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There are may ways an image can be made unsuitable. Camera shake and poor focus are two of them. How does it happen? How can you prevent it? And what if you don’t even have one of those ‘fancy schmancy’ cameras?
When first setting out to research this subject, of course, the top of Google for ‘blur camera shake’ was a post from DPS. In it, Darren Rowse explains the difference between camera shake and poor focussing.
Today, I’ll talk about how to prevent them from happening.
As Darren said in his post, camera shake and the resulting motion blur are a result of the camera moving during the time of exposure. Which means that there is movement while the shutter is open and the sensor is gathering information. For particularly long exposures (like evening landscapes or trying to capture a waterfall in soft, beautiful motion), a tripod will be necessary. But even the movement caused by putting your finger on the shutter button can cause blur so you can use a remote control or set the self timer and take your hands off.
If you use a point-and-shoot, camera shake and blur could be a problem if you’re not operating in the appropriate mode. For instance, trying to capture running children in portrait mode will probably result in motion blur. Try sports mode.
For the DSLR users, the heavier the camera, the more stable it will be and less likely to be moving about due to hand tremor. Research proper camera holding and stance for maximum stability.
Some lenses have IS (image stabilisation) options which help to reduce camera shake (and battery life!)
Camera shake becomes less and less a problem the faster your shutter speed and the more light is available. If you’re in low light, opening your aperture to let in more light will allow you to quicken your shutter speed, but then you might have to battle poor focussing.
My pet peeve is improper focus. I’m sure the majority of photographers operate in auto focus mode, unless they’re photographing still life. This means that we allow the camera to focus for us and it does it in a variety of ways.
If you use a point-and-shoot, the solution it pretty simple. You hold down the shutter button halfway until focus is achieved and then push it the rest of the way down. The only reason you’d be likely to end up with poor focus is, as I said before, you’re shooting in an improper mode. For example, you’re shooting a landscape in macro mode.
For us DSLR users, focus becomes another monster all together. Consult your camera’s manual and familiarise yourself with the focus modes and the focus areas because both of these factors result in proper focusing. And you might find this post useful too
On the subject of pet peeves, what’s your biggest photographic annoyance?
March 8, 2010 12:18 am
@Keecia: Ok, yeah, now I know what it is called, Dutch tilt can be quite annoying. I do use it occasionally when some other element of the image lines up nicely though to anchor it.
@iris: Hmmm, is it possible you have "AI Servo" turned on be accident or even on purpose? If so, you might try backing off a bit on the zoom to make sure you have enough frame to crop and simply keep your subject locked on that centre focus target and crop to taste later. You may need to compensate for the need to crop by bumping up your capture resolution if you aren't already at the maximum. Other ideas might be to try pre-focussing on the net or other target, then go to manual focus and anticipate your subject being there when you press the shutter.
March 7, 2010 12:53 pm
Basketball is my nemesis. For some stinking reason, outdoors, bad lighting, and no flash at Football - I can get the focus.
Basketball? F2.8, 1/400 shutter, plenty of light, the player is out of focus and the crowd behind them is PERFECT. I put that stupid little red dot right on their heads or shoulders, breathe, halfway down, click. AAArrrrgggghhhh.
March 5, 2010 09:06 pm
@Conrad: That annoys me too.
This is really a cool article, Elizabeth! :)
March 2, 2010 02:33 pm
@ Richard. It's also called a Dutch tilt or German/Dutch angle. It's where you slant your camera and the subject matter is now at an angle. It's really popular right now.
March 1, 2010 11:01 pm
@KeeciaBuster: Please excuse my ignorance, but what is German tilt?
March 1, 2010 07:58 pm
I strongly dislike the unnecessary use of German tilt.
February 26, 2010 09:08 pm
@Conrad: I'm with you on this one, too. Be selective, people!
@Elizabeth: Great website, you are an amazing photographer!
February 26, 2010 07:45 am
@conrad: YES! I hadn't thought of that one.
February 26, 2010 07:40 am
My pet peeve involves people who don't seem to realize they have the power to delete bad shots. These are the ones who take 200 pictures at an event and upload every single one to their facebook album, whether out of focus or one of a half dozen shots of the same thing.
February 26, 2010 05:52 am
Can any one help me ??? When i go out for shooting and focus on a particular object AT A DISTANCE, though I see it clearly focussed, but the photograph mostly comes with it "out of focus". Mine is a Nikon D80. What should I do to overcome the problem ????????
February 26, 2010 03:05 am
Sharp eyes is starting to be my pet peeve. I love old pictures because they seem so natural but the trend seems to be, in portraits, sharp eyes and often times I can't get passed the ultra sharp eyes. It is starting to look alien to me.
