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Getting Clearer Pictures

01 Mar 2010

Isn’t it frustrating? You download some photos from your digital camera to your computer and they’re all fuzzy. You can’t understand it; they looked fine on your camera’s little LCD screen. But now people’s faces are all smudged and landscape details are difficult to recognise. Blurry images are one of the most common photographic complaints. There are three main causes: poor focus, camera movement and subject movement. 

Achieving Good Focus

Most amateur photographers auto-focus. That’s great and it usually works fine, but you need give the camera’s electronic brain a chance to achieve a focus. Usually this means pressing the shutter button halfway down until you hear a beep that means the camera has focused. However, sometimes the camera thinks it knows what you want to focus on (a tree in the background), when you actually want to focus on something else (a person in the foreground). In this case you’ll have to ‘instruct’ your camera what to focus on by placing the subject in the centre of the frame, pressing the button halfway down and then reframing your shot.

Freezing Subject Movement

A moving subject calls for a faster shutter speed. A fast shutter speed works by ‘freezing’ the action. Most simple cameras have a Sports mode (usually indicated by a runner) that automatically increases the shutter speed for you. If you have a more complex camera, you will be able to dial up the shutter speed you require by switching to Shutter Priority mode. As a rule of thumb, setting the shutter speed to 1/250th second will freeze the movement of pets and children. For high-speed sports or motor sports you’ll need to use 1/1000th second or faster.

Stopping Camera Movement

Some classic photographic advice still holds true. Stand very still, hold the camera steady with both hands and gently squeeze the shutter. This is especially important if you’re zoomed in on a subject a long way away, because any camera-shake blur is magnified. Of course, the ultimate way to eliminate camera movement is to take your hands out of the equation altogether. You can do this by using a tripod and an automatic shutter release of some kind. Digital SLR cameras have infra-red remote accessories that trigger the camera without touching it, but almost all point-and-shoot cameras have a Self Timer mode that triggers the shutter after a few seconds.