As I am sure that many of you have experienced that disappointment of soft and blurred images, which is a total let down especially if it was a once off moment or on a more serious note the result after a client has confirmed and paid you for a job. Yes, this does happen to everyone, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

I am going to take you through some basic and very simple techniques to assist you in this regard, but firstly, let us go over why are your images sometimes soft or blurred.

The most common reasons are:

Incorrect shutter speed

If your shutter speed is to slow or open for to long for a fast – moving subject, your image will be blurred, known more commonly as “motion blur”. Tip… try not to shoot handheld on less than 1/125, especially for static subjects, don’t try be a hero, get a great shot first time.

Poor focus

Not focusing correctly on your subject is often the issue, make sure that camera is set to beep mode in the menu. When the lens is set to auto focus, you are notified and can then take the shot with confidence. If you are shooting with the lens in manual focus, understand the depth of field and the parameters of distance from you to your subject. Make sure that you double check to make sure the subject is in focus before take the shot.

The Lens

Many people associate a good or an expensive camera body to being able to achieve a great shot, failing to realize that the shot is mostly lens based, when referring to your camera gear. The lens, or to be more specific, the glass, is where the secret is. Good glass means great photo potential.

Pro lenses with good glass are costly and for that reason, you cannot compare a starter or entry level kit lens to a pro lens.  If you are using a kit lens, use a decent lens with decent glass, a kit lens with poor cheap glass will always disappoint. Finally, kit or pro lens, make sure that your lens is always clean before the shoot.

Even if your lens is well cared for and stored safely, they do get inviable layers of fungus or membranes that grow on the glass that need to be cleaned. This is often the case when your images look flat or lack depth… just give the glass a quick wipe and you will see the difference.

Setting the correct ISO

Not only is the ISO all about the lighting environment, but it affects the quality of the picture either in a positive or negative way. By negative, I refer to “noisy” or “grainy” images. This cannot be edited in post without softening or destroying the image. So, understand your ISO settings, especially in low light. Small hint… always keep it low when shooting in manual. If shooting in auto, you will not have a choice unfortunately, as the camera is only interested in the exposure being correct, not the quality, so learn to shoot with your camera in manual, its very simple.

Like everything in life, it is just about practice and I promise you it will truly open your eyes to a new world of photography. Alternatively, invest in a tripod, should you be shooting static subjects or in an environment where there is predominantly deep shade. As an alternative, consider a short photography course that covers all these factors, it is definitely worth your while to start on the right foot.

Make sure you are holding the camera correctly

Camera shake, as it is known, is sometimes the cause, as you are not aware that it is you that is actually not steady. Holding the camera incorrectly may result in you being “shaky”.

If you are uncertain, Google the options that are most comfortable for you and that have the largest support. Get into a good habit from the start, as you might be on the path to heavier and more challenging gear and assignments that require strength and consistency, a sore back, or soft photos is something that you do not wish to encounter.

Understanding the burst setting

This setting is useful when shooting something that is moving fast and cannot be repeated, like a cheetah pouncing on its prey. You want the shot, but you only have one chance, so don’t miss the opportunity. A burst setting will allow you to take many frames per second, so you should at least get options to choose from. Do take note that say out of 10 frames in a boost, only 3 will be “useable” in terms of quality. Try keep this setting generally off for everyday photography as it does fill your card quickly.

I trust that the above has shed some light onto the issue of soft or blurred image results and you will take the above into consideration the next time you go out and take pictures in manual mode.

All the best and trust this will help you.