How to Make a Blurry Picture Clear

If you’ve taken a number of photos — you more than likely know the following story and the disappointment that comes along with it. You think you capture that perfect shot only to find out later on, when you view it from your computer at home, that the image isn’t sharp. The moment is gone. And, if you can’t retake the picture, all that remains is a blurry end result.

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6 Reasons Why Photos are Blurry

1. The Subject Moved

Whenever you shoot a picture with slow shutter speed (typically in dim light), any movement by your subject is likely to cause some blurring.

2. The Camera Moved

Another cause of blur is camera movement. When shooting, it’s important to hold the camera properly, without shaking it. This is especially important if you’re using a slow shutter speed or a long lens such as a telephoto or zoom. If you don’t have a tripod handy and you need to shoot in dim light with a slow shutter speed, try this trick to prevent blur:

  • Tuck your elbows into your body. 
  • Take a deep breath and let it out. 
  • Suspend your breath (don’t breathe). 
  • Gently press the shutter.

You can also lean against a wall to try to prevent shake.

3. You Photographed Action Using a Slow Shutter Speed

This is the same principle as the first reason. Action shots with fast-moving subjects such as sports and cars require fast shutter speeds to freeze the action and make the subject appear clear. If the shutter speed is too slow, the subject in the picture will blur.

4. You Didn’t Focus Properly

If the focus isn’t set correctly or the automatic focus is targeting the wrong object, the result will be a blurred photo. Glass and water can create a problem for some focusing systems.

5. Shallow Depth of Field

Opening the lens aperture to a low f-stop can create a nice bokeh effect, separating a sharp subject from a soft background. But the lower the f-stop, the shallower the depth of field. This means that shooting at f/11 will allow you to keep more of the scene sharp than setting the aperture to f/2.

6. The Lens was Dirty

A lens covered with dirt, grime or fingerprints won’t produce sharp, clear photos. Use a lens cleaning kit to keep your lens clean and your pictures looking clear.

When Blur is Intentional

There are times you may want a blur effect in your photo. Here are some instances where it can be used effectively.

1. Portraits

A blur effect may be desirable in portraiture, especially when photographing women. It can hide unwanted details in skin, such as blemishes or pores, and can create a pleasing effect. This can be added in front of the lens with a diffusing filter, or afterward, using editing software

2. Fine Art Photos

Blur can be used effectively to create a dreamlike effect in your pictures. Companies such as Lensbaby manufacture macro lenses that allow photographers to selectively add blur while shooting.

3. Tilt-shift Photos

Tilt-shift photos make scenes like landscapes look like miniatures by adding blur to the foreground and background, mimicking the shallow depth of field that results from photographing something very small.

4. Isolating the Subject from the Background

We mentioned earlier that shallow depth of field can be used effectively to isolate the subject from the background by letting the background blur. This effect can also be simulated afterward in post processing.

5. Simulating Motion

Motion blur can be used creatively to give a sense of motion to an object (i.e. a car). Radial blur can create a forward movement effect.

6. Vignettes

A vignette effect can draw the eye into the center of the picture. This can be done by darkening and adding blur to the edges.

How to Prevent Unwanted Blur

Here are some quick tips to help prevent blur.

1. Use a Tripod.

While it’s not always convenient to carry a tripod around, a good tripod will help keep your camera from moving, and will help to make your photos sharp. Excellent lightweight tripods are available that are suitable for everything from running around at sporting events to hiking for miles. 

2. Use a Wide-angle Lens.

The longer the lens, the more likely the image will blur. A long lens, such as a zoom or telephoto, magnifies any shake when using it handheld. Since these lenses tend to be bigger and heavier, it’s more difficult to hold the camera steady. In addition, a wide-angle lens has a greater depth of field, so it’s more forgiving if you haven’t focused precisely on the subject.

3. Use a Larger Aperture Setting.

In general, the higher the f-stop number you use, the greater the depth of field, and the more of the scene that will be sharp. We won’t go into the mechanics here, but in general, f/11 will yield sharper photos than f/16 or f/22.

4. Turn on Image Stabilization.

If your camera or lens includes image stabilization, turn it on to help keep your photos sharp. Remember to turn it off when using a tripod.

5. Hold Your Camera Properly.

We mentioned this earlier. Consult your camera’s manual if you’re unsure how to hold it correctly. When you take the picture, press the shutter button gently. Tapping the shutter or pressing the shutter too hard will shake the camera and cause blur.

6. Use the Correct Focus Mode for Your Subject.

Read your camera’s manual to understand the different focus modes and choose the one that’s best for the type of scene you’re shooting.

Fixing a Blurry Photo Using Image Editing Software

If you need to fix a blurry shot, there’s good news. You can use photo editing software to fix it. Here’s how to rescue your picture using  Luminar photo editor, a new software program from Skylum.

  1. Open your photo in Luminar. 
    1. Make sure the Preset Panel is visible. If not, click the Preset Panel icon on the upper right of the window. 
    2. Locate the Sharp & Crisp preset and select it. Luminar will automatically apply sharpening. If you’re satisfied with the result, simply save the image.

If the image needs fine-tuning, you can adjust the settings manually.

  • In the Sharpening section, use the Amount slider to increase or decrease the amount of definition. Be careful not to over-sharpen, as this will result in a harsh look with outlines around the edges of objects.
    • The Radius slider will allow you to specify the number of pixels that will be sharpened around the edges. A smaller radius is good for pictures that contain many details, like a landscape. A larger radius is good for portraits.
      • The Masking slider will let you constrain sharpening to the important parts of the photo. It will apply sharpening to the edges and leave smooth areas intact. It’s a good tool to use on scenes that have a clearly defined subject in the foreground and a soft background.
        • The Details Enhancer section contains sliders to control small, medium and large details. Experiment with these sliders to bring out details and make the photo look more clear.

Whether you’re trying to rescue a landscape shot or a portrait shot, while you’re taking it or afterwards, our hope is that these tips and tricks will help you get that perfectly crisp and clear end result. From the Skylum team, good luck! And happy shooting. 

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