One of the most common and most difficult-to-answer question among photographers is, “WHY ARE MY IMAGES BLURRY?”. And this is particularly because the reasons behind blurry pictures can be many, which makes it difficult to pin point the one reason that causes blurriness in your pictures.

So in this article, we have 10 most common mistakes that cause blurry images and tips on how to improve them.

1. SLOW SHUTTER SPEED

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At focal length of 600mm and fast moving subject like this, I kept the shutter speed to 1/6000

A very slow shutter speed is the number one cause that makes your pictures blurry. Most of the photographers can handhold the camera still just down to 1/160s to 1/80s, which too can fluctuate depending on the magnification levels, the camera technology, focal length etc).

So, the one thing to be kept in mind to avoid the blur caused by a shake is:

The shutter speed should at least be equal to the reciprocal of the lens’ focal length. Which means that if the focal length is 80mm, the shutter speed should be 1/80s or faster; when the focal length is 100mm, the shutter speed should be 1/100s or faster.

2. NOT USING TRIPOD

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Even at shutter speed of 1.3 secs, I used a tripod to ensure the image is sharp

If, for some reason you are unable to use a faster shutter speed or purposely do not want to, using a tripod is a must to steady the camera and reducing shakes. If you find using tripod a hassle, go for a monopod which is more compact and handy.

Another thing to remember while using a tripod is, to turn off any image stabilization, which is completely unnecessary while using a tripod and may even prove to be counter-productive.

3. TOO-WIDE APERTURE

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I used f/9 to keep everything in sharp focus

How much your image is in focus or the sharpness of the image is determined by the depth of field, which in turn is determined by the size of aperture.

When your lens finds focus, let’s suppose at 10 feet, everything at a distance of 10 feet from the lens with have maximum sharpness, however anything behind or in front of that point will start to blur. The speed at which the sharpness falls and this blur starts to occur is dependent on aperture.

So using a wide aperture will give a shallow depth of field which will lead to most of the picture being blur and only a small point at its maximum sharpness. However, using a small aperture will lead to a larger depth of field leading to most of the picture being in focus and sharp.

The size of your aperture may also depend on the type of picture you want to create. If you want everything to be blurry but just a sliver to be sharp, then wide aperture is for you. But if you want all of the image to be sharp, then go for a smaller aperture.

4. NOT USING AUTOFOCUS

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For subjects like these its best to use auto focus to ensure it doesn’t get out of focus

Cameras these days come equipped with loads of features; autofocus being one of them. So, let your camera do what it is good at. Most of the cameras do an amazing job with autofocus both in stills and moving subjects.

Yes, there are some situation where manual focus is needed, but other than those, autofocus is the way to go.

5. BAD CAMERA HOLDING TECHNIQUE

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Support your long lens while clicking images

The most important thing required to avoid a shaky hand is a good camera holding technique.

First comes the body posture which is, standing with feet slightly apart, one leg staggered forward in such a way that the body weight is balanced on the 2 legs. The best way to hold your camera is by holding the lens with your left hand from underneath and holding the grip with your right hand while pressing the shutter button gently. Keep your elbows tucked tightly to your chest and try using the viewfinder instead of the screen.

Some professionals even keep track of their heart beats and breaths to avoid even the slightest shake.

6. NOT FOCUSING ON THE RIGHT PLACE 

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The focus should have been on the ye of the bird but by mistake it is on the branch of the tree

Even when your camera holding technique is perfect or you’re using the suitable aperture, you can get shaky images if you are not focusing on the correct place.

Even the slightest mistake in focusing can get your subject completely out of focus or with some parts perfectly sharp while others a lot blurry. This becomes even more important in a wide aperture because it has a shallow depth of field.

More often than not, the autofocus system of the camera does a great job by focusing on the subject but when the frame has a lot of other elements along with the subject, this can be a tough job for even the camera as it may focus on the wrong object. This makes it important to specify the focus manually and correctly.

7. USING THE WRONG AUTOFOCUS MODE 

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Understanding different focus modes and using the correct one is the key

Choosing the right autofocus mode (out of the three modes provided by most cameras) that suits the given situation is crucial to get sharp images.

For still images, the most appropriate modes are Single-shot autofocus i.e. AF-S or One-Shot AF. However, when the subject is in motion, Continuous autofocus (AF-C or AI Servo AF) is suitable as it is designed to track movement in the frame.

Another mode is the Automatic Mode which is the default mode in most of the cameras. This mode analysis the situation and then chooses the appropriate mode from the above mentioned modes.

8. NOT USING MANUAL FOCUS

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In low light, use manual focus to get the sharp focus

Autofocus does the job most of the times but when the aperture is wide with a shallow depth of field, manual focus comes in handy. It is important to make your subject look sharp and prominent in the frame.

To do this, switch to the manual mode, use the LCD zoom feature to get a magnified view and then make adjustments to get your focus on the right place.

The manual mode also becomes helpful when you are clicking pictures in dark or clicking close-ups.

9. THERE’S A JUNK ON OR IN FRONT OF YOUR LENS 

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Clean the front element before every shoot

A bad quality filter or a smear on your lens can also lead to blurry images.

It is important to make sure that the quality of the glass used in your filters is up to the mark. If using a single type of filter is giving you bad results, try changing the filter or clicking without a filter.

Along with that, make sure that your lens is absolutely clean when you go for a shoot.

10. POOR QUALITY LENS

Although very little, but the quality of the lens can also make a difference in the images. 

Every lens has a uniqueness to it. Some might work best on a one aperture, some may give a sharpness in the centre but get blurry around the corners and some may be suitable for a particular type of images only.

So, it’s important to understand which lens suits you best for a particular type of image.

So, we hope you now know the reasons of getting blurry images. If you know any other reason, do share in the comment.