Quick-Fix Guide to Common Photography Problems

Quick Fixes to common photography problems

When you’re just discovering photography, you are bound to encounter some issues on a regular basis and are likely to need guidance. Here’s a short list of problems that you may encounter on your journey of discovery with your new camera equipment. We have kept the fixes short too; to get you back on your way quickly.

1. People & Animals With Red-Eyes in Flash Photographs:

Sometimes, when you’re photographing people using your flash in a dark environment, the end result shows them with red, alien-like eyes. This is especially apparent when using on-camera flash, and your subjects are looking directly at the camera.

Reason For Red-eye Effect:

This happens because the on-camera flash is too close to the lens axis. The light from the flash reflects off the retina of the eye and back into the lens creating this effect. Since the room is dark, their irises are wide open, so the reflection is quite prominent. In animals, this reflection may look green, and is a cool effect, but it’s never flattering when photographing people.

How To Fix Red-eye Effect:

Most cameras with built-in flashes have a red-eye reduction mode. This fires of a series of flashes before capturing the image to make your subject’s pupils close up, thus reducing the red-eye effect.

As a creative photographer, you will never encounter the red-eye effect if you move your flash off-camera. This creative choice leaves you with almost endless possibilities.

2. Blurry Images:

Blur is when objects in the frame or photograph are in motion for the duration of the shutter being open. The result is that they seem soft, blurry (duh!), or streaky.

Reasons For Blurry Images:

There are two main reasons actually:

  1. Relatively fast moving objects, or shaky cameras.
  2. Soft, or incorrect, focus

How To Prevent Unwantedly Blurry Images:

  1. If You Have Moving Objects: Use a faster shutter speed, fast enough to freeze movement, or use a flash. If you’re alreadying doing this, and you still have a blurry image, and you’re focused correctly, then you probably need a tripod to keep the camera steady.
  2. Soft Focus: If you’re using a wide open aperture (like f/2.8, or f/1.4), the depth of field (area which is in focus) may be very shallow. Take the time to ensure that the spot that you want in sharp focus is actually in focus. You can also stop down your lens (f/8 or f/11, for example) to get more depth of field. Also make sure you focus correctly, or that your autofocus is actually locking on the the correct part of your subject. Or… get better spectacles if you need ’em. (I know, I do…)

3. Shake In Your Images:

We’ve already mentioned that camera shake can cause blurry images. In fact, it is probably one of the most common reasons for unwanted blurriness in images created by beginners However, the causes for camera shake are many.

Common Reasons For Camera Shake:

If your images are consistently shaky, you may want to analyze your technique and see if it is due to one of these common reasons.

  • Bad posture while taking photographs: It can result in strain on your bad, and hands – especially if you are using heavy equipment. Be sure to take breaks, and keep good posture. You can prepare in advance by working out regularly.
  • Bad camera grip technique. There are good ways to hold your camera, and there are bad ways. The right technique will allow you to use your strength efficiently, and prevent shake.
  • Using an excessively slow shutter speed while trying hand-held photography will result in some shake, even with lens and camera body image stabilisation systems that are common in modern cameras.

How To Prevent Camera Shake:

  1. Make sure that you’re well balanced and stable when you actually press the shutter release. A wide stance with your legs, with your shoulders in line with your hips can help. Also, hold the camera close to your centre of gravity, using your elbow braced against your chest to add support. If the gear is too heavy to hold steady for more than a short while, get a good Monopod or Tripod for your camera.
  2. Learn how to grip the camera correctly. (Video)
  3. Use faster shutter speeds (higher ISO), use flash to freeze your subject, or just shoot in better light. The previous tip about using support also applies here. You can use a monopod, tripod, or simply lean against a wall to add some stability.

4. Only White Light When Photographing Through a Window

You must be careful when using flash to photography anything at all behind a flat pane of glass. This is the all-too-famous blotch of white light that you see in airplane windows, aquariums, and offices. Flat glass reflects the flash of light, drowning out any detail behind the glass.

Reasons For a Splash of White Light in A Glass:

This happens because your flash bounced off the flat surface of the glass-pane, and back into the camera’s lens. The flash is usually much brighter (and closer) than anything behind the glass, so it becomes much more prominent in your image. This is very much like pointing a flashlight at yourself in a mirror.

How To Prevent Flash From Reflecting Off a Pane of Glass:

When shooting in a scene with glass surfaces, remember not to frame your image perpendicular to the surface if you’re using flash. If possible, turn off your flash.

Another solution is to go right up to the glass so that the lens is almost touching the glass itself, and then take a picture. That way, your light will go through the glass, but will not reflect back into your lens!

5. Lens Flare in Photos

The white diffused or star-shaped area next to a light source, or circles of light radiating out from a light source that’s directly in the photograph’s frame.

Reasons For Lens Flare in Your Photos:

As we saw in the previous problem, glass reflects light. This is why lens manufacturers spend a lot of time researching how they can get the most amount of light transmitted through the lens. Even so, some light is reflected off the surface of the various glass elements inside a lens, and this causes various types of flare.

How To Prevent or Reduce Lens Flare:

  • You can prevent lens-flare in your images by using a lens hood. This will keep stray light out.
  • Point your lens in a slightly different direction to exclude the light source from your frame.
  • More expensive lenses tend to have better ways to cope with light sources that are directly in the frame. If your budget allows for it, try to purchase one of these lenses
  • Shoot away from your light source.
  • If all else fails, enjoy it. :D Some people really enjoy stopping down their lens to create sun-stars.

6. Vignetting

Vignetting occurs when the corners of your frame are slightly darker than the center of the image. Some people like vignettes, and will go so far as to add them after a photo is taken. I am one of these people.

What Causes Vignetting:

  1. Vignetting occurs because of the way in which the lens has been engineered. Light that is focused by the lens starts falling-off towards the edges. Some vintage lenses have quite severe vignetting.
  2. Filters on a wide-angle lens are sometimes visible as blurry dark vignetting in the corners of the frame.
  3. Low quality lenses.

How Can I Prevent Vignetting in My Images:

  1. All lenses have some degree of vignetting. The expensive ones just have less.
  2. Use the vignetting option in the lens correction tools of your favourite RAW converter to neutralise the visible vignetting. Using a lens profile provided by the software usually removes it automatically.
  3. Don’t use filters that need step-down ring adaptors
  4. Some cameras like the LOMO use low quality lenses intentionally. If you don’t want a vignette, don’t use them.

These were a few common issues that people face when taking photographs. We hope that this article helped you. If you have any other issues that you need help with, do leave a comment below, and we will try to answer your query.

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Published: March 25, 2008 | Last Updated: December 3, 2021

4 thoughts on “Quick-Fix Guide to Common Photography Problems”

  1. @Caledonia: I second that… So do the guys at LOMO… They’ve made a following out of it! But sometimes its nice to let Photoshop take care of it in the post processing. Especially when you dont want it to become too apparent.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    1. @Simon: Are you sure the sky was not that blue? or maybe the guy who printed them for you loves deep blues, and pushed the saturation on it. Can’t really tell just like that. The situation usually takes a bit more inspection.

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