Now that you’re living in the KMC, you want your friends and family to see what it’s like to be here. Your photographs are blurry most of the time and not very interesting. Even after you bought a really nice DSLR camera with a good lens, you still can’t get good pictures. Who wants to see pictures of something you can’t recognize? Why can’t you take a decent picture?
The main culprit to a blurry photograph is camera shake
What is camera shake? It means that during the time your camera was taking your picture, the camera moved. It doesn’t take much movement to blur your pictures. Professional photographers go to great lengths to minimize camera shake. If you can’t use a tripod and a remote switch and are shooting with the camera in your hand, you can do a few things to help minimize camera shake.
What can I do to minimize camera shake when I’m holding the camera?
The basic idea is to stabilize the camera as much as possible. Hold the camera close to your body and tuck your elbows against the side of your body. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart so you have a stable base. If you have a fixed object like a door, fence or tree you can lean against, that can help too. Another problem is your shutter speed.
What shutter speed should I use?
There’s a general rule of thumb that you use “one divided by the focal length” as a guide. This means if you have a 20mm lens, your shutter speed should be about 1/20th of a second. If you know you aren’t going to be able to hold the camera very steady, double that speed to compensate for shaky hands.
What does this mean for a zoom lens?
When you zoom in, you are increasing the focal length of your lens. The more you zoom, the more sensitive your camera is to shaking. You have to keep shortening the shutter speed for our rule of thumb. I have a 70-200mm lens. When I shoot at 70mm, all the way zoomed out, I should use a 1/70th of a second speed. If I zoom in all the way to 200mm, I need to increase the shutter speed to 1/200th of a second. If you are not in a stable position when you take the photograph, double those numbers. What does a fast shutter speed do to my picture?
The faster your shutter speed, the less motion your image will show
This makes sense. If you take a picture of a waterfall, if you have a very fast shutter, you will see individual drops of water. As you slow down the shutter speed, the water moves farther and will create a more blurred effect. You can’t do this well with a hand held shot. You need a stabilized camera such as on a sturdy tripod. Even if your camera is on a tripod, you still might not have the right environment to shoot the picture you want to take.
The most difficult photograph is a low light environment with a fast shutter speed
I found this out when trying to take photographs of horses in an arena at night in a poorly lit arena. When I increased the shutter speed to freeze the horse in the photograph, the exposure was too dark. If I increased the ISO or decreased the shutter speed, the image was too blurry. No combination that I tried worked. I asked my professional photographer friend, Wally Raynes, what to do. Wally said some situations like this you just don’t have enough light to use a fast shutter speed.
Taking better pictures starts with understanding camera shake and taking some basic steps to overcome it. Remember that shutter speed needs to be fast enough to overcome camera shake. Now you can take clearer pictures that you’ll want to send to your friends and family.