February 26, 2010 02:32 am
did you not notice that you didn't address how to fix DSLR improper focus...other than linking to a previous post?
February 23, 2010 03:32 pm
No problem! It's all about the debate isn't it? It's really easy to get the "wrong" end of the stick with a comment and to end up with a flame war. No offence taken, no apology necessary.
February 23, 2010 03:24 pm
@ Paul Parkinson: Hi Paul. Not an over-reaction I think. It's only my opinion. I was just trying to counter some of the overly-vocal HDR-hater commentary that goes on. Most times I just let it pass but I think it's about time there was a counter-argument. I'm sorry if you mistook my comments as a personal attack on your previous post because it was not named at you or anybody in particular. It was just a generic counterpoint. Indeed you are entitled to your opinion.
February 23, 2010 12:51 pm
This is something I teach to my students the very first time they take a shot during our very first lesson. They are always holding their lenses like a pair of binoculars and some students even stand with their legs crossed over each other casual style!
If you can at least hold your camera the proper way, any photographer passing by will think you know what you are doing.
February 23, 2010 05:51 am
I do hate the out of focus shots. when something else (that wasn't your intended focus point) is in focus, we say, it stole the focus.
February 23, 2010 05:06 am
Nice article - you have a great website and I've read other good articles here on DPS that you've written. Thanks for sharing your time & talents.
I have the same out of focus pet peeve. Makes me think my eyes are bad. Another peeve of mine is posting photos sideways. Fortunately this doesn't happen on photo sites, but it seems like people on facebook just throw all their photos out there, sideways, blank, out of focus, etc. Gives me a headache!
JW Manning : "I miss the focusing prisms the film SLRs had."
I completely agree - having that prism snap into focus was great. These are kinda expensive & I settled for a grid model (which works well), but they do have prisms: http://www.katzeyeoptics.com/page--Custom-Focusing-Screens--store.html
February 23, 2010 04:58 am
@Caroline: Are you using a wired or wireless shutter release cable or 10 second delay timer? Is there any significant wind? Is IS or VR still turned on on your lens? Or is it possible it is actually a focus issue?
February 23, 2010 04:49 am
I find that when I use a tripod (even with the mirror lock-up) I still get noticeable camera shake. Any idea what could be causing this?
February 23, 2010 01:26 am
@laura, better yet, see if you can get your flash off the camera or bounce your flash off a nearby white ceiling or wall to diffuse your flash lighting so it won't be so directly harsh.
As for pet peeves, I'd agree that overdone HDR is starting to become annoying. I've done a number myself and some of mine are overdone. I'm pulling back on it and starting to become a bit more selective about which areas of photos I enhance with HDR rather than just varying the opacity on the whole image and make it suble enough that it isn't obvious, if at all detectable. I've found HDR to be particularly effective on snow scenes with dark subjects. I've had the opposite problem of insufficient saturation. I've been using qtpfsgui under Linux.
As far as sharp focus is concerned, I've found that with my new body (full-frame 20+Mpixels) I have to go even beyond the original rule of thumb of 1/(focal length) to 1/(2x focal length) to get things crisp and clear without motion blur, or use a tripod, or shoot at half that resolution. Also, I'm a big fan of selecting just the centre auto-focus point and reframe the photo after auto-focus to be certain where my focus is locked.
Thanks for your post Elizabeth.
February 22, 2010 09:10 pm
@hfng: oh my goodness thank you!
February 22, 2010 09:08 pm
@ william bullimore: A bit of an over reaction no? I agree with many of your points but, as I mentioned in my post,
HDR is *starting* to annoy me.
Some HDR pictures do look good. It's just that it is rare.
A huge proportion *are* "overblown, over saturated, tut.
Everyone's results do vary. I'm just saying HDR is starting to annoy me.
February 22, 2010 09:03 pm
I don't really see a lot of out of focus photos on the sites I visit. Granted I'm not looking at the 300 photos of the baby's first birthday but those of people who are either already excellent photographers or trying very hard to learn.
I mean who would shoot a moving object in "portrait mode." Come to think of it, who even uses all those scene modes when you can control all the variables in different shooting situations manually.
As for HDR, I have seen some absolutely stunning photos and I have seen some I wasn't so crazy about.
I don't have CS4 so I got a HDR simulator plug in and I'm sold on HDR. I just make a separate layer for the filter and then work the photo and can decrease the opacity if it looks too overworked for my tastes.
It can add new depth to a photo or a dream like quality.
It's here, most people like it when it's done well and it beats using a darkroom to burn and dodge.
