Lessons from the Shot: Avoiding Motion Blur


 by Stanley Leary

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Kodak has said the number one problem people have with their photos is attributed to camera movement.
There are a few things you can do to minimize or eliminate motion blur. The very best thing anyone can do to improve their photos is to use a tripod. Your tripod needs to be sturdy enough for the camera. A small point and shoot camera can use a very small tripod, but a larger camera with a long telephoto lens will need a bigger tripod.
Here’s a great camera motion experiment which will help you determine how fast the shutter speed must be to eliminate blurred images resulting from hand-held camera movement.
You’ll need a camera with adjustable shutter speeds for the test. Focus the camera on a subject composed of many right angle, sharp lines. The side of a house at a distance of 30 feet from the camera is excellent for the purpose. Make exposures at all marked shutter speeds and adjust the aperture (ƒ-number) in each instance to obtain correct exposure.
After you have transferred your photos to your computer examine the photos by zooming in on a detail. It will be readily noticeable that, as the shutter speed was increased, the lines became sharper and cleaner cut.
You may discover that 1/2 second gave you sharper picture than 1/30. Put that’s sheer luck. Such accidents happen, but that’s the exception.
From the study of the pictures, you can determine the range of exposure speeds that’s steady to handhold a camera; for slower speeds, obviously, a tripod is needed.
You will need to repeat this test for different focal lengths. If you have a zoom, test it at a wide-angle setting, then test again at the opposite zoom setting.
Another way to control motion blur is to change the ISO setting. Try shooting 100, 400 and maybe even 1600 ISO. The lower the number, the better the image quality. But sometimes we may have to sacrifice image quality to get a usable steady image.
Usable is always more important. A tripod is by far the best investment for the amateur photographer. There are a number of reasons the tripod is a great investment than just motion blur.
Don’t be in a hurry to shoot with a tripod.  It takes a moment to put the camera on the tripod, even longer to get the legs set, and finally level adjusting the frame. But this is why it’s such a good investment. The slowing down and thinking through what you are doing will also make you pick your subjects more carefully.
Today’s digital camera can make it a wonderful experience. Because the camera on the tripod remains stationary, the photographer can shoot variable settings of the scene and composition.
Nothing is changing except for the exposure.  You may prefer the darker over the lighter image. By using the tripod to keep everything constant, it allows you to pick the best exposure for your photographic taste.