Back to Courier Columns Page

by Phil Ball

Q. I've noticed that my digital camera wasn't giving me very sharp images so I bought a new one complete with image stabilization. But I don't see much improvement since many of my new images just aren't very sharp.

A. The camera you mentioned, like most modern cameras, has the potential to give nice sharp images especially when using image stabilization. I suspect that images taken outdoors in bright light look good which would show that the camera is okay. If so, the problem is likely your technique.

For one thing, the images you showed me are mostly taken indoors in room light without flash but you used a lower ISO setting and the resulting shutter speed is too slow for hand-holding in dimmer, indoor light resulting in shaky, blurred images. You've probably heard that lower ISOs give better quality images, which is true but you may not be aware that higher ISOs give better results in low light situations such as your indoor photos. So my first recommendation is to raise your ISO, probably to about ISO 800-1600. Yes, you will get pictures showing a dot pattern (called noise) but a sharp, noisy image is far preferable to a blurry image with little noise. Avoid the highest ISOs because they often give unacceptable quality but using an ISO that is 2-3 numbers below the highest is usually fine.

I notice you don't use flash. While it can give you sharper images, I tend not to use it either in most cases because I don't like the pictures it gives. Because the light falls off the further from the camera, it tends to hide the rest of the room taking away the sense of where the image was taken. This is a subjective choice so you may decide for yourself whether you want to use flash or not.

Consider using a tripod or some other means to support the camera. When we hold the camera, we are rarely perfectly still and a good camera support may help. If you must hold the camera yourself, hold it with both hands and brace your elbows against your body or a solid support.

Published: Courier 4/6/14 - Page 3C