The Top 4 Causes of Blurry Photos, And How To Fix Them :: Digital Photo Secrets

The Top 4 Causes of Blurry Photos, And How To Fix Them

by David Peterson 91 comments

Nothing is more annoying than getting home from an event and realizing that most of your photos have turned out blurry. There are 4 major causes of blurry photos in digital cameras and unless you know what to look for, it's hard to tell what is causing the problem. Read on to learn each of these causes, and how to fix it.

Video - Causes of Blurry Images

Watch a video explaining the top 4 causes of blurry photos

The four main causes of blurry photos are:

  1. Out Of Focus
  2. The subject moves while the shutter is open
  3. The camera moves while the shutter is open
  4. Depth Of Field is too shallow

Let's first look at how you can tell each of these apart. Then, once you know what causes each, I'll show you how to fix them.

Out Of Focus

Out of focusAn image that is out of focus will appear blurry. These days with Auto Focus, it's unlikely that the whole image will be out of focus. More often than not, you'll see one part of the image crisp and clear, but others (including your subject) are out of focus.

In the example photo here, the top left part of the image is in focus, but our subject and the rest of the photo is blurry.

Now, look at the in-focus parts of the image. Check that they are further away from, or closer to, your blurry subject. This is the telltale sign of a focus problem. What has happened is the camera has set focus on the wrong object.

To fix focus problems, make sure your camera has your subject in it's sights. (more details)

The subject moves while the shutter is open

When there is not much light around - for instance at night, or indoors - the camera compensates by opening the shutter for a longer period that normal. And while the shutter is open, your subject moves!

You can tell this cause by looking at your subject, If some parts of the subject are crisp while others are blurry then the subject has moved while the camera's shutter was open.

Or alternatively, the subject was moving too fast and it is blurry while the area around it (that was not moving) is crisp. For example, a racecar on a racing track.

In this example image, the boy's body is crisp as is the chair, but because he was moving his head and hands (clapping) while the photo was being taken, they are are blurry.

You can avoid blurry images caused by subject movement by changing your camera's settings so the shutter is not open for as long (more details).

The camera moves while the shutter is open

This is another common problem and will cause the whole image to be blurry.

If your photo was taken at night, or indoors and the whole image is blurry, then the camera moved while the shutter was open.

Like the previous cause, the camera will leave the shutter open for longer when there is not much light around. When the shutter is open for longer, tiny movements of the camera can cause the whole photo to become blurry. Even small movements like releasing your finger from the shutter button, or your breathing can cause it.

For instance, in the example image here the boy is slightly blurry. Because the blur is uniform, it is the camera that moved while the shot was being taken, not the boy. It's hard to see on the small main image, but if we zoom into the boy's ear, you can see it is quite blurry and not crisp and clear.

There are two ways to solve the 'camera moving' problem. The first is to increase the shutter speed as explained above, The second is to hold your camera steady while you take the shot. (more details)

Depth Of Field Too Shallow

Depth Of Field is the name given to that great effect of cameras where your subject is in focus but the background is out of focus. It makes the subject stand out because that's the only thing you can see clearly.

Using the preset scene modes of your camera (or the Aperture setting), you can change how much of the image is in focus, and how much is out of focus. For instance for landscape shots, you want the whole shot in focus.

If the Depth Of Field is too shallow, not all of your subjects will be in focus. For example, in the image above, one of the swing handles is in focus while the one just behind (and also the background) is out of focus.

This can be fixed by changing the Aperture setting on your camera. (more details)

As you can see, there are lots of causes of blurry images. The great news is that each cause is easily identified and has a solution.

Most people think this post is Awesome. What do you think?


  1. Tweety Downs says:

    I photo shoot my grandsons basketball games inside different gyms. My issues are blurry pics. I have a canon rebel eos & I use the long lens that came with camera 100/300. Help

  2. Keith says:

    Hi David,
    Thanks very much for your ee with the video info. Absolutely fantastic help. now so much easier for reference at any time. Cheers Keith.

  3. Nga says:

    Thanks for all your wonderful tips...most helpful.
    Look forward to your next newsletter.

  4. richard says:

    in one article on sharpness you recommended using back button focus. Here in the video you say to depress the shutter halfway and recompose. Could I still use BBF and recompose after focusing? Thx!

    • David Peterson says:

      Hi Richard,

      Yes, you can. Cameras allow you to adjust focusing the two different ways so you can use the one that suits you (or the situation) best.


  5. Brian says:

    Doesn't load - says the file c:\blurry\blurry.mp4 doesn't exist. Which it won't because it's not on my C: drive!

    • David Peterson says:

      Hi Brian,

      What browser are you using? I just tested the video and it works fine here.


  6. helen says:

    I received a Cannon digital camera from my son and he wants me take perfect pictures... so thanks so much for all your infomation that you have given me..

  7. Cyndi says:

    I'm a hobby photography and been having trouble with blurry photos lately. the video was great and very easy to understand. Thank you for posting this video!

  8. Owen says:

    Yes, DAVID i have realized that your skills and experience in photography is quite educative,helpful and interesting to someone who has fallen in love the medium. Keep up the good work man.

  9. palanki says:

    I am a reasonably competent photographer, possessing one DSLR and a pricey Point&Shoot. You confirmed the efficacy of one of my approaches. When I take a photo of a distant (and moving) bird, instead of zooming the lens fully I capture the subject fully in the frame at a shorter focal length and crop the picture without much loss of sharpness.

  10. TimothyG says:

    Where is the audio for this video?

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6 minutes
About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.