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Testing Your Digital Handheld Pictures for the Shakes

When you hold your digital camera in your hands when you take photos, you can end up with blurred images because of a slight (or not-so-slight) shake in your hands. Test your handheld picture-taking skills to determine the settings you need to use.

1

Find a scene that contains sharp pinpoints of light.

Try to take these pictures at night so you have a dark background.

2

Take several pictures at a fixed f-stop but vary the shutter speed for each picture.

This figure shows pictures at 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, and 1/8 of a second.

3

Calculate your exposure with your digital camera’s metering system.

Your exposure doesn’t need to be precise as long as you vary only the shutter speed during the tests.

4

Open your shots in your image editor and enlarge the light points enough that you can study their shape.

The appearance of the round disks of light in your images let you judge fairly accurately how steady you held the camera during the tests. If the disks are perfectly round, you used a shutter speed that’s fast enough to stop action at that focal length. If the disks are elongated vertically, you shook the camera up or down (or both). If the disks are elongated in a diagonal direction, you jerked the camera, probably by punching the shutter release button too aggressively. If the disks are elongated from side to side, your camera shake formed some panning-style blur. If you’re really shaking, you might find the blurs create a streaky pattern. That shutter speed is way too low for hand-held exposures.

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