Here's the Problem: My Pictures Are...
My Pictures are Blurry• What Went Wrong: Without exception, blurry photos are caused by slow shutter speeds. Sometimes, photographers want something in the photo to be blurred, but not usually.
• Solution: Try using a faster shutter speed. This will let in less light though — darkening the image, so you will have to compensate by widening the aperture (more on aperture) or raising the ISO.
• Note: If the blur is caused by "hand-shake," you can leave your settings as they are, and instead place the camera on a tripod or other solid object. How do you know if hand-shake is causing the blur? If everything in the photo is slightly blurry, then it's hand-shake. If only moving subjects are blurry, then a tripod won't help.
• Note: "Blurry" is not the same as "out of focus." Click here to fix out-of-focus photos.
My Pictures Are Out of Focus• Note: "Out of Focus" is not the same as "blurry." Click here to fix blurry photos.
• What Went Wrong: Auto-focus (AF) mechanisms are not perfect. Chances are, the camera focused in the wrong place. It's also possible that you're set on manual focus by mistake.
• Solution: Your camera's AF needs your help. First, set the AF to only look at the center point. All major brands of dSLR have this ability. Then, look for areas of high contrast (dark shades near light shades) near the subject you want to be in focus. Point the center AF dot at that spot.
• Note: There's a very slim chance that your lens needs calibration. Try a calibration chart to check for front-focus or back-focus issues.
My Pictures Are Too Dark• What Went Wrong: Without exception, dark photos are caused by — you guessed it — not enough light. This can be because of too-fast exposure, too-low ISO, or too-small aperture.
• Solution: There are several solutions, each of which could cause its own new problem:
1. Take the picture outside, in the daytime.
Find the solution(s) that you can live with, or use a combination of them to achieve properly exposed photos.
• Note: This is a problem that can usually be correctly quickly in post-processing, even with inexpensive/free editing software, though sometimes this correction will cause extra noise/grain.
My Pictures Are Too Bright• What Went Wrong: Too much light hit the sensor. This is either because the exposure time was too long, the aperture too wide, or the ISO too high.
• Solution: There are several possible solutions, most of them opposites to the too-dark solutions.
1. Find a shade
• Note: Unlike dark pictures, it is very difficult to correct washed out photos in post-processing. Whereas detail can be regained from shadowed areas in dark photos, no details can be recovered from completely washed out parts.
My Pictures Are Too Noisy/Grainy• What Went Wrong: It's one of two things, or a combination of these: (1) ISO is set too high, and/or (2) you significantly brightened the photo in post-processing (if it's the latter, see other ways to prevent dark photos).
• Solution: Shoot at the lowest ISO setting possible for your lighting situation. In daytime, you can shoot as low as ISO100 or even ISO50 if your camera allows it. Colors will be richer, and grain/noise will be gone or at least less noticeable.
• Note: Some lighting situations require higher ISO settings, such as indoors photos (or night sports). Professionals in situations like these invest in one of two remedies: (1) Better lighting/flashes, or (2) noise-reduction software.
My Pictures Are Not Sharp• What Went Wrong: It's possible you bought a very cheap lens that simply can't make sharp images. But that's rare. In almost all cases, non-sharp images are actually due to one of the following causes:
1. Narrow depth-of-field
• More: Read a fuller explanation in my blog entry Sharpness, or Lack Thereof
If your problem isn't listed here, send an email to: