Blurry photos, fuzzy photos, blurry photos — if you’ve ever picked up something that can take pictures, you’ve probably encountered this problem. And it becomes a problem in the square, because often the advice on combating lubrication contradicts each other. The fact is that blurring (unsharpness, fuzziness) has at least 7 reasons. And you will have to fight them in 7 different ways. We understand all the subtleties in this material.
Blurry photos when capturing motion
What to do if there is nowhere to shorten the shutter speed
Blurred photos due to hand movement or shake
The classic focus error
Trouble focusing in the dark
Focus problems due to the movement of the subject towards the camera
Insufficient depth of field
What lubricants indicate lens failure
In one comment thread in a group dedicated to photography, I saw a wonderful (and very typical) discussion. In short, its essence:
- I shoot corporate parties indoors on a junior DSLR. Photos are blurry, help!
What is the aperture?
- This is all because you have a small DOF. Close until 8 and you will be happy.
- I tried. It got even worse. They were a little blurry, they became completely smeared. I screwed up the shoot.
Well, I don’t know then. It helps me.
And the problem of blurry photos for a beginner, and advice, and the fact that it does not help — everything is extremely typical here. The first problem is that under the word “unsharp” a person with little experience can hide various problems. The second is that lubrication can be very different. And you need to deal with them in different ways. And a closed aperture can only help fight two types of problems. And then, this is not the best method. Let’s talk about everything in order.
Motion blur is a very common problem. It occurs when you shoot something relatively moving: a dancing couple, children playing, a cat running, cars driving along the road.
It looks something like this: a moving object (or individual parts of it, for example, hands) are blurred, everything else is relatively clear
The only way to deal with motion blur is to select the correct shutter speed. The longest shutter speed you should use:
- for a statically posing group of people — 1/30 (be careful, hand movement may be blurred, about it in the next section);
- for slow movement (yoga, calm walking) — 1/100;
- for fast movement (running, animals, children playing) — 1/500;
- for very fast movement (professional sports, cars, etc.) — 1/1000.
In terms of shutter speed control, it’s best to shoot in shutter priority mode (Tv or S depending on the system).
Let’s say you’re shooting a dancing couple in a dark room. For example, at a wedding or corporate party. The parameters at which the photo turns out to be normally exposed, for example, are: F 2.8, ISO 800, 1/100.
Objectively, weaving is not enough for shooting a dance, especially a fast one. In a good way, you need 1/250 or 1/500. To get an overexposed frame at such shutter speeds, you will either have to raise the ISO or open the aperture.
If the aperture value is already the limit (a normal story for a budget kit lens), only ISO remains. But if the camera is as budget as the lens, a lot of noise will already go to ISO 1600. And even more so at 3200. You may encounter such problems if you shoot, for example, on the Nikon D5300, but if you have a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, then it will cope with such a scene without any problems simply due to higher working ISO.
But what if you have a budget camera? Either shoot with a flash, or put up with the fact that this story cannot be shot on this camera in any way.
By the way, in this situation, the proposal to close the aperture to 8 will just kill the shooting: close to 8, the shutter speed is extended to 1/15. We get a stronger motion blur, and more motion blur of the hands.
Or alternatively: the shutter speed remains the same, and the ISO flies into space, rising to 6400, provoking strong noises. In any case, the shooting is leaked.
It also comes from movement. But from the movement of the hands of the photographer. May appear in and in shots of running children and landscape shots.
To solve this problem, we return to exposure again. There is a formula that helps to calculate the shutter speed at which there should be no blurring of hand movement. This formula can be found in absolutely every text about blurry photos. There she is:
Fastest shutter speed = 1 / lens focal length
If the formula is difficult, do not worry. Still, it is absolutely accurate and useful only if you are shooting with a 1960 Zenith. Firstly, because the formula was developed in the days of film cameras, the calculation is carried out for film cameras, which did not have the highest sharpness compared to modern digital ones. For example, tests show that on matrices larger than 40 megapixels (Sony Alpha A7R IIIA), the shutter speeds recommended by this formula provide micro-lubrication. And a good result is achieved at shutter speeds twice as short.
