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)

Reason No. 5 Your Photos Aren’t Sharp: Subject movement

To freeze the motion of a fast-moving subject, choose a fast shutter speed

To freeze the motion of a fast-moving subject, choose a fast shutter speed

It doesn’t matter how rock-steady the camera is, if the subject is moving the image will be blurred. If you’re shooting a moving subject and you want it sharp rather than blurred the shutter speed has to be fast enough to freeze the movement.

But how fast is fast enough?

A shutter speed of 1/60sec or 1/125 is usually fast enough to freeze a walking person, but you’ll need to push the shutter speed up with faster moving subjects.

If you’re photographing sports like football and hockey a shutter speed of around 1/500sec is often fast enough to freeze a player’s body, but the fastest moving parts such as their legs or the hockey stick may still be blurred and an even shorter exposure time is required.

Using fast shutter speeds means using a higher sensitivity (ISO) setting and/or opening up the aperture to let more light into the camera.

Although it’s a good idea to avoid raising the sensitivity setting when you’re shooting landscapes and still life subjects, it’s often essential when shooting sport and action.

Provided that you avoid the very top sensitivity values most modern DSLRs and CSCs produce decent images. It’s also worth remembering that a little bit of noise is usually preferable to a badly burred image.


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How to use autofocus with moving subjects


Reason No. 6 Your Photos Aren’t Sharp: AF focused on wrong subject

Close-up photography tips from our professional photographer: set the right focus points

Modern cameras can really make life easy for you, setting the focus point, exposure and white balance automatically to deliver great images.

However, they are not infallible. If you let the camera take control of the focus point selection it may get it wrong.

Many cameras are calibrated to focus on the nearest subject towards the centre of the frame. As a result if your subject is near the edge of the frame or not the closest object to the lens the camera may focus on the wrong point.

This is especially true when shooting subjects close-up as the camera usually looks for something in the mid-distance and you may find the background is in focus rather than your subject.

The simple solution here is to take control over the focus point yourself. The mode you want is usually called something like Single point AF or Select AF.

Once you have selected the correct mode, use the camera’s navigation controls to select the AF point that lies over your subject in the frame.

Even if you camera has lots of AF point there are likely to be some occasions when there isn’t one that lines up with the subject.

If this happens simply choose a point that’s near the subject, or the central point (as it is the most sensitive), and move the camera so this point is over the subject.

Then half-press the shutter release to focus the lens, before recomposing the shot while keeping the shutter release button pressed. When the scene is correctly composed push the shutter release home to take the shot.

This focus-and-recompose technique is very useful and it gets quicker with practice so some photographers use it all the time.


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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