Phuzzy photos!

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Modern digital technology is so clever it is promising us sharp photos. Image stabilization promises to get rid of the blurred images. Some cameras even make people smile in the final image, even though they might have been scowling. So, have the days of ‘bad pictures’ finally gone?

1203Flashman

Fortunately, the technology does not cover all possibilities, but undoubtedly the number of ‘bad pictures’ will be less. With today’s anti-shake in my latest digital I have successfully hand-held at one third of a second. Or should I say, the camera has been able to stabilize the image at a one third of a second shutter speed. I am sure I am not that steady!

Everybody these days seems to have a small digital camera or smartphone in purse, pocket or handbag, which is brandished triumphantly as everyone attempts to record the “good times”. This is an admirable use of the digital camera, but unfortunately the “good times” can still be spoiled by “bad pictures”. And one of the reasons is the One-Two-Three. That is the “One-Two-Three” that every social photographer seems to think has to be said before popping the shutter, which is accompanied by the photographer holding up One-Two-Three fingers, leaving the camera held in one hand only.

Now I am aware of the fact that the new mini, compact digitals will easily fit in one hand, but to get a sharp picture, you have to make sure the camera is still while the shutter is tripped. One handed picture taking just doesn’t keep the camera still enough. Especially as when the happy photographer is waving the free hand in the air, the camera is also waving!

The manufacturers are trying to counteract this by either the lens or the sensor being programmed to move to counteract unsteadiness in the camera, caused by the photographer not holding the camera firmly – or perhaps suffering from Parkinson’s disease, or trying to photograph the moon hand-held at a five second time exposure.

However, this technology is not the be all and end all. It has its limitations. You only need a slight movement in the camera to produce ‘soft’ photographs. You will not realize this when you look at the postage stamp sized LCD screen on the back of your camera, but when you go for larger prints it all becomes too obvious, or when you digitally magnify areas of the image.

With the larger cameras, SLR’s and the like, it becomes even more important to avoid camera shake. After all, why spend thousands of baht to buy super sharp lenses and get soft “blurry” photographs. You might as well have stuck with a cheap disposable “camera in a film box” and saved your money for alcohol – which will also give you the shakes just as easily but possibly more enjoyably!

The simple fact of the matter is that to get sharp photographs, the camera must be held still while the shutter is held open, despite all the electronic gizmos. Now, in most daylight situations if the camera is set on “auto” it will select a shutter speed of around 1/125th of a second, and while that sounds “fast” it really isn’t. You will still get noticeable “softness” in the final print if the hand holding the camera has allowed any movement.

The secret really is in the grip. And it is a two handed one. You will not see professional photographers taking shots with one hand free. I also recommend that you take a short breath in and then hold it while gently squeezing off the shutter. Another good practice is to keep the elbows in by your sides, and even lean against a solid object, like a telephone pole! In overcast weather when the camera will select slower shutter speeds, this is even more important. Your camera will also most likely have two “hand/finger” grips on either side of the camera body. They are not there for decoration. Use them!

No, if you really must let your subjects know that they are about to be recorded for posterity, a simple One-Two-Three (while hanging on to the camera with two hands), is all that is necessary. I guarantee you will get pictures sharper than you used to get before.