Avoid blurry photos Pt.1

students on location-1-2A question came in on my Facebook page recently about problems with image sharpness.

This can be a big issue for lots of people and the range of possibilities for an image to be soft are numerous.

You know the scene.  You’ve been out with your camera all day and got some cracking shots.  Maybe you were taking some portrait photos of a friend, a member of the family, or maybe someone was acutally paying you to take their photo.  Either way, you’re looking at the screen on the back of your camera and you have taken shots that are guaranteed to launch your career as aninternational portrait photographer to the rich and famous.  They are awesome photos and you’re feeling excited.

You rush home and load them onto your computer.  Your heart sinks.

They are not as sharp as they looked on the camera.  In fact they are so soft, you can’t use them.


Ever happened to you?  Join the club.  I doubt if there is a single photographer living on this planet that this hasn’t happened to.  I’ve certainly done it (and occasionally still do).

Yes, even professional photographers can do it.  Just because someone gets paid for their work doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes.  All photographers make mistakes, but somehow no one expects professionals to.  The difference is, pros tend not to admit to it (well, some of them).

All that aside, let’s look at the situation.  What’s happened?  You’ve taken great photos, but you’ve not stopped to check that they’re actually are as great as you thought they were.   

Agi Gallacher street photography Winchester-5.jpgThe small screen on the back of our cameras is quite deceptive, images look sharp when they’re not.  It is too small to make any serious judgement call and you have to zoom in to really see the detail.  All cameras allow you to zoom in, to magnify the image… and if you’re photographing people in particular, zoom into their eyes.  If their eyes are sharp, in most cases, that’s all you need to worry about.

So that’s a good tip.  When photographing people or pets always make sure the eyes are in focus and nice and sharp.  If the eyes are soft the picture fails.

Although there are the odd occasions when sharp eyes aren’t actually needed.

I recently had to photograph a dentist examining a patient.  My focus on this occasion was on the patient’s teeth and the dentist’s tools!

Anyway, let’s get back on track.

When I started writing this, I thought I was going to produce a single document looking at the question of taking sharp photographs.   In reality, it may take a number of separate posts to properly cover the subject.

This is the first.

The most under-used camera control

There is one control on your camera that affects how sharp you see your images more than any other.  No, it’s not the lens, not the autofocus and it’s not the focus point selector.

One of the greatest reactions I get from students is when I show them the diopter control.

“The what?”

The diopter control.  All cameras have them.

The tiny little wheel to the right of the veiwfinder below is on a Canon 5D MkIV.  The one beneath that is on a Fuji X-H1.   They are needed because our eyesights are all different.   

Canon 5D MkIV diopter control

Fuji X-H1 diopter control

Everytime you get a new camera you need to adjust the diopter to suit your eyes.  Let someone else look through your camera and to them the scene may look completely blurred.  They would have to adjust the diopter to their eyes for a crisp sharp image.

I have had students come to me saying that their camera isn’t focussing, when all they needed to do was correctly adjust the diopter.

The look on their faces is priceless.  A simple adjustment and everything comes into focus… you can see their sigh of relief as they realise their camera isn’t faulty after all.

How do you adjust the diopter?

To correctly set up your camera to your eyesight you need to first of all turn the camera on.  Look though the viewfinder and focus your eyes on the digital display.  It’s important to look at the numbers in the viewfinder, rather than through the lens.   Get the numbers sharp and everything else follows.

Now, turn the diopter control until the numbers are pin-sharp.

That’s it, that’s all you have to do.  Once set up, you won’t have to make any more adjustments unless someone else borrows your camera or you accidentally move the diopter adjustment wheel.


To recap:

So, in the first of my series of blogs looking at image sharpness, we have talked about the importance of properly checking the sharpness on your camera’s back screen by zooming in for a closer look. 

Secondly, by correctly adjusting your diopter control you’re able to view all of your images sharply through the camera’s viewfinder.

In the posts that follow, I will be looking at all the other issues that affect the sharpness of your photos; from control of where you focus, how you focus and the roll that shutter speed has to play in avoiding blurry images.


Kevin Ahronson is a professional photographer working in the Fleet, Hampshire. With over 40 years behind the camera, his extensive skills in photographing people are constantly in demand. 

Website: www.ahronson.com

You can contact him at info@ahronson.com

Kevin Ahronson

Kevin is a full-time professional photographer and has been teaching photography since 2009. He founded the Hampshire School of Photography where he runs photography workshops and gives one to one mentoring to photographers at all levels, from complete beginners through to those who want to turn professional

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