There are two main reasons for a blurry photo: focus blur and motion blur which can be broken down into subject and camera movement. We are going to look at techniques and gear to stabilise and steady your mobile phone camera.
This video lesson is extracted from the Blurry to Tack-Sharp Photos: 4-Step System. The course objective is you becoming more confident and consistent if photo preparation, capture and editing techniques. The outcome is you producing razor-sharp photos on your existing smartphone. More details can be found here.
Camera shake - stabilise your smartphone
When I started exploring mobile photography, I became obsessed with night photography. I was so excited to start trying to replicate my favourite 'big' camera images. Using my technical photography techniques and newly discovered apps I was not getting the results. At the time I was using my iPad attached to my rather large and heavy tripod. Having a large screen allowed me to check all the settings and image preview before taking the photo. For so long the images would still record a blurred image. I cleaned the lens, I added more weight to the tripod for extra stabilisation.
I was still getting frustrated by the results. Finally, I realised that the tripod was connected to the bottom of the iPad holder. Even the slightest breeze was causing the iPad holder to flex and move. Now, I have a sturdy iPad holder that connects to the centre of the iPad.
The ideal solution is to attach your smartphone to a tripod and use the timer function to avoid touching the screen. This is not always possible and can still have some issues.
Do not have your outstretched arms away from your body offers the least stability. Try to tuck your elbows in by your side or rest your elbows on a table or post. Better yet, rest your smartphone on a sturdy object.
Depending on your mobile device, you may be able to squeeze the volume button to take the photo or use the volume button on your headphones. We all have a shutter timer. You can set it to as little as 3 seconds. That gives you time to tap the shutter and stabilise the smartphone in both hands ready for it to take the photo.
In my story above about camera shake, you can have the best tripod and still have movement in the holder. The only phone holder I recommend is the Sunwayfoto CPC-02 -here. It is lightweight and has a dovetail Arca-Swiss style plate to attach directly to most tripods. It holds phone widths from 63mm to 105mm.
Your smartphone is lightweight. Yet, if you are planning on using your tripod outside I would recommend investing in a quality tripod. There are several features to consider and prioritise: tripod height, size when folded, centre column, leg release mechanism, centre column removal as a selfie stick and the quality feel of the product. My personal preference out of the 8 tripods I own for smartphone photography is by far the MeFOTO Air range.
The tripod I mention in the above video is the Roadtrip Air that is now replaced by the Globetrotter Air.
As I mentioned above, an iPad fixed at the bottom edge can create movement in the iPad when attached to a tripod. Your smartphone was expensive. It is now your primary camera. I would not trust it to a flimsy, lightweight holder. My recommendation is the Sunwayfoto CPC-02 holder. It fits all the plus-sized smartphones securely. The biggest advantage is the Arca-Swiss dovetail mount at the bottom that slides straight into the top of most professional tripods.
What if you cannot hold your smartphone still?
You may be hanging on the back of a speed boat or riding on a very bumpy tram - who knows! What if you cannot hold your camera still and the lighting conditions create a blurred image? You can take manual control of the camera ISO and shutter to make it work faster. This and many other tools, techniques and tips are covered inside the Blurry to Tack-Sharp Photos: 4-Step System – learn more here.
If you find manual control a little intimidating, consider using burst mode. You may strike it lucky and capture 1 image in a bunch that flukes good sharpness.
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