4 Tips For Sharp Photos!
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October 10, 2018
By Billie Mitchell
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One of the number one questions I get asked is "Why are my pictures always blurry?"  


There are a couple reasons why your photos might not be sharp.  

  • You need more light in the photo
  • Your shutter speed is too slow
  • Your aperture is too shallow
  • Camera shake

1.  If you are shooting in a dimly light room, you are most likely going to end up with blurry photos.  You can combat this two ways.  Obviously, one way is to turn on more lights.  The second way is to set your ISO to a higher number.  So if you're only shooting at 200 ISO, bump it up to 400 or 800, and see if that gives you enough light to keep your photo from being blurry.  Please note though that the higher the ISO, the more grain you will see in your photos.  So I recommend testing your camera to see how high you can safely push your ISO without ruining your photos with grain.

Have you ever tried to take pictures of your child's basketball game, wrestling match, volleyball game?  When you're in a gymnasium you probably think that it's a really bright area.  But in reality, it's quite dimly lit.  I always have to push my ISO higher on my camera to get enough light in my photos and as one measure of keeping them from being blurry.  Notice how high I had to crank my ISO in the basketball photo below.

2.  Your shutter speed needs to be quicker if you are getting motion blur in your photos.  In the photo below you see that I only used a shutter speed of 1/200 when shooting this cheerleader doing a back handspring.  That is not a quick enough shutter speed to stop the motion and capture a sharp image.  I should have been up closer to 1/640 or more.  

3. Maybe the blurriness in your photo isn't related to motion at all.  Maybe your aperture is too wide open.  If you have a lens that allows you to control your F-stop, you may be tempted to shoot as wide as it will go to get those blurry backgrounds.  If you are shooting at 1.8 or 2.8 because your lens will allow you to do that, and you are shooting subjects on different focal planes, then someone is going to be out of focus.  Your aperture is the setting that controls how much of your photo will be in focus.

I mistakenly shot the image below at F2.8.  This means that the depth of field is very shallow and only a small part of the image will actually be tack sharp.  In this example since Nick is slightly closer to the camera than Olivia is, he is slightly out of focus.  I focused on Olivia's eyes, which made her face tack sharp.  Since Nick is on a slightly different focal plane, I needed to change my aperture to F3.5 or F4.0 to keep both of them in focus.

Here's an example of a shallow depth of field that works.  Shot at 2.8 and focusing on the eyes.  Since her hands are on a different focal plane, closer to the camera, they fall out of focus.  As well as everything that is behind her.  Also on a different focal plane, so also falling out of focus.  This is a great example of how shooting wide open at 2.8 can really make an interesting, fun picture.  As opposed to the photo above where the shallow depth of field ruined my photo because one of my subjects was out of focus.

4. Camera shake.  Sometimes all your settings are ok, but you moved the camera a little when you took the picture.  Two ways to overcome this problem if you are having trouble with camera shake.  One way is to pin your elbows to your side when you're shooting.  Like I did in the photo below.  This will act as a tripod of sorts and help you keep your camera more stable.  The second thing that could be happening is that you're pushing the shutter button to hard when you take the photo.  It doesn't have to be pushed really hard to take a picture.  So try being a little lighter handed with the shutter button.  ☺

I hope these tips will help you keep your photos in better focus in the future.  If you have a photo that you can't figure out why it turned out blurry, feel free to email it to me and I'd be happy to help you figure out what went wrong.  If you have further questions for me, PLEASE reach out to me in the comments below.  I'd be really excited to hear from you and answer your questions. ♥



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