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How to make blurry pictures clear with AI (+ expert tips)

Etashe Linto
Etashe LintoMay 29, 2024
How to make blurry pictures clear with AI (+ expert tips)

“It felt easy to see. Colors became more vivid, details previously unseen turned sharp, the world opened up and everything snapped into focus and became clear for me. It was like seeing the world for the first time.”

That’s what my sister, who is short-sighted, experienced when she wore her first pair of prescription glasses ten years ago.

Unblurring a photo offers a similar effect. Pictures become clear and full of life, allowing you and your viewers to savor and preserve the precious memories captured in the shots. It also requires a similar therapeutic approach: Just like an optometrist assesses your eyes before crafting the perfect lenses, when you fix a photo, you need to figure out why it's blurry before using specific techniques to make it clear.

So, in this article, I’ll explain what causes blurry photos, ways to tackle these issues, the best app for enhancing photos, and how to use advanced AI-powered tools to make a blurry image clearer.

Everything you’ll learn

5 causes of blurry photos and ways to fix them

1. Camera and subject movement

The slightest camera shake or movement of a subject can lead to a blurry photo. If the motion blur comes from a shaky camera or phone (if you’re taking shots with your phone), you'll notice ghosting or a double image at full zoom. Subject movement causes similar effects, but only in certain parts of the photo.

  • Place your camera or phone on a tripod or stable surface to prevent shake. Many cameras and smartphones have image stabilization features—turn them on.

  • Use a delayed shutter or remote release to reduce shake in low light or with long lenses. A delay, like 3 or 5 seconds, lets your device stabilize for sharper photos, which is helpful when you aren't using a remote shutter release.

  • Use a faster shutter speed to freeze motion. Set the shutter speed to match or beat your lens's focal length, like 1/200th for a 200mm lens, and use shutter priority mode and auto ISO for proper exposure.

  • For moving subjects, switch to shutter priority mode and use a shutter speed that matches your subject's speed—like 1/60th for walking and 1/1000th for fast-moving wildlife.

Blurred figures of athletes sprinting past a coach who is timing them, demonstrating the challenge of how to make photos not blurry when capturing high-speed actionA good example of how motion blur appears. The photo at once displays ghosting (the faint echo of the runners' forms) and double images of the subjects.

2. High ISO levels

High ISO levels can introduce noise into your photo, making it look grainy. It’s usually easy to miss this type of blur because it might look good on your camera's screen but appear dull once you zoom in or view it on your computer.

  • Choose a lower ISO setting to reduce noise and increase sharpness.

  • To compensate for a lower ISO, open your aperture wider (lower f-number) or slow down the shutter speed to let in more light. Just be careful while adjusting your shutter speed so you don’t introduce motion blur.

Grainy texture over a street scene with an ornate building and a tuk-tuk, highlighting the effects of high ISO and exemplifying challenges of how to make photos not blurry.This shot by Efe Ersoy gives an idea of what blur caused by high ISO levels resembles. The entire photo appears grainy and unclear even at normal zoom.

3. Shallow depth of field

If you notice that a small part of your picture is in focus, but the foreground or background is out of focus, you're likely dealing with a shallow depth of field. This usually happens when you focus on the wrong distance or use a large aperture.

  • Use a smaller aperture (higher f-stop number like f/16) to increase the depth of field and bring more of your scene into focus. 

  • Get more precise with your focus and use a tripod. Tripods make it easier to capture clear photos at slow shutter speeds and small apertures without needing a higher ISO, which, as I mentioned earlier, is a culprit for blurry photos.

Foreground of wildflowers in soft focus with a sharp image of a majestic red deer roaring, surrounded by hinds in a natural habitat, demonstrating shallow depth of field and emphasizing the need for techniques on how to make photos not blurry.An illustration of how blur caused by a shallow depth of field might appear, with only a small part of the picture in focus.

4. Missed focus

If your shot turns out a bit soft, with some areas of your photo sharper than others, it could be because you focused on the wrong spot. This often happens with shallow depth-of-field lenses. A sharp foreground means you focused too close, and a sharp background means you focused too far.

  • Use a single, small focus point to get razor-sharp focus, especially in portrait photos. Position it over the closest eye of your subject so you get accurate focus where it matters most.

  • Choose the right autofocus mode to adjust focus. Autofocus continuous (AFC) is best for moving subjects like sports, while autofocus single (AFS) is best for static scenes like landscapes.

  • Take multiple photos, refocusing between each to increase your chances of a perfectly focused shot.

  • Use a smaller aperture to increase your depth of field and get a wider margin for error in focusing.

Black and white photograph illustrating missed focus with a blurry female runner in the foreground and a crisp background, emphasizing the need to understand how to make photos not blurry by correctly focusing on moving subjects.This image by Dominika Poláková showcases what blur caused by missed focus looks like, with the camera focusing more on the background than the subject in the foreground.

5. Poor lens quality

It's often hard to tell when your lens is behind your photo's fuzziness, primarily because the blur it creates resembles those caused by other factors. 

To figure it out, look out for its tell-tale signs and try ruling out other factors first.

  • If your photo's center is sharp but the corners are blurry, your lens is likely the issue. This is a common trait of lenses that cannot maintain sharpness across the entire frame.

  • If you have fuzzy photos taken with apertures like f/16 or f/22, it's probably diffraction. Try a wider aperture to clear it up, provided it doesn't compromise your desired depth of field. 

  • Compare different photos shot with the same lens and focal length. If most images appear clear, then your lens works well. If they're all soft, your lens might have some limitations at specific focal lengths.

  • Find the best aperture range for your lenses. Most lenses are sharpest a stop or two down from their widest opening. For example, if you're using an f/4 lens, aim for f/5.6 or f/6.3 and avoid high apertures like f/22 to prevent softness from diffraction.

