End the Blurry Pictures and Take Some Better Pictures

Frustrated? Confused? Wondering why that picture just doesn’t look anything like you were hoping it would?

We are here to help.

Getting the best out of your camera always takes a bit of knowledge and some preparation. Photography can be overwhelming and frustrating at times, but really there are only three important elements of digital photography: Shutter Speed, Aperture, and ISO. Once you gain a basic understanding of these three elements, you will find your pictures are vastly better. These three elements are connected in the camera, and changing one of the elements will effect the other two.

If at any point in reading this you get overwhelmed or confused, you can always stop in or call Bergen County Camera to ask questions.

Camera Modes

A21C8975 copy
Mode Dials of a Canon 5D Mark II (Left) and a Nikon D7000 (Right)

Most cameras have five modes: Auto, Program, Shutter Priority, and Aperture Priority, and Manual. Some cameras only have two modes: Auto and Program. Many cameras have additional modes, but these are auto modes which often do not help you take better photos. In each of these modes you are controlling one or more elements of photography.

Auto – the camera controls everything. While this is the easiest mode to use, it is also the most likely to give you blurry images.

Program – Allows adjustment of the ISO.

Shutter Priority – Allows adjustment of the ISO and shutter speed.

Aperture Priority – Allows adjustment of the ISO and aperture.

Manual – Allows adjustment of the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. This is the most difficult mode to use because you must use the meter in the camera to find the correct exposure for your picture.

Rear screen of a Canon G11. Often this information can be found by activating the autofocus on your camera. (pressing the shutter button down half way)

Shutter Speed

Every time you press your shutter button and take a picture, a window opens inside your camera, exposing the area which creates the image, the sensor, to light. The less time the sensor is exposed, the less motion you see in an image. Shutter speed is shown as a fraction of a second. In the image below, the shutter speed in the red box is 1/20th of a second. This is telling you that the window inside the camera will open and then close 1/20th of a second later.

The average person, holding a camera still needs a shutter speed quicker then 1/60th of a second to get a clear, non-blurry image. If the shutter speed is slower then 1/60th of a second, you need to change either the Aperture or ISO.


Depth of Focus variation from adjusting the camera’s Aperture

Aperture describes the amount of light passing through the lens into the camera. All lenses are marked with a maximum aperture, weather it’s on a point and shoot or an SLR. The aperture is also known as the f-stop. In the image below, within the blue box shows an aperture of “F2.8”. The lower the f-stop, the more light that is entering the camera. The more light entering the camera, the quicker the shutter speed can be to give you correct exposure.

The aperture also controls your depth of focus in an image. If you are looking to have your subject in focus, but the background blurry, you need a low aperture lens and a low aperture set on the camera. When a photographer talks about stepping a lens down, he is describing shooting at a higher f-stop. The higher the f-stop, the less light entering the lens, and the greater your depth of focus becomes. This is what you would do if you were shooting a landscape image where everything from the grass to the mountains to the clouds was in focus.


ISO is the sensitivity of the sensor of the camera. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive the camera is to light, and the quicker the shutter speed can be to give you a correctly exposed image. In the image below, in the yellow box, the ISO is set to 800. For those wondering, ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization. When you shoot at higher ISO settings, you are likely to see more noise in your images. Noise is a speckling of randomized color in your image. The lower your ISO, the less noise you get. However, the lower your ISO, the slower your shutter speed needs to be to get a correctly exposed image.

Bring It All Together

So your image is blurry. This occurs when your shutter speed isn’t quick enough. In order to raise your shutter speed, you need to either raise your ISO or set your aperture to a lower f-stop. Making your sensor more sensitive or allowing more light into the camera will allow you to shoot at a high enough shutter speed to take a clear image.

Keep in mind that 1/60th of a second is the magic number in most situations, however if you are shooting sports, dancing, or any other high motion activity, you may need a shutter speed upwards of 1/1000th of a second.

Still Unable to Get a Clear Image?

In some situations, your camera will be unable to obtain a shutter speed quick enough to get a correctly exposed image. I have run into this issue at concerts where lighting is incredibly low. I prefer a clear image which is underexposed over a blurry image which is correctly exposed, then restoring correct exposure using photo editing software. Shooting Manual, I will set my shutter speed to 1/60th of a second through 1/250th of a second. Next I’m setting the aperture to as low an f-stop as possible, thus letting in as much light as possible. And finally I’m setting my ISO as high as I can, without having too much noise. Find this setting before the concert by taking photos in a low lit area and raising your ISO between shots. RAW image format is extremely useful in this situation. RAW is an uncompressed image format which retains more information about the image for editing. In a RAW processor such as Adobe Lightroom, you can raise an image’s exposure back to correct level. This is a difficult process, but if you’re stuck in a bad lighting situation, you need to be able to adapt.

Still have questions? Still feeling lost?

We are here to help you enjoy photography. Stop by Bergen County Camera in Westwood. We offer classes, private tutorials, and trips to help you enjoy your camera.

2 thoughts on “End the Blurry Pictures and Take Some Better Pictures

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *