10 reasons why your photos aren’t sharp (and how to fix them)

10 reasons why your photos aren't sharp (and how to fix them)

Getting sharp photos is one of the fundamental goals in photography. If your images aren’t as sharp as you’d like, take a look at our ten-point guide to work out where you’re going wrong and how to get it right next time.

10 reasons why your photos aren't sharp (and how to fix them)

Reason No. 1. Your Photos Aren’t Sharp: Shutter speed too low

In the days of film photography there was a general rule that in order to get sharp images from a hand-held camera the shutter speed needed to be at least one second divided by the focal length of the lens.

So if you were shooting with a 100mm optic the shutter speed needed to be at least 1/100sec, which because of the way shutter speed is set usually translates to a setting of 1/125sec or faster.

This rule still holds today, but it is somewhat complicated by the focal length magnification factors of sub-full-frame sensors and image stabilisation systems.

For example, if a 100mm lens is mounted on a Nikon APS-C format SLR like the D5200, which has a focal length magnification factor of 1.5x, the photographer would need to set a shutter speed of at least 1/150sec.

Canon APS-C format DSLRs like the EOS 650D have a 1.6x focal length magnification factor, so the shutter speed would need to be at least 1/160sec.

10 reasons why your photos aren't sharp (and how to fix them)

The image stabilisation systems built into some lenses and cameras have a mechanism to compensate for accidental camera movement and this allows slow shutter speeds to be used when the camera is handheld.

Many lenses now claim a 4EV compensation, which means that the shutter speed can be reduced by 16x. That’s the difference between 1/125sec and /18sec.

Even with image stabilisation some people are better at handholding a camera steady than others. The amount of coffee and alcohol that you’ve drunk can make a difference as well.


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Reason No. 2 Your Photos Aren’t Sharp: Camera shake

Advanced tripod tips: beat camera shake in any weather or terrain

If you can’t use a shutter speed fast enough to freeze accidental camera movements, or camera shake, and can’t or don’t want to push the sensitivity setting up, then you need to put the camera on some form of support.

A monopod can be extremely useful when you’re using a long, heavy telephoto lens and you want take some the weight off your arms and reduce the shaking that becomes very apparent as soon as you look through the viewfinder.

It is light and easy to move allowing plenty of freedom to move the lens around and track a moving subject.

However, when you need maximum stability, a tripod is the way to go. If you don’t need the full height of the tripod only extend the thicker leg sections and don’t pull-out the centre column to get the best results.


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  • Fabio Amorim

    The number 9 and 10 are the same. Small apertures make shallow deep of field.

  • Christopher B

    That’s incorrect. Shallow depth of field is created by using a large aperture (small F number). Number 10 is about shooting at an aperture that is smaller than F8 (meaning, F8 and upward). Nice and confusing with a small aperture being a large F number, and vice versa.

  • Rick

    Excellent article. Well written, concise and to the point.!

  • John Comerford

    Number 11. Turn OFF image stabilization when using a tripod, mirror lockup, and remote. The stabilization motor will actually create motion blur as it tries to stabilize a lens/camera that’s not moving.

  • Filippos Georgiades

    All these tips ar all too basic.. Any serious amatuer knows them all after a couple of years in photography

  • Sandy Scott

    Another state the obvious article!

  • Sandy Scott


  • Brilliant! I managed to sort out the issue I had with my camera, thank you!

  • callmebob

    I refer to apertures like 1.8 as “low” and those like 11, 16, 22 as “high”… then explain the field of acceptable focus is “low” with a “low” ap, and “high ” with a “high” ap number. Seems to make sense to people I’ve tutored… for about 40 years now, even when all you had to know was “f-8 and be there !” 😉

  • IslandBearPhotography

    Love it! So helpful thank you