Why is my picture blurry?

Why is my picture all blurry?

I hear this all the time from both experienced and new photographers.

Well, here’s why.


  • You have not focused properly. Solution: select ONE focus point; focus; hold it; and only then shoot.
  • You are using a shallow depth of field. At f/1.4, it is hard to focus.


  • Your subject is moving fast. Solution: pan with the subject or increase ISO, open aperture, or shoot the subject at the apex of its jump, say.

Shutter speed:

  • You are using a slow shutter speed (slower than twice the lens length, say, so on a 100mm lens you are using a shutter speed slower than 1/200th second). Solution: open the aperture or increase the ISO).
  • You are using a long lens (say a 300mm lens). On that lens, fast enough shutter speeds are hard to obtain). Solution: Zoom out, increase ISO, open the aperture, or use a tripod.
  • You are not using a tripod when you ought to. Solution? use a tripod!
  • You are using a slow lens. An f/3.5-5.6 consumer lens will never do as well as an f/2.8 pro lens. Solution: need I say?
  • You are using a small aperture, like f/8, when you should be using f/2.8. Solution: open your aperture.

Miscellaneous technique:

  • Your subject is in the dark – where it is muddy and blurry. Solution: Light your subject well.
  • You are not using flash when you should be. Solution: need I say?
  • You are  not using IS/VR. These are great features: stabilized lenses are superb and give you several stops. Solution: get an IS/VR lens.


  • Your camera is faulty – this is very unlikely, but have it checked out.
  • Your lens is faulty – this is also rather very unlikely, but have it checked out.

Clear? (Pun intended). Try all these and you will see your images improve amazingly.  Yes, I know, there are a lot of them. Yes, it’s complicated. But yes… you will take brilliant images once you get all of these right.

Remember these tips:

  • Bright pixels are sharp pixels (that is Willem’s Dictum);
  • Flashed pixels are sharp pixels;
  • VR/IS works;
  • Use one focus spot;
  • Hold the camera right;
  • A tripod is a good thing.

Have fun – a crisp, razor sharp picture really is a joy.

3 thoughts on “Why is my picture blurry?

  1. Hi Michael,

    Love the Blog.I am using an XSi and pose this question…..which focus “zone” do you use the Most? What should be the automatic point selection be set to for all round use….Automatic (Multi Zone) or (Manual) Center Weighted? At a large aperture, center weighting should give nice bokeh to a portrait background and multi zone would be better for say, landscape? Or I am I all wrong here…Could you elaborate on this in your Blog? I am sure others wonder about this……Maybe you have already covered it and I am blind?


    • I’ll cover it! But first in short:

      Metering is not the same as focusing: “center weighted” is about metering, focus spots are about focusing. I use one focus spot; the centre or any one that is close to mys subject. Then I focus, wait for the beep, hold my finger there, and then recompose and finally shoot by pressing all the way down.

      Make sense?

  2. Pingback: Brrr…. Motion blur! | SpeedLighter.ca

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