Overcoming Common Digital Photograph Problems

So you go to the expense of purchasing a modern digital camera, you start taking pictures left, right and centre; you’re so excited to be entering the world of digital photography. You think you’re going to create some amazing art ……..then you upload the images to the computer. OH…….. Those pictures that you thought looked so great on the little viewing screen suddenly do not look so good.

 Happened to you? Well it happened to me. I was so enthusiastic when I got my digital camera that I took millions of pictures, mostly all dire. My heart sank with disappointment virtually every time I looked at my images on the laptop. I just wasn’t getting the quality of images I was hoping for. So, I bought new lenses; I even went to the expense of upgrading my camera body. Yes, my pictures did improve a little, but basically it wasn’t my equipment making poor pictures it was ME!!

 I am still trying hard to overcome the problems that I detail below, to learn and to create pictures that capture the imagination and thought maybe the advice below will help other photography newbies also. I will try to explain things as simply as possible.

 Blurred Images – Unintended Shading/Shadows – Subject Too Dark – Image Too Dark – Image Too Bright – Not Reading the Manual – Poor Composition

 Blurred Images

THE most common problem for all beginners I would have thought. There are a number of reasons for blurred pictures:

1. Camera Shake

Results from not holding your camera steady. I personally have a slight problem with my nerves and so holding things steady in my hands can prove difficult, just call me Shakey J. There are a number of ways to overcome this:

  • Hold the camera as still as possible at the moment of pressing the shutter release
  • Support yourself against a solid object
  • Support your Camera on something stable
  • Use a tripod (definitely worth the investment)
  • Use a remote shutter release
  • Hold your camera correctly (for a (D)SLR – place the camera on the palm of your left hand so that the body rests on the palm with the lens in the space between your thumb and fingers. Wrap your fingers gently around the lens. Tuck your elbows into your sides and find a stable stance, feet shoulders width apart). This should help a great deal.

2. Slow Shutter Speed

The amount of light entering the camera is controlled by the aperture, shutter speed and ISO; it is the fine balance between the two that creates a good exposure.

 When we use smaller apertures (high F numbers) we need to use longer shutter speeds, unfortunately longer shutter speeds mean a much higher probability of camera shake – something I’ve learnt from trial and error.

 I have found that sometimes, particularly in low light, I have to sacrifice desired depth of field (sharp area of focus) in order to get a faster shutter speed and eliminate camera shake.

 So: try a larger aperture size (smaller F number) until you can take the image without blur appearing. If this still doesn’t achieve satisfactory results then you should try raising the ISO. I say this last as it has become my last resort; too high an ISO and you will start to find ‘grains’ (also known as noise) in your image which although sometimes can add to an image, such as with black and white photography, noise is generally not acceptable to the overall quality of image.

 The key to this is literally trial and error until you’re accustomed to which shutter speed and aperture combinations correlate to good exposure in different conditions. But hey with a digital camera you can just delete and try again.

3. Too large an Aperture

Too large an aperture can result in blurred images but only because it creates a very shallow depth of field. In other words: very little of the area in front or behind of a focus point will actually be in focus. Photographers use this shallow depth of field for creative results; it can help a subject ‘pop’ out from a background or create lovely soft edges around a small object in macro photography. Depth of field is a great element to play and experiment with.  An absolute MUST to master for a serious learner.

4. Poor Focusing

Generally caused by:

  • Autofocus – Not locking focus (pressing shutter button half way down) before capturing the image, moving position forward/backward after locking focus (changing focus position) or placing the focus point over the wrong part of the subject in the first place.
  • Manual Focus – It may be that you need to wear glasses and find it difficult to use the viewfinder; on modern DSLR’s there is a small dial called a ‘Dioptric’ that can be turned whilst looking through the viewfinder to allow you to focus the viewfinder to suit your eyesight. Please do refer to your manual. Otherwise you could rely on the ‘live view’ screen on your camera; personally I find the latter harder.

This is an area in which all beginners will improve over time and patient practice. The more attention paid to it the better the sharpness of image.

Unintended Shading and Shadows

The only way to correct this is to pay close attention to where the light sources are when creating your composition. Strong side lighting will create shadows across a face. Strong overhead lighting can cause shadows under a subjects eyes. A person wearing a hat will have a shadow across their face if the sun is high in the sky. Pay attention to where the shadows fall and move your subject accordingly.

Play with light and shadow; familiarise yourself fully as there is much artistic value in shade and light. Photography after all is all about capturing light and creating something beautiful.

 Subject is Completely Dark – Silhouetting

The most likely reason for this (other than a completely underexposed image) is that the light source of the image is behind the subject. Everything in the background is illuminated but the subject has no light falling on them. This can be used artistically to create silhouettes – most commonly used for sunsets with people on the beach silhouetted in front of the setting sun.

 Image is too dark

This is under exposure and can be corrected by:

  • Reducing shutter speed to a slower setting
  • Increasing aperture size (smaller F number)
  • Increasing ISO to a higher number
  • Using a flash (yuk – I try everything not to do this)
  • Using other light sources
  • A combination of the above

Image is too Bright

This is overexposure and can be corrected by:

  • Increasing shutter speed to a faster setting
  • Decreasing aperture size (larger F number)
  • Decreasing ISO to a lower number
  • Move the subject into shade
  • Create a shade over the subject
  • A combination of the above

Not Reading the Manual

I have spent a considerable amount of money on my equipment but unfortunately in my haste to get ‘out there’ taking pictures I threw the boxes into the abyss that is my store cupboard. Leaving myself with little knowledge of what my Canon 7D can actually do (I might as well have purchased a point n shoot!). Since then I have learnt the error of my ways and have braved the depths of my cupboard to recover the camera manual. There are so many functions on my camera it’s untrue, not sure I will EVER get to grips with them all but one thing is for sure; a good understanding of your equipment’s capabilities can only lead to better quality images.

 Poor Composition

 Composition – THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT of a fantastic shot. Learn about composition and learn it well for this is generally what makes or breaks an image. At the moment I just try to remember the ‘rule of thirds’ as I’m new to photography but I understand enough that composition should be the first thought when you put that camera in front of your eye. The technical stuff you will get better at with practice but composition is about learning an art form. I found some very useful information about composition at the following site:



 Well those were some of the problems I have encountered and am still trying to fully understand in order to implement good technique. I am only a learner myself and so I may not have given the same advice  a professional would but it is sincere and self taught. I hope the information helps! 🙂

One Final Piece of Advice: Don’t get caught up on technicalities and perfection: It’s the expression of ideas and the sheer enjoyment of photography that should count most.

 Love & Peace – Shell