Out of focus images are the bane of every photographer, regardless of skill level. The thing is, most blurry photos can be pinned down to one of three common reasons.

In the quick guide below we’ve highlighted the three most common reasons for blurry images and offered some simple steps you can take to prevent it happening.

01 Shooting handheld

Camera shake is typically the cause of out-of-focus images. As a general rule, you should never shoot handheld if the length of your lens is greater than your shutter speed.

What we mean is that if you are shooting with a 200mm telephoto lens, your shutter speed should be faster than 1/200sec if you want to shoot handheld without risking camera shake.

Non-tripod solutions

A tripod isn’t always practical – or allowed – so to get that faster shutter speed, our first solution is to increase your ISO setting. Do it in increments and see how that helps.

Increasing your ISO is the best and easiest way to get faster shutter speeds when a tripod isn’t available, and most cameras now produce noise-free images at higher sensitivities.

Likewise, often a monopod or beanbag can provide enough support to keep your camera still in order to capture a sharp image at slower shutter speeds.

This also means you can use a narrow aperture in difficult light to give your image greater depth of field and keep everything in focus.

If you’re truly stuck with no tripod, monopod or can’t push the ISO any higher and have no choice but to use a shutter speed too slow for shooting handheld, then your next best option is brace yourself against something solid to help keep your camera steady during the exposure.

This could be a tree or fence, even your car! Anything is better than nothing.

SEE MORE: How to reduce camera shake and take better photos

02 Not using Image Stabilization

These days many lenses (even your standard kit lens) and some camera bodies employ Image Stabilization (IS), which helps reduce camera shake internally. However, many photographers – me included – often forget to turn on this very useful feature.

We suggest turning it on, and leaving it on unless the camera is mounted on a tripod. Using IS at the 55mm end of your standard lens, for instance, you can achieve sharp images handheld at shutter speeds as slow as 1/10sec.

03 Selecting the wrong / not selecting an AF point

One of the great benefits of using interchangeable lens cameras is the ability to choose specific autofocus (AF) points within your frame.

If you’re new to photography, it can take some time to remember you have this freedom and get into the habit of changing your AF point for each scene.

On each camera the AF selection process will be different, but in general it will go something like this…

  • You’ll likely have a dedicated AF point selection button on the back of your camera. Press this and all of your camera’s possible AF points will illuminate on the back of your LCD screen.
  • Manually select your desired AF point. If you have a touchscreen LCD, you can do this just by tapping your screen; otherwise, navigate around with your four-way control. Once you’ve selected an AF point, you’ll either lock it by pressing the centre button in your four-way control or half-pressing the shutter button.

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