One of the most frequent questions I receive when teaching beginner photography workshops is, “How can I make my images less blurry?” The answer isn’t a simple one, as blurriness be be caused by several issues. Today, I’ll focus on one of those: how to avoid blurry images using the shutter speed dial on your camera.
In my book, Say NO to Auto, I share the process I use to select my shutter speed. I’ll share some of that information here as well.
The shutter on an SLR camera opens and closes in just fractions of a second, depending on your settings. Some camera models display the shutter speed as a fraction — such as 1/250 — while on other models, the fraction is implied, and shown simply as 250. See the orange circles below as an example.
One way to be creative is to “drag” your shutter. Set your dial to 2 or 3 full seconds (not fractions). You might try this when photographing fireworks, like the photo below. It’s hard to stand still with a super slow shutter since movement makes images blurry, but you can see the burst of the fireworks and light trails because of the slow shutter.
If the picture is a still life, such as a landscape, and you are shooting on a tripod, then you won’t have an issue with blurry images since mountains won’t move. However, if you have your camera set to a slow shutter speed with people, and you don’t have your camera on a tripod, the image will be blurry as a result of camera shake. Although it may seem that you are holding the camera very still, any slight movement causes the image to blur.
Here’s an image taken when I thought I was holding the camera pretty still, and my model wasn’t moving — still blurry!
In the blurry image, the shutter speed is way too slow at 1/13. Even though the model was standing still, the image still has some blur to it, mainly because it’s just not possible to hold a camera perfectly still long enough to freeze the action with a slow shutter speed. In the next image, I made the shutter speed go faster at 1/160 and the model’s face has much more clarity.
My rule of thumb when photographing people is to shoot with a shutter setting above 1/125 to avoid shutter blur either from people moving or camera shake on my end. I’ve found with using this method, along with a great lens and accurate aperture settings, I’ll get sharp and focused images.
Photo credit: Kristen Duke, kevinandamanda.com