There are two primary kinds of blur in photos (well, three, but we’ll assume you keep your camera fairly clean): focus blur and motion blur. Here are examples of focus and motion blur, respectively (click to enlarge):
Focus blur happens when the subject of your photo is simply out of focus. The solution to that is to make sure your autofocus is on and try again. If it’s out of focus, re-focus and shoot again. Pretty straightforward. On point and shoot cameras, the most likely reason you’re out of focus is because the subject moved or the smart focusing system wasn’t so smart and focused on the wrong object.
Motion blur, on the other hand, doesn’t happen because your subject is out of focus. It happens because your subject is moving relative to the camera frame while the exposure is being made AND the shutter speed isn’t fast enough to freeze it. Let’s tackle those two aspects separately.
This time of year, many photographers are trying to take pictures of their pets wearing fake antlers, Santa hats, or other seasonal trappings. Although I don’t indulge in that sport, I do love taking pictures of my pets and other animals, and I thought I’d share some tips that have worked for me and for others.
1. Be patient. Pets don’t often pose. Sometimes they sniff your camera or your sleeve. At other times they decide to crawl under a table or fly on top of a dresser. Just wait quietly until they settle down.
2. Try to capture a characteristic action or activity. If you’re shooting your pet, you know its personality. Try to take a picture that reflects some characteristic, such as curiosity, goofiness, adoration, or self-possession. You do not have to include every inch of your pet, only the parts needed to express what you’re trying to capture. This image by Michael Fletcher certainly shows how alert this little dog is!
A friend of mine calls me up every week or so with a photography question. Usually, he’s looking for the magic incantation or editing technique that will make his photos turn out in a particular way. Sometimes there is such a thing (e.g. wait for the the flash to charge, use manual focus, etc.). But usually there isn’t. Usually, getting a particular effect in a photograph, either at the camera or in post-production, requires experience, artistry, experimentation, and work. And a lot of the stuff you learn on one photo can’t just be applied blindly to the next one. School portraits aside (ha!), every photo is different.
I try to take pictures every day. Some days, of course, I’m inspired by something I see. At other times, I need to inspire myself and come up with an idea. This week, an idea was prompted by discovering an old discarded medicine cabinet that had mirrored doors. The doors were removable and provided me with two relatively large rectangles of mirrored glass.
One day, I decided to play with the mirrors, and it certainly was fun. First, I washed them to eliminate distracting blotches and spots. Then I tried laying various objects on them. I found that some objects are pretty boring on a mirror. For example, most thin flat objects do not produce interesting reflections. All you see are the edges. Plump or rounded objects reveal more of their undersides. If the underside is a different color from the top side, you can get interesting images. Although you can create the appearance of reflections using software, you will have far more fun experimenting with real ones.
Irregularly shaped objects make the most interesting reflections, I think. It’s hard to tell where the object ends and its reflection begins. I set a half-peeled clementine on the mirror and was tickled by the result; later, I piled the segments on the mirror and liked those results as well.
If you would like to be inspired by photographs, take a look at the winners in the PDNOnline Digital Imaging Contest 13. I was surprised not only at the variety of work displayed there, but also at how appealing many of the images were.
PDNOnline is a monthly magazine for professional photographers, and I feared that all the images might be just ads or promotional pieces. However, photographers competed in a number of categories: