How many times have you thought you had the perfect photo then get it uploaded to your computer or just look at it on your phone and see it is out of focus?
So many people tell me they struggle with focus on their photos. I must admit, it is one of the hardest things to get right. With our phones, the technology available now really helps. But it can only do so much and often that image is going to turn out blurry.
To fix it you must understand the reason. Here are some of the most common reasons photos turn out blurry or out of focus (oof):
Camera shake / shaky hands. It is almost impossible to hold perfectly still. The best fix for this is to use a tripod if possible. If you don’t have a tripod handy, brace your arms on something sturdy. Hold your elbows in and hold the camera or phone close to your body. The further out your arms are, the shakier your arms become.
Focal point is off. For DSLR cameras, you can choose where your focal point is. Sometimes your point is off when you do the half press on the shutter button. You can fix this by learning about something called back button focus which takes the focus action to a different button than the shutter. For our phone cameras, make sure you are touching the subject that you want in focus on the screen. By tapping on the screen, you are telling it what you want in focus instead of letting it guess. Our phones are smart, but they can’t read our minds… yet.
Not enough light. I always say that light is the most important part of taking a good photo. In the case of focusing, you need enough light on the subject for the camera to focus. The way it works, is by using the contrast between light and dark to create that crisp line. This process is a little more complicated than I can put here. But our cameras see light in black, white, and gray. This is how our exposure works as well. The fix... change your settings to have a proper exposure. That includes increasing your ISO, widening your aperture, slowing down your shutter (not too much, see number 4.) Or adding a light source.
Shutter speed is too low. Depending on your subject and your lens you want to keep your shutter speed at 1/200 or faster. The rule is double your focal length. For a 50mm lens you should be good with 1/100 but if dealing with kids or pets you don’t want to go below 1/200 sine then cannot sit still. If your lens is a 200mm you don’t want your shutter slower than 1/400. This refers to the speed that your shutter opens and closes. The fast shutter is what will “freeze” action. This also lets less light in because it is faster. The slower it is the more light but will show movement. It is all about finding a balance, knowing how to expose, and knowing what your priority is. For our phone cameras, most of them you don’t get to choose the shutter speed unless you have an app that will let you choose your settings.
The takeaway is that to fix your blurry photos, you need to know the cause! By understanding the process of taking a photo you can better find the balance needed for each scenario. There is no magic number or magic settings. Every lighting situation is different.