Getting sharp images is important for all photographers from beginners to professionals.  There’s nothing more frustrating than capturing a once-in-a-lifetime moment, only to discover that the photo turned out blurry and unusable.  And while better camera and photo editing technology can help avoid and even fix blurry photos, understanding the most common reasons for getting them can help you avoid the issue all together.  In this article, we delve into eight prevalent reasons why your photos might be turning out blurry and offer effective solutions to address each of these issues. From technical mistakes to environmental factors, we will cover a range of challenges that could be hindering your quest for tack sharp photos.

8 Reasons Why Your Photos Are Blurry

If you’ve ever wondered, “why are my pictures blurry,” then review these 8 common reasons.

Camera Shake with Slow Shutter Speed

Camera shake occurs when the photographer doesn’t hold still enough when the shutter is open and doesn’t use a high enough shutter speed for the focal length. In short, if the photographer moves when taking a picture, especially at lower shutter speeds, your images could come out blurry.  To help avoid this, use a shutter speed that is at least the reciprocal of your focal length.  So, for example, if you are using a 200mm focal length, ensure that your shutter speed is at least 1/200th. This general rule of thumb is known as the reciprocal rule.

Motion Blur

Motion blur happens when elements in the scene are moving while the picture is being taken. This can be intentional, as in showing the movement in water or traffic in creative photography. Or it can be unintentional, when the shutter speed is too low and you see movement in your subject.  The faster the subject is moving, the faster your shutter speed needs to be in order to capture it without blur.

creative techniques shutter drag to show motion

Shallow Depth of Field

Parts of a photo can be blurry with a shallow depth of field. This effect is typically intentional, with the subject of the photo in focus and the background or foreground out of focus.

Couple in Focus and Background/ Foreground Out of Focus

Missed Focus

Sometimes a photographer simply misses focus, which happens more often in scenes with moving subjects. Some cameras and lenses simply have bad autofocus performance. With each improvement in camera and lens technology, missed focus is less and less of a problem. However, a photographer still needs to train his or her instincts, use the right focus modes, and use the right techniques to prevent the issue.

Air Quality

On a foggy day, a polluted day, or a humid day, particles in the air can affect the sharpness of a photo.  Hazy or dusty conditions can lead to a lack of sharpness and reduced contrast in your images. This can lead to an artistic, dreamy effect if used intentionally.

Subject Too Far Away

In general, the further the subject is from the camera, the higher your chance of getting blurry photos. Chances of air particles interfering, camera shake, missed focus all increase.

Light Quality

Lighting plays a critical role in photography, and poor lighting conditions can lead to blurry photos. Understanding how to work with natural and artificial light sources, and employing techniques like using a flash or reflectors, will ensure your subjects are well-illuminated and sharp.

Misaligned Focusing System

Sometimes your camera or your lens needs to be recalibrated.  For more information, see this article on how to recalibrate your lenses.

Tips to Avoid Blurry Photos

Use the appropriate shutter speed – Though many factors go into this decision, a good rule of thumb is to stick to the reciprocal of your focal length.  This is called the reciprocal rule.  So if you’re shooting at 200mm, keep your shutter speed at 1/200th or up.

Use a Tripod – If you need to drop to lower shutter speeds, use a tripod or monopod.  In fact, you can get creative with slow shutter speeds and tripods by intentionally capturing movement.

Take Multiple Photos – Take multiple photos of the same scene or moment so that you can choose the sharpest photo later in post production.

Increase Your Aperture – For wide angle photos or photos where your subject is further away from the camera, consider increasing your aperture.

Use Blur/Focus Correction Software – If you don’t have a sharp photo of critical moment, try fixing it in post production.  There are tools in Lightroom and Photoshop that can help, like the sharpen tool.  However, you may also want to explore software dedicated to fixing blurry photos.  Click here for more information on how to unblur a picture.  You might also check out software like Topaz Photo AI.

Upgrade your camera – New camera and lens technology will generally result in better image quality and better auto focus.  Many new mirrorless cameras also have Image Stabilization built into the camera, letting you drop your shutter speeds even lower without any camera shake.  If blurry photos is consistency a problem, consider upgrading.


Getting blurry photos can be a frustrating aspect of photography, but hopefully these tips can help you achieve the sharpness you desire in your photos.  By understanding the various reasons behind blurry photos and implementing the appropriate solutions, you can elevate the quality of your photography to new heights. Whether it’s overcoming camera shake, improving focusing accuracy, or adapting to environmental challenges, mastering these techniques will enable you to consistently produce sharp, stunning images that capture the essence of your subjects. Embrace these tips, and watch your photography soar to new levels of excellence. If you have a blurry photo that you’d like to fix, you might also be interested in our article on Apps and Software to Fix Blurry Photos.