How To Prevent Blurry Smartphone Photos

How To Prevent Blurry Smartphone Photos

There’s nothing worse than taking a photo with your mobile phone only to realise it came out blurry. And, unfortunately, blurry pictures cannot be fixed after they’ve been taken.

Once an image is captured and recorded with pixel data that is blurred or unclear, there is very little you can do to recall and correct the lost and fuzzy picture information.

However, blurry mobile photos can be prevented. Depending on the cause of the blurriness, there are several easy steps you can take to avoid any blur in the future.

Keep the phone steady

phone on a tripod

The first and probably the most important thing you can do to avoid blurry mobile photos is to keep your smartphone steady. The more your camera moves about, the likelier you are to have blurry photos.

There are a few ways in which you can keep your phone steady. One way to do this is to support your arms and elbows for added stability. You can do this by holding your phone closer to your body instead of with your arms extended out. Alternatively, you can find a surface on which to support your elbows as you take your shots.

However, the best way to keep your smartphone steady to prevent blurry photos is to use a camera support system such as a tripod. It allows you to keep your shaky hands off the phone, which then means your camera will be motionless and your mobile photos will not suffer from any blur.

Also read: 8 Reasons Why You Should Invest In A Tripod For Your Smartphone

Turn on image stabilisation

picture taking without optical image stabilization vs picture taken with optical image stabilization enabled

If for whatever reason, using a tripod is not an option for you, supporting your arms and elbows to keep your phone steady is not a bad alternative, but it can still result in blurry photos. To get better results, you need to image stabilisation.

Optical image stabilisation, better known as OIS, works by using gyros and motors inside the camera to counter any slight movements of the phone so that the camera stays in one position and the resulting shots can be stable.

However, not every phone has optical image stabilisation. And even those that do, there’s only so much motion that the stabilisation mechanics can handle. If OIS doesn’t help, you might need to consider trying something else to prevent blur.

Also read: Image Stabilisation: What is it and what does it actually do?

Use shutter button alternative

Tapping the shutter button on a phone’s screen or pressing a physical button can move the phone. And even though this movement might be very slight, if you’re shooting using a very slow shutter speed, it will cause your photos to come out looking blurry. This can also be a problem if you’re using a tripod that’s not set up on an even surface.

The best thing to do is to use a remote shutter. These connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth and allow you to take photos from up to 10m away.

A lot of mobile photography accessories such as tripods and lenses come with one, but you can easily buy an affordable standalone mobile camera remote shutter.

Alternatively, you can use the timer on your mobile camera app. With the timer set and activated, you can press the shutter and wait for it to go off to take a picture.

That way, the shutter won’t be activated just as you move the camera when you press the shutter button, thus preventing blur.

Keep the subject still


Blurry photos aren’t always caused by the camera or the photographer. Sometimes, the subject is to blame. If your subject is moving around too much and too fast, the likelihood of the photo looking blurry is high.

What you need to do is keep your subject as still as possible. The less movement there is, the less blur will be in the photos.

However, this is not always possible. For example, a baby can only be still for so long. How do you ask a dancer to stand still so you can take a picture? What if you don’t want to take a photo of a still subject? The answer lies in the shutter speed you use.

Also read: Your Subject Matters: The importance of getting the subject right

Increase shutter speed

Shutter speed refers to the length of time during which the camera’s electronic sensor is activated and exposed to light. This is measured and expressed in seconds and fractions of a second, for example, 2s or 1/30s.

The slower the shutter speed, the longer the sensor is exposed to light. This ultimately leads to brighter photos. The downside is that because the sensor is activated for an extended period, any movement of the camera or the subject will result in blurry photos.

This is a big problem, particularly in low-light conditions. You need to decrease the shutter speed for brighter low-light mobile photos but decrease it too much then the slightest of movements can ruin your photos.

A solution to this is to switch to shooting in manual mode and increase the shutter speed by raising the ISO value. ISO works by amplifying the sensor’s picture signal electronically so that it appears brighter. If the picture looks bright, you can increase the shutter speed.

However, you need to be careful when using ISO. Raising it too much can introduce digital noise to your mobile photos. There’s no substitute for good lighting if you want to shoot using a fast shutter speed.

Also read: Everything You Need To Know About Mobile Camera Shutter Speed

Shoot in good lighting

Slowing down the shutter speed can be used to take creative mobile photos, but it is mostly used to make up for the lack of adequate lighting. So, if you have enough lighting, then you won’t need to use a slow shutter speed to compensate.

