Blurry photos got you down?
You're not alone...
In fact, I'd say that for beginner photographers (and a lot of the rest of us, too), blurry photos is one of the most common problems.
Who knew that getting the subject nice and sharp could be so difficult?!
Actually, the sharpness you're after - that we are all after - isn't difficult to get, at least not once you learn a few ways to avoid blurry photos.
Here are a few ways that you can avoid that dreaded blur in favor of images that are clear and sharp each and every time.
Use Single-Point Autofocus
Generally speaking, most cameras will attempt to keep the entire scene in focus (or as closely in focus as possible).
While this strategy is advantageous for taking images of landscapes, for photos with smaller subjects, like portraits, you might find that this approach to focusing often results in a subject that isn't optimally sharp.
To avoid that, switch to single-point autofocus so you have more control over what aspects of the image are sharp.
All you do is switch to single-point autofocus (the procedure for doing so is different from one camera to the next, so check your owner's manual). This usually means that the camera will acquire focus on its centermost autofocus point.
Then, place the active autofocus point over your subject and depress the shutter button halfway. This locks the focus in place.
In the image above, that would mean placing the center square over the nearest statue and locking focus.
All you need to do from there is recompose the shot to your liking and depress the shutter button fully to take the shot. You'll notice that your subject is sharp, as the statue appears sharp in the image above.
Remove the Filter
There are plenty of benefits of having a good set of filters in your kit, especially if you like to shoot landscapes.
But the problem with filters is the same problem with lenses - they aren't all made of equal quality.
So, like just about every photography website tells you, spend your money on a good lens because the quality will be better. The same goes for filters.
That's because if you buy a cheap filter, it will negatively impact the quality of the images you create, no matter how great of a lens you use.
Think about it - light has to first pass through the filter before even reaching your lens, so if your filter is cheap and poor quality, your lens has no hope of rectifying that situation.
If you notice that your images just aren't as sharp as you think they should be, take off the filter and try again. You never know - it might make all the difference!
Minimize Camera Shake
Likely the most common culprit of blurry photos is camera shake.
If you aren't familiar with the concept, the term camera shake refers to the inadvertent motion caused by holding the camera that results in blurry photos.
Camera shake can result from a number of factors and be controlled by a number of factors as well:
Hold the Camera the Right Way
First, camera shake can be a problem if you aren't holding the camera in a manner that allows you to keep it as secure as possible.
In today's age of using smartphones as cameras, we all get into the habit of holding the phone with outstretched arms so we can see the screen and compose the shot.
However, if you're using a DSLR or mirrorless camera, this is not the way to hold the camera to ensure sharp images.
There are plenty of ways to hold a camera and get sharper results, but a basic rule of thumb is to tuck your elbows into your chest, hold the camera firmly with your right hand on the camera grip, and support the camera from underneath with your left hand, as seen in the image above.
Create a stable base by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, press your elbows into your chest, and gently press the shutter button.
Take It Easy on the Shutter Button
Second, sometimes in our zealousness to get the shot, we can get into the habit of pressing the shutter button with too much gusto.
That action of harshly pressing the shutter can move the camera enough to induce camera shake.
Instead, press the shutter button with some finesse by gently squeezing it.
It's the same concept as when you fire a gun - you want it to be a single, smooth motion that allows you to keep your camera nice and still and doesn't pull you off your subject with a violent pressing motion.
So, rather than pressing the shutter button with the tip of your finger at a sharp downward angle as seen above, rest your finger on the shutter button such that your fingerprint is on the button itself. Then, when you're ready to take the photo, gently press down with the entirety of your finger. Doing so will help minimize movement and result in a sharper image.
Use a Tripod
Third, and perhaps most obvious, is that if you want to minimize blur, simply don't hold the camera!
Mounting your camera on a tripod will give it the stable base it needs to produce the sharpest results, even if your shutter speed is on the slow side (more on that in a bit).
Granted, lugging around a tripod isn't exactly a fun experience and not every opportunity you have to take a photo will even allow for a tripod or the time to get one setup.
However, if you're taking portraits of your family or something that doesn't require you to work at a frenetic pace, using a tripod will do wonders for the sharpness of the photos you create.
Watch Your Shutter Speed
Lastly, camera shake can be minimized greatly if you key into the best shutter speed for the lens that you're using.
When shooting handheld, there's an easy way to determine what shutter speed is the minimum you can use for any lens and still get a sharp photo: use a shutter speed that's faster than the focal length of the lens.
For example, if you take a photo like the one above with a 50mm lens, don't shoot with a shutter speed that's below 1/50th of a second.
If shooting with a 200mm lens, keep it above 1/200th of a second.
You get the picture...
As long as you keep the shutter speed greater than the focal length of your lens, you should see vastly improved sharpness in your photos.
Additionally, you want to select a shutter speed that is fast enough that it allows you to freeze movement.
Unless your portrait subject is absolutely still like a statue, there will be movement as you take the shot.
But if the shutter speed you select is too slow, you will find that even small movements will appear as blur in your images.
In the image above, notice how the baby's eye on our left isn't as sharp as the one on the right. This could be to a misplaced focal point, but it could also be due to slight movements the baby made as the photographer took the photo with a shutter speed that just wasn't fast enough.
The way to get around this is to increase the shutter speed.
So, if at 1/60th of a second you see blur, bump up the shutter speed to 1/125th of a second. If that still doesn't work, bump your shutter speed up again.
Each time, use your camera's LCD to zoom in on your subject's eyes to look for sharpness, repeating this process until they are tack-sharp.
There are plenty of other tips to get sharp photos too. But to see some of these tips in action, check out the video below by Sydney Portraits: