Blurry Photos: A Helpful Rule To End Your Pain – Photography Basics

Photography Basics - Understanding Shutter SpeedMost blur happens because the shutter speed is too slow and you are moving, even just a little, when you shoot.

Short and to the point, to help stop blur because you are moving the camera too much, use this formula:

Don’t Shoot Slower Than 1/Focal Length

This simple formula comes into use when you are hand-holding a camera. Those using a tripod can throw this rule out the window.

In practice it looks like this:

  • 18mm lens = No slower than 1/18th of a second
  • 50mm lens = No slower than 1/50th of a second
  • 300mm lens = No slower than 1/300th of a second

And so on.

This applies to full frame or ‘cropped’ sensor cameras. Smartphones, mirrorless cameras, action cameras, drones…all of them.

As you might guess, most cameras don’t come with a 1/18th second of a shutter speed. For the most part, round down to the next fastest shutter speed (=higher denominator(the 18 in 1/18)). So that 1/18th can be rounded to 1/20th, just to be safe.

The faster you go, the less blur you will cause just by the fact that you are a human and have blood coursing through your veins and a silly, constant need to breathe. Breathing and holding a camera properly are important and will tip the odds in your favor.

Questions?  Pop ’em like Pez in the comments section below. or email me at

Photography Basics – A 43 Day Adventure, and its companion 40 Photography Experiments, are series written by professional photographer Peter West Carey. The series are designed to unravel the mysteries of photography, helping you can take better pictures. Subscribe here to receive all the updates and bonus material. Your comments are always welcome.

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