Secondly, because in 2022 you still need to make adjustments for what kind of camera and lens you have. If you have a stabilized lens or camera (for example, Fujifilm X‑T4 and Nikon 18–140 mm), then on the contrary, you can not blur longer exposures (3–4 times).
And if both are stabilized, then there are already two variables in this equation.
It’s all fun math. But in essence, to solve the problem, you need to figure out what kind of shutter speed you are holding on your particular equipment, and which one you are smearing. You can calculate by formulas, but it is better to conduct an experiment. Put your camera in shutter priority mode and take a few shots at values between 1/500 and 1/30. Then look on the big screen where the blur value starts. At shutter speeds longer than hand-held, it is better not to shoot.
It is also worth remembering about the human factor: if at home, for example, you calmly keep 1/50, on responsible shooting, when you are nervous, you can smudge it. On such shootings, it is better to work at slightly faster shutter speeds.
It’s also useful to look at old footage, find blurry pictures and find out what the shutter speed was. Most pictures from most cameras store all the data about the shooting parameters. You can view them using a standard Windows browser.
As a rule, the minimum shutter speed, on which there is no blur, for different people is in the range from 1/30 to 1/200. It depends on the technique (stabilized cameras and lenses help to keep longer exposures), and on skills.
Here you can go in two ways: either shorten the shutter speed (just as in the case of blurring the movement of an object), or learn to shoot at slower shutter speeds.
What can help to shoot without blurring at slower shutter speeds:
- Tripod or monopod. If you shoot static (landscape, still life, evening portrait of an adult who is able to stand still), God himself ordered to use something similar. You can read about how to work with a monopod here. If you don’t have a tripod, but you need to shoot, look for any kind of hand support. Rest your elbows on the table, lean against the wall. All this will help to minimize shaking a little.
- Correct camera grip. It’s easy to blur a photo if you take it with your arms outstretched above your head. There are proper grips that help minimize camera shake when taking a picture. The most common grip looks like the photo below.
And remember that the position of the whole body will help minimize shaking. To do this, spread your legs, stand upright and lean forward a little. This pose is optimal so that the photos are not smeared.
- Serial shooting. If you see that the shutter speed is too long, but you need to shoot, take not one shot, but a long series. Most often, hand movements that cause blurring occur precisely at the moment the shutter button is pressed. In a series, the first two shots may be blurry, while the next two shots have a chance of being sharp. However, remember that this trick only helps when shooting static.
Sometimes the problem is that the author of the picture simply did not get into focus when shooting with a relatively fast lens. And the result looks like this:
When does this happen? Suppose a person has been shooting with a whale lens for several years, and in principle does not have the habit of focusing. He has a minimum aperture value of 4. And the person is also a big fan of auto aperture, which closes this 4 to 8. The focus point dangles somewhere in the upper left side of the screen, but on a closed aperture, sharpness is still all over the frame, so there is no habit of focusing does not interfere with life.
A person decides to buy a portrait fifty kopeck for 1.4 and try to work with it. And with it, you already need to make sure that the focusing point is exactly on the area of the model’s eyes, and not on the ear, not on the arm, not on the wall behind her back. And there is no habit of focusing. Hence the errors. Sometimes everything does not look as scary as in the picture above, but for example, like this:
The picture above is a great illustration of the problem of underfocus due to darkness. The fact is that sometimes inexpensive bright lenses focus slowly. If a whale lens is focused in a fraction of a second, a light lens in difficult conditions can fidget back and forth for several seconds and eventually focus in an incomprehensible place. Or just don’t focus.
And it doesn’t have to be total darkness. Also bad conditions for focusing will be:
- backlight (portrait at sunset, when the sun is in the back);
- constantly changing, flickering light (dancing at a wedding with strobe lights).
