In the days of yore when we wanted to get a sharp photo, we would place our cameras up to our eyes, move the focus ring on the lens and press the shutter. Today, however, there is so much information being thrown at us from our digital cameras that it is a wonder that we still get blurry or out of focus images. But sometimes we do, so let’s look at how to keep that from happening.
First, Get a Grip. How you hold the camera can go a long way to sharper images. Many of today’s point and shoot cameras do not come with viewfinders, so the only way to see what you are shooting is to look at the LCD screen on the back of the camera. However, if you hold it too far away, you could be moving the camera when you push the shutter button. One way to help is to pull your elbows into your sides and hold the camera a little closer to your face (see above photo). This will offer more support to the camera and less chance for camera shake.
This tip also applies to DSLR types of cameras. Pull your elbows in, support the body of the camera with your left hand and press it in on your face for the best support (see photo below).
Bonus Tip for DSLR users… If everything looks a little fuzzy through the viewfinder, it may not be your eyesight! There is a little dial next to the viewfinder called the Dioptric Adjuster. This is used to adjust the viewfinders for people with eyeglasses. Sometimes it will get moved so it is like using someone else’s glasses. To correct this, just push the shutter down halfway to get the info to light up inside the viewfinder and then adjust the dial until the info is sharp.
What are you focusing on? Most of the time, point and shoot cameras will auto focus anything that happens to be in the center of the frame. This is fine 96.38 percent of the time. But if you have a gap in the center of image you might end up with very sharp mountains 50 miles away and blurry people in front of you. You can either have the people move closer together (this will make a better photo anyway) or turn the camera slightly until a person is in the center, hold down the shutter half way, turn the camera back to how you had the image framed and then push the shutter down all the way. By holding the shutter halfway down, this holds that focus point so they will still be in focus. Now you can have a gap and not see the mountains so sharply.
F-stops and Shutter speeds. This is the stuff of camera classes, but here are a few tips to help. First, faster shutter speeds means things that are moving get sharper. If you can move up your shutter speed to numbers like 1/250 a second, then hand-holding the camera will be easier. Also, a lot of cameras have little icons on the dial for action type of photos. This is normally an icon that looks like a running man. When on this setting, the camera will adjust the other parts of the exposure. This is a good setting for soccer and daytime football games.
If the subject(s) of your photo are moving at speeds that are nearly impossible to capture without blur on a normal digital camera, try panning, or moving the camera along with the subject of your photo. The photo still may be a bit blurry, but it will be much less so that if you didn’t pan the camera (see photo above).
If you love taking landscape photos then you might want to adjust the camera F stops or Aperture (which means the same thing). The Aperture is how much in the image will be in focus so numbers like F-8, F-11 and higher will give you those images where the flowers nine feet from you and the mountains 50 miles away will be sharp. There is also an icon setting on the dial for this, it looks like little mountains. Many times, though, to get these sharp images the camera will slow down the shutter speed so enough light comes in for a good exposure. Sometimes the shutter speeds are so slow that you will not be able to handhold the camera.
This is where a good tripod comes in. The tripod will support the camera, so even at a low shutter speed the camera will not shake. If you don’t have a tripod handy, any sturdy surface will work. I have known photographers who carry small beanbags in their camera bags that they will put it down on rocks or fences to support and level the camera. In fact, with many walking sticks if you unscrew the top it will have a screw inside that can fit the screw hole at the bottom of the camera. This will turn your walking stick into a monopod for camera support.
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