Unless we choose blur for creative artistic expression, most of us want our photos to be as sharp as possible. However, it may sometimes be difficult or even impossible to achieve, which is especially the case if you’re brand new to this wonderful hobby of photography.
But Julia Trotti has you covered. In her latest video, she shares six reasons for blurry photos and how to fix them. And since I have my own experience to share, I’ll add one more at the end.
1. Dirty lens: fingerprints and dust are common guests on the front and even rear elements of our lenses. Thankfully, this is an easy fix: make sure to clean your lenses before every shoot!
2. Your filters are affecting focus: some filters could make your photos look softer, especially if they’re low-quality. A good way to see if this is the reason behind your blurry images is to put your camera on a tripod, take the same image with and without the filter, and compare their sharpness on your computer. And remember, just like your lenses – your filters need cleaning too!
3. Your lens is not sharp: some lenses are simply not that sharp, especially at larger apertures. This happens with vintage lenses, but modern ones can suffer from it as well. This made me remember the Cosina 19-35mm f/3.5-4.5 lens I once owned and thankfully sold. I took some shots I liked with it, but most of them were soft, even at smaller apertures.
4. Your aperture is too large or too small: when you open the aperture as wide as it goes, you can face two problems. The first and the most obvious one is that a very small part of your photo will be sharp. And the other is that even the “sharp” part will be a bit soft (my Nikon 50mm f/1.8 is like this when I shoot at f/1.8). In some cases, and with most modern lenses, using even a slightly smaller aperture can save you the softness in your photos. But in other cases, such as the previous example – you may just need a new lens.
The same thing happens when you close the aperture as much as you can. While one might think it would make the sharpest photos, the truth is that you’ll get lens diffraction and end up with blurry photos again. So, put your camera on a tripod and take the same photos at different apertures to figure out your lens’ “sweet spot.”
5. Motion blur: there are three reasons why motion blur occurs. First, it can be due to camera movement, if your hands shake or you bump your tripod while shooting. Second, your subject may be moving so you end up with blurry photos. In both cases, using a faster shutter speed (above 1/200 s) should solve the problem. Depending on what you shoot, you can also put your camera on a tripod, or ask your model to slow down and stop between the poses.
The third thing that contributes to motion blur is the focal length of your lens. Put simply, the longer your lens, the more chance for motion blur. A faster shutter speed or a wider lens should help you with this.
6. Your focus settings aren’t suitable for the scene: you need to use different AF settings depending on what you shoot. For stationary subjects, the single shot AF will work fine. But if your subject is moving, the continuous AF is a better idea.
7. Your diopter isn’t properly adjusted: as I promised, I’m sharing one more thing that can be in your way of getting sharp photos. My first DSLR didn’t have an AF motor, so I could only use manual focus with my 50mm lens. In cases like this, or if you use manual focus for any reason, you need to make sure that your diopter is properly adjusted. In case you’ve never done it, the video below will show you how (starting around 2:30).