Fixing Blur Caused By Slow Shutter Speed :: Digital Photo Secrets

Fixing Blur Caused By Slow Shutter Speed

by David Peterson 3 comments

I have some rather active nephews and when I try to take a snap of them indoors I usually end up with some blurry body parts in my photos. But why does this happen and how can it be fixed?

Anytime you take a photo in low light (like indoors or at night), your camera adjusts for the darker conditions by opening it's shutter for longer. This lets more light into the camera so the image is correctly exposed (bright enough) but also increases the chance of your subject moving while the shutter is open.

You can see the result of this clearly in this image. The child was wildly clapping when the photo was taken resulting in a blurry and distorted face and hands while the shirt on his body and the chair (which were still) are crisp and clear.

One way to avoid this is to ask the child to sit still while you take the photo. This usually works with adults, but if your subjects are anything like my nephews, they won't be able to sit still for long. The other disadvantage of this method is you will no longer catch them in a spontaneous moment and they may become self conscious of the camera.

So the simplest solution is to tell your camera to increase the shutter speed.

There are two ways to do this.

Turn on the flash

You can turn on your camera's flash. This will throw more light on the subject for the split second that the shutter is open so the camera won't need to leave it open for as long.

Using the flash does have some disadvantages. First, if your subject is close to a wall (like my nephew here) you'll see a distinct and sometimes unsightly shadow. A flash also tends to wash out the warm look of natural lighting. Compare the colors in these two images. I like the warmer colors of the first image.

Oh when you turn on the flash, you also open up the risk of creating Red Eye like in this photo.

Increase the ISO

The other way to increase the camera's shutter speed is to increase the ISO setting. The ISO tells the camera how sensitive the image sensor is to light. A higher ISO setting means the sensor is more sensitive and so less light is needed to take the image.

ISO values range from 50 to 3200 although most cameras don't allow you to set the ISO to those extremes. Most cameras have settings from 100 to 800.

When you increase the ISO, your camera will know the sensor needs less light so will automatically increase the shutter speed. Because the shutter speed is faster, there is less chance that the shutter will be open while your young subject is wildly moving about!

However you don't want to increase the ISO too far. As the ISO gets higher, the camera's sensor also becomes more sensitive to noise. I recommend you set the ISO value to the second highest setting allowed by your camera. This will help to increase the shutter speed, but at the same time will make sure that not too much image noise gets into your photo.

And make sure you check the photo after you have taken it by looking at the LCD and zooming in on the image. Sometimes you might think you have a sharp image, but there may still be some blurry bits.

Another cause of blurry images is when your camera moves (rather than your subject) while the shutter is open. There are ways to hold your camera steady, and ways to cut down on blur. There are two other causes of blurry images that are explained in my Top 4 Causes of Blurry Photos, And How To Fix Them.

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  1. Helen says:

    Hello David
    Your explanation on blurred photos.
    I found very clear reading & looking @ your video made sense. You explain photography in a step procedure that can be understood.
    I do thankyou for your your help
    Much appreciated. Helen

  2. Tom Goclowski says:

    very helpful in how to focus on a subject that most likely move.

  3. kim says:

    Hi I have been asking so many photographers about this your answer is so clear to me now

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