How to Correct Blurry Photos

This week’s photo tip is inspired by a success story we got from one of our San Francisco Travel Writer Workshop attendees.

She writes…

***********

Lori,

Here's what I did three weeks ago: I went to the website of the largest network-affiliate TV station in town and noticed they focused almost 100 percent on the big attractions. I laid out a local, promotable section called "9-Gallon Getaways," then sent a four-paragraph email to the news director.

He liked it so he forwarded the idea to the website director and station manager.

Three days later, I met with the news director and web manager at the TV station, WFTV, Ch. 9 Orlando and laid out my idea in person.

The next day, I landed a six-month contract. "Can you have the first story by September first?" he asked.  I said, "Well, of course!"

They were pleased that I volunteered to take pictures. You'd think TV stations would want video but, according to the web director, viewers on the website prefer picture slideshows.

In short, I got all that I asked for (and more):

1. Title of either Travel Writer or Travel Columnist on all my stories.
2. All rights retained for any print publications.
3. Mileage, expenses.
4. Business cards exactly like their full-time reporters have.

I would have been happy with two out of four, but it just goes to show… ask for it and you might get it. All they can do to you is say "no."

Here's the kicker -- I was going to do the stories for free to build up a small portfolio as a travel writer for a major TV station. They were the ones who said they'd pay me $75 a story, too. Yes, it was a good week!

Plus, living in Orlando with loads of free, outdoorsy, almost-unknown sites and activities to cover, I don't have to deal with the airlines or leave my 9-year old German shepherd, Beau, in a kennel.

Sincerely,

Bette BonFleur

P. S.  A note about the photos: They were supposed to take out the slightly blurry ones, but didn't.  (Everyone's been discombobulated since this Hurricane Fay hit down here). I took these shots with a little Canon Elph 7.0 megapixel camera.

I'll make sure to edit all the pictures next time, pick out exactly the ones I want to go up on the site and in what order… the order is kind of weird now as they are and the captions got left off, but I'm not complaining.

*****

There are three lessons to learn here and I'll give them all to you on Friday.

Today -- since Wednesday is our Photo Tip day -- I’m turning the floor over to Shelly so she can address the issue of Bette’s (and your) blurry photos.

Read on for details…

-- Lori

Lori Allen
Director, Great Escape Publishing

HOW TO CORRECT AN OUT-OF-FOCUS PICTURE
By Shelly Perry in Portland, OR

Some of the photos Bette BonFleur submitted with her article, as you’ll recall from her note up top, were blurry. You can see all her shots -- blurry and not -- and read her piece here.

Now, about the photos…

First, there’s not much you can do in Photoshop or Lightroom to correct an out-of-focus image.

But it’s pretty easy to correct the problem before you shoot. Because if your pictures are out of focus, there are really only two likely culprits:

** 1. The focus setting on your camera
** 2. Camera shake

Professional photographer, Rich Wagner, talked about focus settings on your camera just a couple weeks ago.

So if that’s not your problem, it’s likely camera shake, which is typically caused by a too-slow shutter speed.

Here are three ways to fix it:

** 1. Get more light on your subject by opening up your aperture (f-stop) to let more light in through the lens.  You can’t always do this on a point-and-shoot camera.  Sometimes you can adjust the exposure value, though, which will give you a similar effect.  The symbol for shutter value is a little square with a “+/-” in it.  If you can’t find it, check your manual.

** 2. Use a tripod or something sturdy to steady your camera. One little trick I use for these longer exposures is to turn on the camera’s timer mode.  That way, I can push the button, remove my hand and let the camera settle before it makes the exposure.

** 3. Adjust your ISO keeping in mind that higher ISO’s may reduce blur, but could also increase the noise in the shot.  Now if you, like Bette, are using small-format shots for the web, increased noise isn’t really a problem. It’s only a critical consideration if you need larger-format photos. Some point-and-shoot cameras have ISO settings.  Again, your camera manual will tell you for sure.

Here’s an example from the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop a few weeks ago in San Francisco:

How to Correct Blurry Photos

I took this first shot early in the morning before the sun came up.  I like it because you can still see the street lights glowing, but I shot it at a very slow shutter speed -- 1/6 of a second at f2.8, ISO 100. I did not have a tripod, so I set the camera on the back of the chair to steady it. Even so, it’s a little blurry.

So I waited for a little more light…

In the second shot the sun was actually over the horizon providing a lot more light so the exposure went up to 1/60 of a second, f4.0 at ISO 200 (notice I upped the ISO to increase the shutter speed).

And here’s the final shot:

It was just a bit later when the sun was making its way onto the buildings.  I increased the exposure even more to 1/100 of a second, f5.0 at ISO 200 and this shot has the best focus of the three.

By the way, during the San Francisco event where I met Bette and 120 other attendees, I gave an entire presentation on taking the kinds of photos magazines and newspapers drool over.  Travel Editor Kyle Wagner was there, too, to talk about breaking into newspapers with straight photos -- you don’t even have to send in an article with them (if you don’t want to, that is).

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]