Tips and tutorials

14 tips to prevent blurry photos

Tripod and bokeh
Photo credits: Alison Lyons Photography

In one of my previous posts I wrote about the 7 causes for blurry photos.  In this article, I shall give you some tips I use to prevent blurry photos.

14 tips to prevent blurry photos

Tip #1: Use a tripod or a support

Avoiding camera movements while making an exposure prevents blurry photos. So use a tripod to keep your camera steady while the shutter is open. However, many of you have the inconvenience in carrying and setting up a tripod most of the time. In that case keep yourself and your camera steady leaning against a wall, column, vehicle etc.

Tip #2: Use self timer/shutter release cable

Eventhough a tripod or monopod makes a camera steady, it may not avoid camera shake in some situations. Camera shakes when you depress the shutter release button. So using self timer/shutter release cable/remote trigger will avoid this shake. This method is used mostly in night photography.

Tip #3: Hold your camera properly

One of the reasons for camera shake is improper holding of the camera. Use the camera strap to tighten your arm with the camera. Support the lens using your left hand to make your camera steady.

Tip #4: Use mirror lock-up

When you press the shutter release button your camera’s reflex mirror flips up and exposes the sensor. This upward flipping of mirror creates vibrations in the camera. You can beat these vibrations using ‘mirror lock-up’ (refer your camera’s manual). Enable the ‘mirror lock-up’ feature in your camera to minimize these vibrations. After enabling the mirror lock-up, and when you press the shutter release button, it locks the mirror in ‘up’ position and press the shutter button again completely to take the picture and this will bring down the reflex mirror.

Tip #5: Choose a proper shutter speed

Blurry pictures are produced when the shutter speed is very slow. This is pronounced especially when you use a telephoto lens or when you zoom in on your point and shoot camera.The general rule of thumb is to use a shutter speed which is 1/focal length. So, if you are using a 100mm focal length lens, your shutter speed should be at least 1/100s or higher.

NOTE: This only works if you have a full frame (35mm) sensor camera. If you have a camera with a cropped sensor, you would have to multiply the focal length with the crop factor. For example, if the crop factor of your camera is 1.6x(i.e. its sensor is 1.6 times smaller than a full frame sensor) and if the focal length you are using is 100mm, then your shutter speed would be  1/160s or higher. Find out the crop factor of your camera and do the calculation.

But in low light situations, you may not be able to select a higher shutter speed. In that case, you can boost the ISO or decrease the f-number/ or both to select a higher shutter speed. I took the two images, shown below, using a canon 1000D which has a 1.6 x crop factor. I used a 50mm focal length lens. The image on the left is taken using a slow shutter speed (1/15s) which caused blur. Based on the above calculation the blur can be prevented by using 1/80s which you can see in the image on the right.

blur comparison
Click on the image for a larger view

Tip #6: Use image stabilization technology

Image stabilization is a technique used to prevent blurry photos, particularly during long exposures. They are helpful in telephoto lenses. Certain lenses/point and shoot cameras come with this technology. They are known in different names in different camera brands — Optical stabilization (OS), Vibration reduction (VR) etc. In most of the point and shoot cameras this feature is available and known as “anti-blur”, “steady shot” etc. Refer your equipment’s manual and use it appropriately. But if you are using a tripod, leave it ‘off’.

Tip #7: Use continuous burst mode

I find this method very effective. When you depress the shutter release button, it will slightly move the camera and when you release the button the camera moves a little bit. This results in blur. However, if you take 3 (or more) shots  continuously, the second one will be sharper than the first and the last one since you held your camera steadier.

Tip #8: Hold your breath

If you have to use very slow shutter speed (low light) and if you don’t have a tripod in such situations, just hold your breath while pressing the shutter release button. Since you are holding your camera against your face, breathing will results in camera movement causes blur. I found this really helpful while taking extremely close-up pictures and while using telephoto lenses.

Tip #9: Press the shutter release button gently

As I have mentioned before, tapping the shutter release button results in camera shake. Just keep your fingers over the finger pad and gently press it. The image below shows the right and wrong way of pressing the shutter release button.

how to press shutter release button

Tip #10: Use flash

In low light situations, you have to use a slow shutter speed to get a correct exposure. But a slow shutter speed  causes blur. If you increase the shutter speed by boosting the ISO, you may lose a lot of detail because of noise due to high ISO. In this situation, using a flash will help. Do not use a high shutter speed along with flash as it cuts down the ambient light which results in typical ‘flash pictures’. Instead, use a tripod and use the flash as fill flash (read more about fill flash here) and find a way to diffuse it. You don’t want to see a ‘flat’ or washed out image due to the harsh light from flash.

Tip #11: Clean your equipment

Mist, dirt, smears, smudges in front of your lens results in blurry images. Make sure your equipment is clean.

Tip #12: Focus lock before recomposing the shot

Focus  problem is another reason for blurry images. As I have mentioned earlier, the preferred point of focus in these cameras is at the centre. If you want to keep the subject off-centre, you have to lock the focus. This is done by focusing on the subject by pressing the shutter release button half way down and slowly move the camera to recompose the image. Once you recompose the image in the way you want, release the button. In DSLRs, there are different focal points and you have a choice of selecting any one of them to focus your subject.

Tip #13: Choose appropriate focus mode

There are different focus modes available in your camera. The common focus modes available in canon DSLR’s are  ‘one shot’, ‘AI Servo’ and ‘AI Focus’ (AI stands for artificial intelligence) Choosing appropriate focus mode has utmost importance in preventing blurry images. Let me explain each one of these focus modes (Even though the focus modes in other brands known by different names, the mechanism is essentially the same)

One shot — Camera hunts for focus and when locks the focus only once. If it loses the focus, it would hunt the focus again. So select this mode if you are focusing on still subject. A slight movement of the subject lose the focus.

AI Servo — In this mode, the camera focuses  continuously. Select this mode if you are photographing a moving subject.

AI focus — If your subject is unstable, then select this mode. In this mode the camera switches to ‘one shot’ mode if the subject is still and ‘AI SERVO’ mode if the subject is moving.

Now you got the idea. If you select one shot mode and try to focus on a moving subject, the image would be blurred. As simple as that.

Tip #14: Choose appropriate depth of field

Blur due to very shallow depth of field is minimized by changing the aperture to a large f number. This ensures proper area of focus in your photograph.

I would recommend you to practice and experiment these techniques beforehand. Exercising these tips will help you to avoid taking blurry photos. Do you have tip #15 that you want to share with us? Feel free to drop your comments.

Also read : 7 causes for blurry photos

 

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Vidhu Soman

Vidhu is an enthusiastic photographer from Kerala, India. His desire to share his knowledge and experience on photography was the motivation for creating Shutterstoppers. His dream is to provide a platform for people all around the world to exchange ideas and information on everything related to photography. In addition to photography, he also has a keen interest in traveling, philately and science.

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