can add to your blog with your own photos. Use them for inspiration, even if you need to use your own bad examples, as I did, to make a great point. 

FOR CELL PHONE USERS: Next week, I'm ready to tell you about an app I found and have been using to control ISO and shutter speed on my iPhone 6. I'll do a review for the photography tips in hope it will make your cell phone even more useful for photography. 

Why Photos Turn out Blurry and Tips to Help (click to tweet)

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  1. I got my camera out as I was reading so I could practice on tip #1. My daughter wanted me to take some photos of her coming down a water slide but they kept coming out blurry. I'll have to try using a faster shutter speed. The photos really helped show a comparison. Thanks so much!

    1. I'm so glad you learned something. A faster shutter speed or higher ISO will work! Let me know how it turns out!

      Thanks for dropping by Amy. Have a great day!

  2. Great tips. Looking forward to reading more.

  3. Thanks for these great tips, Mary! I'm can't wait to read about the app you mentioned. Not sure it will work with the iPhone 5, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

    I'm having a great time on Instagram. Are you on there? I'll gladly follow you to see your photos!

    I've heard of lenses that you can buy to use with your iPhone- have you ever used one of these?

    Susan Simpson

  4. You provide a great service to bloggers, seems we didnt know we were going to be photographers as well as writers and editors. Thanks for sharing your tips on Friday Features.
    Have a great weekend, Karren