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How to Tell the Difference between Camera Shake or Poor Focussing?

‘Darren I’m getting blur in almost all of my shots but I can’t work out why. I thought the camera had a focusing problem but one of my friends thinks I might be moving my shots when taking images and getting camera shake. Is there a way of telling which is which?’

That’s a good question and one that I’ve had a couple of times now – so perhaps it’s worth answering publicly here on the blog.

Without seeing the images it is impossible to know what the problem is in your particular case – but let me attempt to give you some tips for diagnosing your own problem.

Camera Shake

There are three main things to look for when looking for camera shake:

Full Image Blur – If you are suffering from camera shake you will almost certainly find that all of your image is blurred whether it is the main subject, your background or your foreground. Look closely and you’ll see that there are no sharp points in the image at all.

Double image – Another indication that you probably have camera shake is when you see an effect where there is almost two exposures of the same image. Particularly pay close attention to the edges of objects where you might see them twice. You can see a good example of this to the left.

Motion Blur – Camera shake is achieved when your camera is moving during the time of exposure. As a result you’ll often see a ‘blur’ that looks like your subject is moving – even when it might be a still life subject. Look for light streaks or lines when examining your image close up.

If you’re suffering from camera shake you might like to check out these tutorials:

Poor Focusing

In contrast to seeing a full image suffering from blur – often when you’re simply incorrectly focusing your camera you’ll find that the wrong part of the image is in focus.

Scan the full image and you’ll sometimes find that something in it is nice and sharp, even if it is your foreground or background.

Also – with poor focusing you will often find that the blur is smoother or softer where as in camera shake the blur can have a more jagged or harsh look.

If you are looking for more information on taking sharp images check out our tutorial on the topic.

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Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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