Do you ever wonder why you have blurry photographs?
It’s probably one of the most asked questions by new photographers. I know I asked it! I started learning Manual Mode, and then couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t getting super tack sharp photographs. Isn’t Manual Mode supposed to make your pictures better, not worse?!
YES. It WILL make your pictures better. I promise! And there are actual reasons WHY your photographs might be blurry if you’re shooting in Manual Mode.
REASON 1: SHUTTER SPEED IS TOO LOW
When you’re photographing anything, you want to make sure you have the appropriate Shutter Speed. When photographing my son, I try not to go below 1/250, because toddlers are fast! If you’re photographing something even faster than a toddler, try bumping your Shutter Speed up to help freeze that motion.
REASON 2: APERTURE
I get it. When I first started shooting in Manual Mode, I was attempting to shoot at the lowest possible Aperture my lens had. The lowest Aperture on any of my lenses is f/1.2 and my friends, that is LOW.
I. Get. It! You want that beautiful, blurry, bokeh background. I wanted it to! But here’s the thing… if your Aperture is too wide, the focal point is real small, so if your subject moves even the tiniest little bit, your image won’t be tack sharp. Shooting super wide open takes a LOT of practice to nail it. And you’re not going to nail it every single time. We’re human. Not even the best photographer in the whole universe can nail it every time. So give yourself some grace on that one and just keep practicing!
Something I’ve also found while photographing people is that if your Aperture is too small, and you focus on one eye, the other eye will likely be in a soft focus and not tack sharp. If you just bump your Aperture up even slightly to say 2.8, you’ll find that you will get a tack sharp photo, while STILL getting that beautiful bokeh.
REASON 3: FOCAL POINTS
If you’re shooting in Manual, you should also be choosing your own Focal Point. The idea here is to select your own focal point, which is generally the eye of a person, or the main spot of the subject in which you’re shooting. The Focal Point is the part that you want to be most in focus. If your subject moves, it’s possible that the Focal Point may fall onto the wrong spot of your subject. Say you’re focusing on an eye, you may end up with an in focus ear if they turn their head.
The center focal point is the fastest and most accurate one. But, your subject isn’t always going to be smack in the middle of your frame, so it’s important you know how to switch your Focal Point. It’s also important to find out which Focal Points on your camera are the most precise Focal Points. I personally only use the cross-type sensor Focal Points of my camera.
REASON 4: BACK BUTTON FOCUS
I HIGHLY recommend you also use Back Button Focus. The idea of using Back Button Focus is to separate the focus function from the shutter function. In simpler terms… you know how when you click the button to take the picture, and if you hold down a little first it focuses and then takes the picture? Back Button Focus separates the focusing part of that, and the actual picture taking part of that click of the button. It also allows for you to lock the focus on your subject, so that if they do move ever so slightly, your photo will hopefully still be in focus.
REASON 5: KNOWING WHEN TO USE AI SERVO, AI FOCUS OR ONE SHOT
It’s important to know the difference between One Shot, AI Servo and AI Focus… or if you’re a Nikon shooter… the difference between Single Servo (AF-S), Continuous Focus (AF-C) and AF-A. I have grossly simplified these terms for ease of understanding, but here they are…
- One-Shot (or AF-S for Nikon users) is for when neither you, nor your subject, are moving.
- AI Servo (or AF-C for Nikon users) is for when either you, or your subject, is moving.
- AI Focus (or AF-A for Nikon users) is a cross between One-Shot and AI Servo.
Make sure you set your camera to the appropriate one for what you are shooting. My camera tends to stay on AI Servo unless I’m using flash, at which point I switch to AI Focus. These will help you get tack sharp photographs if used appropriately though!
REASON 6: CAMERA SHAKE
This is probably a little more obvious, but as humans, we have natural movement. You’ll want to try to eliminate this as much as possible. Pretty self-explanatory. Use a tripod if you need to.
REASON 7: POOR QUALITY LENS
Ask any professional photographer.. if your lens is crap, your photographs will be too. The kit lens that comes with most cameras are not very high quality. If you want a starter lens that isn’t too pricy, but that will still take the better quality images you’re looking for, try one of these.. the 50 1.8, the 85 1.8 or the 35 1.8. That’s not an ad, and I’m not getting paid for mentioning those. They are just great starter lenses and I personally started with the 50 1.8 and the 85 1.8 myself, so I have first hand experience with those.