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Why are my shots blurred?

Isn't it annoying when you take a set of photos, and many of them are blurred?

It's one of the most common problems photographers have, but one of the hardest to correct after the photograph has been taken! 

  • The Basic Principle

If you've used Photoshop or Photoshop Elements for a while now, you may have noticed two terms that walk hand in hand. 'Blurring' and 'Sharpening'.

Basically, sharpening an image is the opposite of blurring it. Photoshop Elements provides many different ways to sharpen an image.

To start with there's the 'Sharpen Tool', found near the bottom of your tool palette. This allows you to sharpen just a certain area of a picture, using an appropriate brush shape and size.

If you're sharpening the whole image, you can use the filters in the 'Sharpen' category under the 'Filter' menu. These include 'Sharpen', 'Sharpen More', and 'Sharpen Edges'.

Additionally to all of that, if you like to correct photos in 'Quick Fix' mode, there is a sharpen slider available in that section for you to use.

  • A 'Quick' Example

Shown further down is a portion of a photograph I took which exhibited minor blur. This is a correctable level of blur, and so I opened the photo in Photoshop Elements, and switched into 'Quick Fix' mode, using the button shown below:

Quick Fix

I always like to see the before and after picture in quick fix mode, and so I changed my view accordingly.

To do this, use the drop down box in the bottom left hand corner, and select 'Before and After (Portrait)', as shown below:

Before and After View

The 'Sharpen' slider is the furthest one down on the right hand side by default. By dragging it around two thirds of the way along, I was able to reduce the blurring effect on my photo. Shown below is the photo before and after sharpening:

Blurred Photo Before Sharpening

Blurred Photo After Sharpening

As you can see, especially around the text on the sign, the blur has been reduced by sharpening the image.

  • Over-Sharpening

Unfortunately, sharpening is a rather in-exact art, and carries a danger with it. Because of the way it works, it is all-too-easy to 'over-sharpen' an image, causing very unattractive results.

This is especially common when using the sharpen tool on a high strength setting. Below is shown an image which demonstrates the effect of over-sharpening:

Over-Sharpened Photo

To avoid over-sharpening, use the sharpen tools on low intensities, and only where they are needed.

  • Severe Blurring

In cases where images are extremely blurred, it is often impossible to repair them effectively.

Below is shown an image, with some close-up sections, which is blurred to the point of no return:

Severely Blurred Photo

There is very little you can do to correct images like this, but there is a lot you can do to avoid them!

  • Camera Shake

The photo above was taken from a moving vehicle. To avoid blurring, photos should always be taken when the camera is stationary.

If you find (like me!) that your hands shake when you are taking photos, find something to rest the camera on. Ideally this would be a tripod, but if there is not one available, look for walls or other surfaces.

If no surface is available, try leaning up again something, or putting your elbows by your side, to steady your arms and reduce camera-shake.

  • Shutter Speed

Another way to reduce blurring is to increase the shutter speed of your camera. If your camera allows you to manually set the shutter speed, it is useful to remember that on high shutter speeds, blurring is usually dramatically reduced.

Unfortunately the reverse is also true. Using slow shutter speeds, perhaps to compensate for bad light, blur is dramatically increased. Ensure that the camera is perfectly still on low shutter speeds.

  • Bad Light

Apart from shutter speed, photos are usually more prone to blurring in bad light anyway. If you are taking photos inside, ensure you use a flash if light is fading. When outside, the best tactic is once again a perfectly still camera.

  • If in Doubt...

If you are struggling to take a particular image, the only other advice I can offer is to take lots of pictures! On a digital camera there can be a reasonably large variation between repeat shots. The more pictures you take, the more chance you stand of getting at least one good one!

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Svar til kommentaren

Dato tir, 05/05/2009 - 21:29

I would also suggest that you ensure the lens is clean, I have had shots blurred just because of a fingerprint on the lens.

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Dato tir, 14/07/2009 - 21:34

Give your AF time to focus ! Its so easy to press the shutter button all the way without the AF focusing correctly.


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Svar til kommentaren

Dato lør, 22/08/2009 - 01:32

Ihave found that using a tripod more often helped rather than hand held.

Svar til kommentaren

Dato tir, 20/04/2010 - 17:15

If your camera has any kind of image stabilization switch it on for hand-helds and off if using a tripod. Some people get blurred pictures because they jab the shutter button which moves the camera downward. Always use a smooth action - halfway to focus and then smoothly down to fire. Try shutter priority and set a speed equivalent to or more than the focal length of the lens eg. focal length 200mm - shutter speed 1/250 or more. Obviously, the latter only applies if the lighting is right. Lastly always use two hands to hold the camera, even when using pocket sized digitals. (The number of 'one-armed bandits' you see in tourist areas amazes me. They hold their cameras aloft with one hand above the heads of crowds or with one hand while puffing on their **** etc. It is a wonder they get any photographs at all!) My advice above may seem to be rather back to basics but they do help to reduce blur.

Peter B Keddie

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