Blurry Photos: Causes and Fixes

One of the most disappointing and frustrating things at the end of your Disney vacation is coming home with a bunch of blurry photos.  Nobody wants to see blurry photos or out of focus photos or pictures that are not sharp.  So, what can you do to prevent these disappointments?  Let’s look first at the cause then the possible cures. There are three reasons for “blurry photos”:

  1. IMPROPER FOCUS – The focusing mechanism did not fully engage or engaged improperly or the user focused on the wrong area.  Simply put, you cannot have a sharp photograph if you don’t have proper focus.
  2. CAMERA SHAKE – This is due to the shutter speed being too slow for the photographer to hold the camera. This usually happens at lower shutter speeds (less than 1/60 sec) but if the person is very unsteady it can creep up into higher speeds.
  3. MOTION BLUR – The subject of the photo is moving too fast for the camera to stop the motor. Again, usually happens at lower shutter speeds but can happen at higher speed if the subject is moving very fast or is fairly close to the camera.

Now that we have identified the causes for blurry photos, let’s talk about how to fix or prevent those problems…


Bad Focus


Make sure the focus is locked in and you get your confirmation, whether it’s a beep, or a light on the camera, or something in the viewfinder. Don’t jump the gun and hold the camera steady.


Hold the camera with two hands, using your right hand to hold the camera and press the shutter and use your left hand to hold the camera under the lens barrel if possible.  This might be tough for point and shoot cameras in which case use your left hand on the bottom of the camera.  NEVER HOLD THE CAMERA BY BOTH SIDES because you won’t be able to hold it steady and, even worse, run a risk of dropping the camera. Take a good solid base with your feet shoulder-width apart, one foot slightly further back than the other, knees slightly bent.  Take a deep breath and GENTLY press the shutter in a smooth manner until it fires; try not to jab the shutter in an abrupt manner.



Camera Shake

To ensure a sharp image, you need to make sure your shutter is fast enough to eliminate the chance of blur. A rule of thumb for shutter speed is 1/x sec, where x is the focal length. (ie. If your lens is at 125mm, you need to be 1/125 sec or faster to ensure a sharp image, slightly faster if your hands are not steady, or slower if your have very steady hands). Remember to take into account the “crop factor”. You need to know what the crop factor on your camera is and increase the shutter speed accordingly. Unless you are using a film camera or a full frame digital camera (of which there are very few) there will be a crop factor, also known as a focal length multiplier. In short, crop factor increases the focal length equivalent to something higher than the actual focal length.  For example, a Canon 20D has a 1.6x crop factor, meaning that a photo at 100mm has a focal length equivalent of 160mm.  This is due to the fact that a 35mm film slide is 1.6 times bigger than the sensor on my camera.  Due to this multiplication factor, I would need to make sure that I had a shutter speed of at least 1/160 second to ensure a sharp handheld photo.  There are many different crop factors for all of the different cameras,some are 1.3x, 1.6x, and I had an old point and shoot that was 4.7x.  KNOW YOUR EQUIPMENT



Motion Blur

Motion blur occurs when the subject being photographed is moving too fast for the selected shutter speed.  Because of the difference in speed, the subject appears streaky or blurry instead of nice and sharp.  To reduce the chance of motion blur and properly stop motion:

1.  Raise the ISO (aka film speed); the higher the ISO, the faster the shutter.

2.  Open up the aperture (aka f-number); the lower the f-number the faster the shutter.

3.  Use an external flash.

There are tradeoffs to either way of doing this:  Lowering the f-number will decrease the depth of field and raising the ISO will increase the noise or graininess in the image.  By taking into account the factors mentioned above, you can ensure that you will have nice, sharp photos that are “not blurry”.

Discuss this article and suggest new ones in The Magic in Pixels Disney Photo Forum.

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