Sometimes, a speck of dust on your lens can be the reason behind your blurry photos. Whether you’re shooting with your phone or a camera, always clean your lens with a lens cleaner or a piece of clothing before taking your pictures

A bouquet of soft pink lisianthus flowers displaying slight blurriness throughout, suggestive of poor lens quality and underscoring the importance of using high-quality optics in how to make photos not blurry.An example of blur caused by poor lens quality, with the photo's center sharp and most of its edges appearing blurred.

  📘 Taking product photos? Read our guides for the best shots:

How to unblur photos using AI in Photoroom

If you already took an incredible image that turned out blurry, then using an AI tool for further adjustments is your best bet to make the blurry picture clear, and this is where Photoroom comes in.

You can use different tools within the mobile or web apps to manually improve your picture’s clarity or automatically restore details in a few seconds.

Here are different ways to improve image clarity using AI in Photoroom.

1. Apply sharpening filters

One of the simplest yet effective ways to fix blurry images is by using sharpening filters, which Photoroom provides.

These filters allow you to manually fine-tune your picture, enhance the details that matter most, and preserve the natural texture of your photo without introducing unnecessary noise. 

Whether you’re working on a picture of your dog or trying to remove blur from a wedding picture, the sharpening filters are worth a shot if your image isn’t severely blurred and you’re looking for some control over your edits.

Here’s an image I sharpened using the adjustment filters in Photoroom, with several elements tweaked (brightness +18, contrast +8, saturation +4, highlights +5, sharpener +17, and blend +9). This should give you a better idea of what to expect.

Side-by-side comparison of a man’s portrait before and after basic sharpening filters in PhotoRoom, with the 'After' image showing enhanced clarity, illustrating how to make photos not blurry with post-processing techniques.

2. Upscale image resolution

You won’t hear this often: It’s impossible to revive a blurred photo from the brink of death using traditional editing methods. When a picture is blurred, it loses pieces of information that make up its details, which traditional editing tools aren’t designed to restore.

But you know what’s good at recreating lost information? AI Upscalers. The upcoming  AI Upscale tool in Photoroom analyzes the image, compares it with vast databases of image patterns and textures, and intelligently guesses its missing details based on similarities in this extensive data.

This analysis enables the tool to easily upscale images and increase their resolution, creating an unblurred image that is sharper and more defined. Photoroom’s AI Upscale tool is coming soon on all platforms, and you can add it to your toolkit for enhancing any low-resolution photo.

Best photo editing software to unblur images

Here are three top photo editing apps and platforms that fix blurry photos, handpicked according to the main qualities of a good image unblurring tool; they’re flexible, user-friendly, updated regularly, and produce great results.

1. Photoroom

Photoroom is an AI photo editing platform that helps you improve image quality and create stunning pictures with minimal effort, using its suite of advanced editing tools.

  • Best for: Restoring pixelated product photos and creating professional-looking images with crisp details.

  • Top features: Detail enhancement tools, auto adjustments, smart resolution upscaling (coming soon), and additional photo editing features for different stages of the editing workflow.

  • Available on: iOS, Android, and Web.

  • Pricing: Free and paid ($4.99/week, $12.99/month, or $89.99/year with free trial).

2. Adobe Photoshop Express

Adobe Photoshop Express is a streamlined version of the classic Adobe Photoshop, offering a range of photo editing tools for making image enhancement in just a few clicks.

  • Best for: Hobbyist photographers and social media users needing to quickly fix blurry pictures or enhance photo clarity for posting.

  • Top Features: Blemish removal, sharpening tools for deblurring, customizable filters, and integration with Adobe Creative Cloud,

  • Available on: iOS, Android, and Windows.

  • Pricing: Free, with in-app purchases from $4.99/month to $34.99/year

3. Topaz Photo AI

Topaz Photo AI is a deblur tool that uses artificial intelligence to remove noise from images with minimal user input.

  • Best for: Creating clear images by reducing blur and improving sharpness.

  • Top Features: Noise reduction, image upscaling, and batch processing.

  • Available on: Windows (OS 10 or 11) and MacOS (Big Sur 11 and higher).

  • Pricing: $199

Advanced tips to prevent blurry images

Here are the top recommendations for avoiding blurriness when taking pictures, with some lesser-known strategies from expert lifestyle photographer, Alexander Ashimole, which we've incorporated into the following list:

  • Take a quality-first approach: The quality of the original image plays a big role in unblurring images. Use high-quality lenses and equipment, apply good camera settings, and position your subject well to get a clear shot.

  • Perfect your manual focus skills: Autofocus isn’t perfect, and using a tripod can cause your device to shake from vibrations. Manual focus gives you precise control over the focus point.

  • Use focus assist: This feature helps indicate parts of the image that are sharp when shooting, especially in challenging lighting conditions, with subjects that move unpredictably, and when using manual focus settings.

  • Monitor environmental factors: Air quality, haze, humidity, and lighting conditions are all elements that can affect the sharpness of photos.

Sharpen your photos, sharpen memories

Anyone who wears prescription glasses will tell you that our memories become sharper when we see the world in vivid detail. Removing blur from a photo is much the same, making your photo more memorable and impactful for an audience.

Take steps to prevent your photos from getting blurry, take time to identify the reason behind blurs in your images, and if you've already shot your picture, use the sharpening filters and upcoming AI Upscale tool in Photoroom's Web or mobile apps (iOS or Android) to recover its finer details and get a crisp unblurred photo that stays top of mind.

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Etashe Linto
Etashe LintoI’m a writer and information designer. Here at Photoroom, I explore ways you can use AI technology to improve your product photos and create stellar visual content.