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How to Stop Making Those Awful Blurry Pictures!

   Blurry Pictures, everyone makes them at some point in time. I hear it a lot, "that camera won't take a good sharp picture, I really need to get another one".

  More times then not, that statement could not be farther from the truth. 9 times out of 10 the problem lies with the technique of the photographer and not the camera or the camera lens.

  There are a number of things that can make a picture look blurry and most of them can be corrected with the proper photography technique. Just a little bit of photographic knowledge and a small amount of planning can send the blurry photo monster into oblivion!

Steady your camera

   What I believe to be the biggest culprit of blurry pictures is camera movement. If your camera moves at all while the shutter is open, BAM, your photo is blurry. Fortunately there are more than a couple of photographic techniques you can use to eliminate, or at least minimize this problem.

  1.    Always use a tripod. If you can't use a tripod , use a monopod. If you can't use a monopod, use a beanbag. If you can't use a beanbag, brace the camera or yourself against a stable object like a wall, column, door frame, tree, fence, automobile, I think you get the picture.

  2.    Use the fastest shutter speed possible. When handholding your camera never shoot at a slower shutter speed then the reciprocal of the length of your cameras lens. As an example: lets say you're using an 85 mm lens, don't shoot any slower then 1/85th of a second. An added benefit to using the fastest shutter speed possible is you'll be shooting at a wider aperture causing the foreground and background of the photo to go farther out of focus. For a better understanding of how this effects your focus (or depth of field) read this article on selective focus.

  3.    Use the highest ISO speed possible and still get the level of photo quality you can accept. This will allow you to get the faster shutter speeds mentioned in item #2. There is a photo quality trade off here but you will be amazed at the overall improvement in picture quality. Try it, you'll like it!

  4.    Incorporate your flash. Sometimes setting your camera's flash to fill flash mode and reducing it's output by one or two stops will help to sharpen up your pictures without looking like you used an on camera flash.

  5.    When handholding your camera put it into continuous shooting mode and hold the shutter release for 3 or 4 consecutive shots. This will force you to hold the camera up to your eye longer, keeping you from prematurely moving the camera. One of the resulting photos will be sharper than the first or last one because you held the camera steadier.

  6.    With your camera on a tripod, use a shutter release cable if your camera has one. Some cameras come with a remote control, use it whenever possible. By using this hands off approach, you will minimize camera movement because you won't be touching the camera.

  7.    When doing macro photography, if your camera has a mirror lock up, use it! Doing so will minimize camera vibration due to the mirror slap created when the mirror swings up out of the way on an SLR.

  8.    Speaking of camera vibration, some manufacturers make cameras and/or lenses that use IS ( image stabilization ) or VR ( vibration reduction ) technology. If you own a camera system that utilizes this technology then use it. If you don't own one of these, then consider that option when you make your next purchase. It will add a little to the cost of your photography equipment but I believe it will be well worth it, because you'll get more images that are sharp. Technically speaking, this is not really a photographic technique, but I feel it is worth mentioning.

  9.    Press the shutter release gently. Don't snap your finger down on the shutter release button and expect a sharp picture. It's not going to happen. Snapping the shutter release button hard or fast will only cause you to move the camera. Slowly and gently depress the shutter release button. Then "follow through" by not moving anything until you know the camera is finished taking the shot.

  10.    Practice all these photography techniques until they become second nature and then refer to number 1.

   If you follow all the photography techniques listed here you will be amazed at the improvement in your pictures.  One thing I didn't list is to keep your cameras lens clean. I think that goes without saying.

Say goodbye to the blurry photo monster!

2005 Ken Henderson

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