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Photography: Avoiding/controlling blur

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It’s time to do away with preconceived ideas! Blur is not always the enemy. It is actually a key weapon in the creative armoury of any photographer.

 Used to good effect, it will bring a unique touch to your pictures.

Avoiding motion blur

Using shutter speed

Generally speaking, using a tripod or setting a fast enough shutter speed is sufficient.

  • For sports pictures or action shots, set your camera to S (shutter priority) mode in order to control the shutter speed.
  • If the aperture required for good exposure cannot be achieved, you can increase the  ISO sensitivity.  You may need to enable continuous autofocus to track the subject  as they move.

Using depth of field

  • For landscapes or other scenes with subjects stacked at different distances, where you require both the foreground and background to be in focus,a large depth of field is required.  In such cases, you will need to reduce the aperture.
  • Work in A (aperture priority) mode with a setting from f/5.6 to f/8 for compacts and bridge models, and ff/11 to f/22 if using an SLR.
  • Consider using a tripod, and increase the ISO sensitivity (but be careful as image quality will be degraded at higher ISO settings), or enable image stabilisation

Controlling blur

Separating the subject from the background or foreground

A large aperture (f/4 maximum) is needed to separate the subject from the background (or foreground),  which will be blurred to some degree depending on the distance to the subject.

Even when blurred, the background (or foreground) is important for composition.

  • Play with contrasts, placing a light subject over a dark background (or vice versa). Don’t be afraid to try placing a subject in one colour over a  background with a complementary colour (red on green, yellow on blue, etc).
  • Use the foreground to “bathe” your subject in a colourful blur  (e.g. with plants or flowers).
  • Use blurred areas as guiding lines when composing your photo.


Bringing a moving subject to life

You can track a moving subject with the camera and press the shutter as you are tracking them. This is referred to as a "tracking shot".

  • Depending on the shutter speed, you will obtain a subject that is in focus, with the surroundings blurred.
  • Line your feet up with the shot you are about to take and make sure that you track the subject while the shutter is  pressed, even though they will be temporarily obscured through the viewfinder.
  • Instead of freezing a moving subject, you can capture a sharp image of them moving by setting a  relatively slow shutter speed. Remember to leave space in the subject’s line of travel.


For close-up portraits

  • For photographing the subject face on, use a large aperture (f/3.5-f/5.6 depending on the focal length of the lens) to get the eyes in focus but the ears out of focus.
  • Watch the end of the nose, which may end up out of focus! Avoid using maximum aperture (f/1.4-f/2.8) with lenses with  focal lengths of 50-135mm.