But although increasing the shutter speed will help prevent blurry smartphone photos, it comes with a major drawback. A fast shutter speed means that the sensor’s exposure time to light is very short. Therefore, the faster the shutter speed, the darker the photos become.

So, it’s important that you have good lighting to prevent blurry photos. That’s why you may have noticed that blurriness is not often a problem when you’re taking photos outside on a bright sunny day, but when the environment lacks lighting, the issue arises.

If you’re not going to shoot in a well-lit environment, be prepared to either bring your own lights to avoid shooting at a slow shutter speed or bring a tripod so that you can keep your hands off the camera and not disturb it and cause blur.

Also read: Lighting Options For Smartphone Photography

Check your focus

A common cause of blurry photos is problems with the camera’s focus. If the focus is out, then the photos will obviously not look sharp at all.

Depending on the method of auto-focus a smartphone camera uses, the camera might fail to get the focus right, particularly in low-lighting. If the camera tries to find a subject to focus on but can’t, it will eventually take a photo that’s out of focus and blurry.

If your smartphone is struggling to focus, you can add more lighting or increase the brightness of your photos and tap on the screen where you would like to focus. Another thing you can do is set the focus manually. If the phone is really struggling, this might be a better solution.

Sometimes a smartphone camera’s focus mechanisms can get dislodged after the phone suffered a fall or a bump. There have been instances where gently tapping the phone in the palm of your hand has corrected issues of focus on the phone. So, it’s worth a try.

Also read: Fully Explained- How Smartphone Cameras Focus [UPDATED]

Use Burst mode

If you’re taking photos of fast-moving action with your phone and you have enough lighting and have increased your shutter speed but would like to increase your chances of capturing a sharp image, then I highly recommend you use burst mode.

What burst mode does is it takes multiple photos very quickly one after the other. You then later have a look at all the photos that were taken during the burst exposure and pick the best one.

If all your other camera settings are set to give you the best possible results, you should have no problem finding a good shot after using burst mode.

Don’t zoom

digital zoom vs optical zoom

There are two reasons why using zoom is a bad idea if you want your mobile photos to look sharp. The first is that the quality of zoom on smartphone cameras is quite poor. That’s because most smartphones rely on digital zoom, which simply crops and digitally enlarges the photo.

This is not a true zoom, and it degrades the picture quality and makes it look blurry as you zoom in further. Even smartphones that boast periscope cameras with optical zoom can only zoom in so far before the digital zoom kicks in and starts bringing the quality down.

The other thing is that as you zoom in, the camera becomes shakier and shakier. And we already know that a shaky camera leads to blurry photos. So, if you absolutely have to zoom in, be sure to support your phone. The best thing to do, however, is to zoom in with your feet and physically move closer to your subject, if possible.

Also read: How Optical Zoom On Mobile Cameras Works

Clean the lens

This might seem obvious, but a very common cause for blurry photos is a dirty lens or something obscuring it. Cell phones are handled and used quite a lot on a daily basis, so it’s not unthinkable that the lens might get dirty or smudged. Cleaning it with a soft cloth should take care of the problem.

Other issues with the lens might be that something is obscuring it. This could be an ill-fitting phone case, a plastic film, or even your finger as you take photos. Just make sure there’s nothing blocking the lens so that you can get pictures that are clear.

Cracked and broken lenses can also result in blurry mobile photos. Depending on the severity of the damage, you might want to take the phone in to have it looked at.

Get a phone with a better camera

Lastly, a possible cause of your smartphone photos looking blurry could simply be that you’re using a smartphone with a not-so-great camera. If it doesn’t have good specs, it won’t give you great pictures. It’s as simple as that.

The things to look out for in particular would be the likes of the sensor, the size and number of the pixels, the quality of the lens, and others. Yes, smartphones cameras aren’t the best because of how limited they are, but if you get one with a good-size sensor, for example, you’re off to a good start.

Also read: 7 Key Differences Between A Good Mobile Camera and A Bad One 


Although fixing blurry photos is near impossible once they’ve been captured that way, the problem can easily be avoided in a lot of cases. All you have to do is make sure you have a phone with a good camera that’s not damaged or dirty, and support the phone to avoid any unnecessary camera shake.

Besides preventing blur, there’s more you can do to improve the look and quality of your mobile photos. If you would like to learn how to take better pictures with a smartphone, download the free ebook below. It’ll show ways in which you can up your mobile photography skills and take amazing smartphone photos.

click here to download the 5 Ways To Improve Your Smartphone Photography free ebook

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