Here is just shooting in the back. The girl’s face is illuminated by a flash that fires as soon as the shutter is released. At the moment of focusing, it was in solid shadow. The focus fidgeted and settled on the bouquet, which is illuminated by a garland (constant light) between the branches.
How to deal with underfocus due to darkness:
- Use autofocus illuminator. If not, any flashlight will do. Moreover, if additional light spoils the atmosphere of the frame for you, you can use it only at the moment of focusing. We illuminated the hero’s face with a flashlight, focused by half-pressing the shutter button, without releasing it, turned off the flashlight, and took a picture.
- Remember that any trick loves contrast: it’s easier to focus on the border of the eye if it’s a large portrait, the border of skin and dark clothes if it’s full-length. If the focusing point is exactly in the middle of the abdomen of a person in a black T‑shirt, it will be more difficult to focus.
This problem occurs when shooting moving subjects (such as sports or children playing). And, as a rule, on lenses with a small depth of field.
It happens like this: you focus, after a few fractions of a second you take a picture, but in these fractions of a second the person has already managed to run out of the depth of field.
This problem is solved by using continuous autofocus (in most AF‑C or C‑AF systems).
Moving on from blurring to issues related to focus. The problem of insufficient depth of field (depth of field of the depicted space) is liked by all lovers of Soviet textbooks and formulas suitable for Zenith. This is where they give advice to close the aperture to 8.
In fact, in the modern world, this problem is rather rare. Most often, insufficient depth of field interferes either with subject shooting or when shooting landscapes. You can read about how to get both a sharp pot and a blurry background here.
Or else there is a frequent situation when shooting groups of people. For example, we shoot a large or chest portrait of a couple, where one person stands behind the other’s shoulder.
In this case, you can really cover the aperture to 4, and the problem will disappear. The only point is that at F4 you will lose the background blur and beautiful bokeh from the Christmas tree garland. It will be like in the photo with the pot above. That is, closing the aperture will go as an emergency measure that will help save the frame, but definitely not suitable as a long-term strategy.
The problem here is that the lens really does not have too much depth of field. To be precise, from this distance, this particular lens has a depth of field of about 10 centimeters. And for such a double portrait, it turned out to be not enough.
What can be done here:
First, try to place people in approximately the same line. Let’s look at another picture from this series.
Secondly, it is worth getting to know your equipment in detail and understanding what kind of depth of field each lens has in which portraits. There is a good service that simulates different depth of field on different cameras.
With it, we can see what the depth of field will be if you shoot a half-length portrait on a full-frame DSLR on a Canon EF 50mm f / 1.4. The depth of field will be 8 centimeters, which is acceptable for a half-length portrait.
But shooting a group half-length portrait (for example, at a bachelorette party) with a similar lens with an open aperture is no longer worth it. Three girls will not stand in a perfectly straight line, someone will hug a friend from behind and get the same problem that the first New Year’s portrait had.
Sometimes it happens that not incorrect settings, not difficult shooting conditions, but faulty equipment are to blame for the blur. A super characteristic example, which was shot on a budget Fujifilm XC 50–230. The lens has a plastic body, it is easy to damage it, it was no longer new at the time of shooting, and gave out such a picture.
One could chalk it up to insufficient depth of field, but skier #260 is further from the camera than #286, and if there was a problem with depth of field, it would be more blurry. Moreover, compare the nature of the blur. Skier #260 goes into blur, and skier #286 is blurry. It would be possible to attribute everything to motion blur, but the shutter speed in this picture is 1/250. Skiers go uphill, go slowly, such exposure is more than enough.
Another important sign of such a blur: photos are always blurry. The blur will be repeated from frame to frame, constantly appearing in the same place. No matter what scene you are shooting, no matter where the focus is and what the shutter speed is. There is nothing you can do about such a problem: you need to carry the equipment for repair or change it to a new one.
However, if you see this in your pictures, do not rush to panic. First, check if the front and rear lenses are dirty. Sometimes dirt on them gives a similar effect. If dirty — wipe, if clean — then in the service.