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How to Avoid Blurry Digital Photos

written by: Carl Weaver•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 1/26/2011

Blurry digital photos can come from one of two causes, and both of these are fixable. Learn how to avoid blurry photos and enjoy more of the pictures you take.

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    Blurry digital photos are one of the biggest reasons people don't like the pictures they take. Somebody once complained to me that even with all this advanced technology to correct for such complicated things as white balance and autofocusing, we still can’t seem to eliminate the simple things, like blurriness. I agree – it’s an age-old problem, but technology can only do so much, I am afraid. However, there are some tricks you can use to avoid blurry digital photos.

    First, let’s make sure we are talking about the same thing. When I refer to blurriness, I mean a lack of clarity in the final picture caused by movement either of the camera or the subject. I am not referring to whether something is in focus.

    Blurriness in your photos comes from motion. There are two primary causes of that motion. Either the camera is shaking too much or your subject is moving too fast. Either way, the solutions are rather simple. Here are some tricks you can try.

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    Dealing With Camera Shake

    blurry not blurry Camera shake comes from holding your camera. The fact is that your hands shake, even when they seem to be perfectly still. Then put an object in them, and your muscles move in an attempt to hold it still. There's nothing you can do to fix this problem, but there are some work-arounds. I was trying to make an artistic macro shot of these stools at left but was plagued by blurriness due to camera shake. Using the tips below I was able to eliminate the problem.

    Gorilla Pod Gorilla Pod Stop hand-holding your camera. Use a tripod to eliminate shaking. Don’t feel like carrying one? You can also try setting your camera on a steady object, such as a wall, floor, ledge, the ground, a rock or anything else that won’t move. If you are hiking in rough terrain where flat surfaces are scarce, carry a small beanbag with you to make a level, flat surface to set the camera on. However, one of my preferred tools is the Gorilla tripod, which is pocket-sized and can be used in multiple ways to help stabilize your camera. When you use a tripod or other device, be sure to use either a remote control to fire your shutter or else use the timer feature. Even on a sturdy tripod, pressing the shutter release can cause enough movement in the camera to make blurry digital photos.

    Reduce the shaking while handholding the camera. This is a trick I used while traveling in Thailand. I didn’t want to be burdened with a tripod, even a light one, when I was also carrying a ten-pound camera bag with lenses and film. I tied a piece of rope to an eye bolt, threaded the bolt into the tripod mount and had something usable and easy to carry. If you step on the rope and create a gentle tension, the camera movement will be reduced, if not eliminated. This was a crucial tool when photographing inside large Buddhist temples, where light was scarce.

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    Dealing with Moving Targets

    Just like our hands, our subjects often move, if even just a little bit. Much of this is imperceptible in the images we make, but sometimes it gets to be too much. Reduce blurry digital photos with these tips:

    Increase your shutter speed. Having a faster shutter speed will reduce the blurriness of your subject. In fact, increasing the shutter speed to 1/500 of a second will stop almost all motion in your photo.

    Pan with your camera. Follow your moving target, looking through the viewfinder. Snap lots of pictures at as fast a shutter speed as you can use, given the circumstances, keeping your subject in focus. When the camera and subject are moving together, blurriness will be reduced significantly.

    Use a flash. The large pulse of light from your flash will give the illusion of stopping motion. If you look closely at your photo, you might still see some motion along the edge of the subject, but it will be greatly reduced. This works best in low-light situations.