February 22, 2010 09:00 pm
I am a huge fan of your work. Your photographs are simply amazing and I love your album cafe collection. You are really more than just a photographer.
February 22, 2010 07:03 pm
My pet peeve is HDR-haters. These are usually the same people that decry Photoshop as being the worst thing since the invention of digital cameras. I've found that these are usually the people that have a very small skill level in Photoshop and are either too afraid or overwhelmed to learn more. These people inevitably point to overbaked HDRs (of which there are many) as justification for their bias. I could point to just as many, if not more, badly executed "regular" photographs. Just as easily, I can point out plenty of well executed "traditional" photographs, as well as nicely executed HDR photos. The thing that I love about photography is that there are so many styles, techniques and visions that there's room for everyone, so why not just stick with what you like and stop pushing your biases on everybody else.
February 22, 2010 12:54 pm
Forgot to mention a good rule to avoid camera shake. You're shutter speed should be the same as your focal length or faster. So if you have a zoom set to 25mm (the numbers on top of your lens will tell you the current focal length) then you should generally be able to hand hold a shot at 1/25 sec or faster. 100mm means you should be at 1/100 sec or faster (like 1/125 sec). With IS you can reduce that number significantly. For example if the IS on a lens says it has 3 stops of stability that means you could handhold that 100mm at roughly 1/15 sec. But you should test before hand to verify those figures are accurate.
February 22, 2010 12:46 pm
Timely post. I was having trouble getting clear images this weekend and it was because I was rushed and not holding my camera properly. I knew it the second I saw the images.
February 22, 2010 11:28 am
Laura, one way to avoid that is to use an external flash connected to the hotshoe of your camera (if it has one). The reason for the reflection is because your built in flash is so close to the lens. If you don't have a hotshoe on your camera, you may need to set your EV lower (like -1), and then on your computer, increase the brightness, but try to exclude the reflections. I hope this helps.
February 22, 2010 08:39 am
how can i take a photo of reflective material with out it reflecting. i some times take photo's of fire men but their clothing refects the flash and if i don't use the flash photo's turn out very dark or blurry. i have tried playing with my iso shutter speed and apeture but just can't seem to get it. a tipod is not always convienent. any suggestions wold help.
February 22, 2010 06:36 am
I have noticed that with a sharp prime lens (50mm f1.8 on a Canon 500D) that camera shake can throw out the autofocus. At first I thought there was a fault with the lens, so I set it up with a tripod and some carefully spaced objects to gather evidence for a warranty claim, but could not reproduce the problem I had while it was handheld. After quite a bit of experimentation I concluded that the shake of the camera combined with a slow focussing motor means that the AF doesn't have time to get a fix before the image changes enough to throw it off.
February 22, 2010 05:56 am
My Pet Peeves would definitely be poor focus and pixelated photos.
Good post, thanks!
February 22, 2010 01:47 am
An article about camera shake would be incomplete without mentioning a simple rule: keep shutter speeds faster than 1/(focal length) to avoid camera shake. this is less important if you have IS or VR, but prime lenses don't have that luxury ...
February 22, 2010 01:45 am
Great post. Along with getting totally familiar with your camera sometimes a tripod (although not entirely necessary) will make your photograph better. I am a big proponent of using tripods whenever possible.
Here's a blog post of mine about when I like to use tripods: http://grtaylor2.com/2010/01/when-to-use-a-tripod/
February 22, 2010 12:52 am
A definite pet peeve is HDR for me also, some say it is the greatest thing since color photography ..."NOT"...
Another pet peeve is arm's length self-portrait.
February 22, 2010 12:50 am
Yes - when I first came across HDR a couple of years ago I was amazed. Saw some great night scenes of Hong Kong. But now I'm seeing birds in trees and peoples back gardens getting the treatment, it's all a bit too much
February 22, 2010 12:48 am
I miss the focusing prisms the film SLRs had. That was a huge help in focusing the image. Now, I have to guess based on what I see in the viewfinder or liveview. Not easy, especially when even the slightest rotation of the focusing ring can cause annoying blur. I wish they'd put them in DSLRs, they could facilitate the autofocus as well.
February 22, 2010 12:45 am
Good one Liz! My pet peeve AF problem is Back Focusing! Unfortunately, by the time we discover it's the camera and/or lens, the kit's out of warranty!
It's a good idea to test any new purchase (especially if it's a new purchase of used/refurb equipment) for autofocus issues.
This article is about the Nikon D70 but it can be applied to almost any camera.
February 22, 2010 12:38 am
Pet Peeves: This may sound heretical, but HDR is starting to annoy me. It's very rare (for me) that an HDR picture looks good. They all seem to be overblown, over saturated, tut. Anyone else agree?
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