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Why are my iPhone pics blurry?!

Post production can be a big help when dealing with low light images. The apps store has a wide variety of editing Apps to spruce up your image after-the-fact. This also has limitations and your best bet is to get to as close as you can when you take the picture.

We’ve all been there when an amazing moment is just itching to be remembered forever and you are left with a blurry photo. Why is it blurry? I can see the person just fine in real life but when I take a picture, they’re all fuzzy or blurred out. Our eyes are amazing creations that can quickly compensate for almost any lighting condition. A normal lit living room in the evening may seem relatively bright as your brain has compensated for the low-light, yet your iPhone camera can only do so much. You might have noticed that when you take a picture on bright sunny day, the photo is clear with everything in focus, but at night the picture seems to be pixelated. Inside your home, you try to take a photo and it just comes out fuzzy. Or your fur baby is being so cute, and you just can’t quite get a clear photo. Either the subject is blurry or the whole picture is fuzzy, and there are a couple of reasons why this is happening.

First, your iPhone camera is attempting to collect as much light as possible by remaining on or open to the light. If there is any movement during this time, you will see it as motion blur. Anyone that has attempted to photograph a small child, or an active animal has seen a photo with motion blur. Just in case I have an example here of motion blur.

toddler girl in vintage outfit waving
See her little hand waving? Motion blur

Motion blur usually only affects a part of the subject such as moving arms, legs, or just one portion of the image. If the entire image is blurry, then there’s another issue happening. User error. Just playing around, but partly true. Since we are living, breathing, beings, the open sensor is sensitive to any movement the iPhone makes. So, in your excitement to photograph the moment, any movements, including breathing will affect the picture quality. Now I’m a big fan of motion blur, to add to the story in a photo but there are times I prefer no blur. A tripod for your iPhone will quickly remedy the problem of shaky hands blurring the photo. If you don’t have a tripod handy, bringing your elbows close to your body will stabilize your iPhone camera in some situations. Placing your iPhone on a shelf or table or something sturdy, will also help stabilize and reduce blur in your image. Tripods for smartphones are inexpensive and small enough to carry in a backpack or purse. Here’s a link to a great one. Click here.

Second, another way your iPhone camera is collecting light through adjustment of the sensor. When the sensor mega pixels are being asked to collect more light, they appear fatter and more apparent in the final image. This is why pictures taken in low light look softer or fuzzier even if they are in focus. This is called the grain. The smaller the grain, the clearer and crisper the image appears. The larger the grain, the fuzzier and softer the image appears. Large grain is difficult to avoid in low light and nighttime photos. Since iPhone camera are a point and shoot style camera, the user has limited control over the settings and decisions made when taking a picture. Some Apps have more capabilities then the default camera app for the smartphone. These specialty camera Apps give the user the ability to direct the camera and give the user an image closer to the desired final output. There are still limitations to these apps and no control over grain size. Grain size is completely dependent on the camera’s interpretation of the light that the sensor can see. The easiest way to combat grain size, if you desire a crisper image, is to add more light to your subject. If you don’t want to utilize the on-camera flash, there are numerous lights available to attach to your phone that just plug in to your phone. Another option is to turn on as many lights as you can in a room. If there are large windows, try to get as close as you can to the window or any other light source. There are times that you cannot add light so you must keep your camera as still as possible by using a tripod. Using a tripod, or the stabilizing tips from above, along with adding or moving closer to light will it improve the quality of your photos.

Post production can be a big help when dealing with low light images. The apps store has a wide variety of editing Apps to spruce up your image after-the-fact. This also has limitations and your best bet is to get to as close as you can when you take the picture. Photoshop can’t fix everything, but it can improve a little. As you may be photographing the special moments as they happen and don’t have the time the place your phone on the tripod or add special lighting, then these post production apps will help save the memory. Snapseed, VSCO, Camera+, PhotoshopExpress are all great apps for editing your smart phone photos.

Mother and baby
Low light, no additional lighting, equals lots of grain

In my last example, there is a sweet moment between my daughter and I, taken at bedtime.I had one small lamp on and did not want to wake her with a flash. I could not move for fear I would wake her. So, I chose to not do any of these tips because sometimes the moment outweighs the technical imperfection. I love this image for the story it tells and the sweet memory of her snuggles when she was a baby. This may be the most important lesson, but I hope you take away. Technical does not always mean beautiful. The color was gross in the original and why I chose to convert to black and white. This artistic choice in many ways helped the photo convey the message outweighing the distracting technical issues. Photographers are problem solvers and they use their cameras as tools. Including smart phone cameras, knowing their limitations and still using them to make beautiful images based on the story the photo is telling. I believe knowing how to have a technically perfect image is important to know how to break the rules.

These are just a couple tips to improve your iPhone photography. I do hope that these tips help you the next time you want to take pictures in the evening or indoors.

Quick overview:

1. Get a phone tripod or find a stable object to put phone on while taking pics

2. Add more light by using the camera flash, add on light, turning on more lights in the room or getting as close to a light source as you can.

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