10 reasons your photos are blurry (and what you can do about it)

Do you sometimes get blurred photos from your DSLR but don't know why? The chances are it's not the camera - it's you! Our friends at the Nikon magazine N-Photo came up with top ten tips for banishing blur.

10 reasons your photos are blurry and what you can do about it

1. Your shutter speed's too slow

Take the effective focal length of your lens and divide it into 1 to get the minimum safe handheld shutter speed you should use. For example, with a 200mm equivalent lens, you shouldn't shoot any slower than 1/200sec or you risk camera shake. You might even get some shake at 1/500sec.

2. You're placing too much trust in VR

Nikon's Vibration Reduction system can let you shoot with shutter speeds four stops slower than usual - but don't count on it. This is a best-case scenario, and it's wise to assume no more than two stops. VR improves your success rate, it doesn't guarantee sharpness.

SEE MORE: 11 common lens errors (and how to avoid them)

3. Your subject is moving

Moving subjects will appear blurred at slow shutter speeds, so even if you can hold your camera steady and even if the VR system does a great job, you will still need to use fast shutter speeds for moving subjects.

4. The ISO is too high

Sometimes you have to use really high ISOs just to avoid camera shake, but be aware that at the highest settings you will see a loss of detail. The camera uses noise reduction processes to reduce the appearance of noise, and these erode fine detail too.

SEE MORE: 10 reasons why your photos aren't sharp (and what you can do about it)

[caption id="attachment_552011" align="aligncenter" width="610"]How to take good photos 04 Use aperture to control depth of field With narrower apertures, you see more background[/caption]

5. Depth of field myths

Depth of field is the zone of near-to-far sharpness within your pictures, but it's only apparent sharpness, not real sharpness. Depth of field relies on objects looking sharp enough at normal viewing distances and magnifications even though they're ever so slightly out of focus. If you zoom in far enough, you will see that some objects aren't completely sharp even when they're technically within the depth of field limits.

6. Your lens aperture is too small

Small apertures used to be associated with better image quality. That was when lenses were comparatively unsophisticated and cameras used larger formats, such as 35mm and 120 roll film. But at small apertures an unavoidable optical effect called 'diffraction' sets in, where fine detail starts to blur. With today's smaller sensors and sophisticated zoom lens designs, you can see this as early as f/11. If you shoot at f/16 or f/22, your shots will be visibly softer than those shot at wider apertures.

SEE MORE: Getting sharp images - every technique you need to know starting out

Take control of your camera s autofocus which AF points to use and when to use them

7. You're focused on the wrong thing

Watch the AF points in the camera's viewfinder. If you're using auto-area AF, the camera will pick the nearest subject, which may not be what you intended. If you're using single-point AF, make sure the AF point's over the correct part of the scene. Tip: on some cameras, including the D3100, it's very easy to accidentally push the AF point to the right with the base of your thumb as you hold the camera and not notice.

SEE MORE: Master your camera's autofocus - which AF points to use and when to use them

8. Handheld close-ups shots are risky!

When you're really close to your subject, the depth of field is so small that the slightest movement on your part will throw your subject out of focus. The more you concentrate on staying still, the more you sway! Higher shutter speeds won't make the slightest difference - you need a tripod.

9. Focus/recompose errors

It's often useful to focus on one thing then keep the shutter button half-pressed so that you can recompose the picture and shoot. But in that time, you may have moved, the subject may have moved or, if the camera's in its default AF-A mode, it make think the subject is moving, switch to AF-C (continuous) operation and attempt to re-focus.

10. Is your lens clean?

If you walk into a humid indoor environment, your lens may mist up, producing a blurry, soft-focus effect. Other causes of blur are greasy smears and fingermarks - so check the front of your lens before blaming the camera.

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