25 Common photography problems and how to fix them digital camera world

Your photos are blurred because your camera was unable to accurately focus on the subject. There can be several reasons for this – either there was insufficient light for the camera’s auto focus system, or the same low light situation amplified any camera shake resulting from you trying to take an image in insufficient light, without the steadying influence of a tripod.

If you were focusing manually through the viewfinder, perhaps the camera’s dioptric adjustment wheel needs adjusting to provide a clear image via which you can determine accurate focus in the first place. Most digital cameras now also provide an enlarged portion of the image on the rear LCD screen when you’re attempting to manual focus – further aiding accuracy and avoiding blur.

Unless it’s the morning after a particularly heavy night, the most likely culprit is the camera’s built-in flash, especially when it’s located very close to the camera lens. The ‘red eye’ effect is therefore caused by the subjects’ eyes reflecting the artificial light from the flash back into the camera lens – giving that very unnatural look.

Fortunately, this age old problem is less common than it once was, due to most modern cameras offering a ‘red eye reduction’ setting amongst the user selectable flash settings that takes two flashes in quick succession. We can’t do anything about subjects with their eyes shut however – although software has been written for cameras to recognise when this has occurred and flag it up to the user.

To avoid the ugly, grainy look, manually select a lower ISO setting (less than ISO1600, say) and compensate by placing the camera on a flat steady surface instead of attempting to use it hand held. Best still, of course, employ the use of a tripod and put the camera on self-timer when shooting so you’re not having to physically press the shutter release button and thereby perhaps avoid introducing blur via the fact you’re ‘jogging’ the camera.

Commonly, we get the most natural results when these settings are on the median of ‘0’, but on a very sunny day, and if you’re using a bright/ fast lens (say f/1.8, the lower the number, the more light the lens will let in) then it may work best to dial down these settings to minus 1 or lower – in other words aiming for a darker exposure than normal to compensate for the fact that lighting conditions are outwardly brighter than usual.

The same works in reverse if the lighting is darker than you’d like. In these circumstances you can go for a brighter setting of +1 or +2. Fortunately, a lot of modern digital cameras show the effects of such exposure compensation adjustments in real time on your camera’s rear LCD screen (or electronic viewfinder), so you can see the effects your adjustments may have before you even squeeze off a shot. This allows you to toggle back and forth between the incremental exposure comp settings offered until you find the ‘sweet spot’ for a correctly exposed image. 6. The sky is too bright in my shots, or the foreground is too dark

A way around this is to try taking the same shot from a different angle, with the light in front of your subject – so it shines directly on it – rather than behind it, where it is effect causing your subject to be silhouetted, or thrown into shed. Another ‘trick’ is to force the camera to fire its flash, even though, as it is a very sunny day, it wouldn’t normally. This will allow the camera to meter for the bright sky, but for the flash to also illuminate whatever’s in the immediate foreground, resulting in a more ‘balanced’ shot.

Another way to resolve the above conundrum, if your lens set up allows for it, is to invest in a graduated neutral density or ‘ND grad’ filter and attach it to your lens to compensate, or to shoot in Raw instead or JPEG and see how much extra detail you can eke from either sky or foreground in post production. Broadly speaking, underexposing the scene allows us to extract more detail, which is otherwise simply lost if the image is too bright.

Generally speaking, if you can arrive at a setting close to 35mm, or 50mm on a full frame camera, then this is near to what we perceive with our own eyes, so is good for street photography in particular, when we’re looking to photograph both people and buildings, and represent them in a natural and immediate visual manner. 8. Why doesn’t my camera properly capture the intense colors of a sunset I can see with my own eyes?

This can, frustratingly, result in a rather washed out, insipid representation of one of the natural world’s greatest displays: a sunset. Here, your camera’s automatic white balance setting is at least partly to blame, and, as it is a common ‘fault’ at that, a lot of cameras actually include pre-optimised sunset modes to deliver more pleasing results.

If you don’t have this option, however, or the colors still aren’t quite as you’d hoped, try switching to a user-selectable daylight or sunlight white balance setting instead. You can also try activating the camera’s Vivid color or picture effect option, if it has one, to boost the saturation for added drama, as well as pointing the camera at a brighter portion of the image – whereby it will try to compensate by darkening the overall image – before re-framing the shot. In this way you will preserve the more vivid and intense detail of the sunset that may otherwise merely appear washed out. The alternative is to dial down the exposure compensation settings manually. 9. My sporting and action images are all blurred. Why can’t my camera keep up?

When it comes to auto focus options, the majority of digital cameras offer two modes: single and continuous. While single mode works best for general and static photography (whereby auto focus locks onto target with a half press of the shutter release button and maintains focus as you press the shutter release down fully to take the shot), continuous is best for moving subjects.

You can also trying using you camera’s burst mode – whereby the rapidity of the shots captured is increased, hopefully matching with the speed of the subject you’re attempting to photograph. This helps ensure that, while you may still get a few blurred frames, there is a higher chance of a selection of them eventually being ‘on the money’ in terms of a sharply focused shot.

Allow for some trial and error and, as usual, take as many shots as you can to increase your chances of a photograph you’ll want to keep! Finally, another option if your camera allows an 8 megapixel still to be extracted from a 4K video sequence is to try that option. You’ll have even more chance of grabbing a winning still when you’re effectively shooting at up to 30fps. 10. I’m using manual focus for precise control over my images, but results are hit and miss