Are you constantly finding yourself asking this question? If so, I have a feeling that it might be a few different things that are going wrong. I have a few quick things to implement that will help you get to sharp photos. Last month we chatted about focus modes, focus areas, and focus points. And that is definitely helpful, but if you’re wondering why your photos are always blurry there are a few other things you might need to implement in order to get sharp photos. Want to know what they are? Great, let’s get right to it!
Know Your Focus Modes & Focus Areas
If you did not read my earlier post on focus modes and focus areas, definitely check that out as it really goes deeper into what mode you should be using based on the scene you are photographing. But mostly you want to understand that the focus mode is how the camera focuses—literally the way the motor works—and the focus area is where the camera focuses. These two things work together to help you get focused images, but knowing whether you need a different focus mode or different focus area is really going to be dependent on what YOU are photographing.
Use The Correct Aperture
The second thing to focus on (ha…focus on…get it) is the aperture. Aperture controls your depth of field, and DOF is really about focus fall off and subject isolation (how much of your frame is in focus). If your aperture is too low for the scene you are photographing (for instance a group of people), then things might be coming out softer than you want. If you’re a landscape photographer and you want everything in focus then your aperture, the f-stop, needs to be a higher number. If you want to isolate your subject from the background and create creative bokeh, then you want your f-stop to be a lower number. If you want to know why your photos are always blurry your aperture just might be the culprit. So being sure that your aperture is set to what you want will help to ensure sharp focus.
Is The Shutter Speed Too Low?
When starting out as a new photographer, we start to understand that the parts of the exposure triangle act together to create a well exposed image, but do you know that they may also control your focus to a degree? Shutter speed controls motion and movement, so if you shutter speed is too low you are going to get what we call camera shake, which is sometimes mistaken for out of focus or blurry pictures. Camera shake does appear blurry, but it’s really because you—the photographer—were moving and the camera captured that movement with a shutter speed that was too low. So if your subject is moving faster than your shutter speed it will be blurry, and if you are moving faster than your shutter speed you will create camera shake. Be sure to understand that shutter speed needs to be above 60 in order to hand hold your camera, and that is the VERY lowest it should ever be without a tripod. Another rule of thumb is to have the shutter speed as double your lens focal length (if you have an 85mm lens then it should be 170, so the closest shutter speed would actually be 200). Shutter speed is the one on this list that tends to catch me when I’m rushing—when the light is getting very low and changing quickly. It’s always a reminder for me not to rush and really check my settings to ensure tack sharp photos.
Use a Tripod
If you can’t change the other 2 settings to be sure that your image will be in focus, then try using a tripod. A tripod is your friend and will help to remove any camera shake from your image to allow for you to shoot with a higher aperture setting and a lower shutter speed setting (helpful for longer exposure images and landscapes). Just remember that you may still get movement in your image though, if there are people walking, or trees moving in the wind, these subjects will still show their movement even though your image will be still. This creates a creative effect of motion blur though, and that is very fun in your photos.
But if you’re continuing to wonder why your photos are always blurry I hate to tell you that it is often user error. I know, that stinks to hear. Getting used to how these settings each can control focus, however, will help you to get sharp images each and every time you go out to shoot. Hopefully this post has you understanding that there are different ways to control the focus in your camera. And even if one of them is off then your photos are likely to come out soft, or blurry. The more you practice and actually see what happens when your focus mode is wrong, or your shutter speed is too low, or your aperture is the wrong setting for the scene, the more likely you are to understand how these all interact to get you tack sharp images. Once you understand the settings then you can control your camera to get the photos you are imagining in your head.