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When I was using a point-and-shoot, I often ended up with blurry photos, so I got into the habit of taking two or three photos so that at least one will come out good.

A few months back, I upgraded from the point-and-shoot to the Sony NEX-5R. I was wondering if it's worth re-examining this habit, given that the NEX is a much better camera.

Some other changes I've adopted to eliminate blurry photos:

  • Using a Gorillapod or placing the camera on a flat surface, rather than trying to hand-hold it (or dial up the ISO and produce a noisy photo).

  • Using a timer for long exposures. I started with a 2-second timer, but I then read on photo.SE that that's not enough, so I sometimes use a 10s timer.

  • I also bought a traditional tripod in addition to the Gorillapod.

  • I bought a remote trigger to further eliminate camera shake.

Given that I've taken all these steps, is taking two or three photos of each scene excessive, when using the NEX? Or does it mean that I'm doing something wrong, and I can improve my technique?

I think taking multiple photos is still needed when I use my iPhone 5s, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

EDIT: To answer a few questions asked:

  1. I'm talking about a scene that doesn't change, like a landscape.

  2. Regarding the point that blur is not the only problem and that I could have an autofocus problem, taking multiple pictures isn't going to help, because I can't verify focus on the tiny camera or phone screen. I see that a photo is mis-focused only after I copy the photos to my computer, at which point it's too late. As Jeremiah helpfully points out, I will zoom in and check focus and only then take another photo.

  3. Usually all of the photos are identical, but sometimes one is blurry. There aren't other significant differences, like focus, noise, framing / composition, etc.

  4. Regarding TFoto's question about low-light, yes, this problem occurs more under low-light, but has rarely occurred under bright light. Perhaps taking multiple photos when it's bright is excessive.

  5. Here are crops illustrating the problem. Here's a blurred photo:

    enter image description here

    and here's a clear one:

    enter image description here

    In this case, I used an iPhone, with the Cortex Camera app. This app takes a short video and then fuses them together to produce a better quality photo than the native camera app. While it handles some amount of shake, it can result in blur. This is one reason for blur. Other photos, taken using the built-in camera app on the iPhone, or using the NEX or a point-and-shoot, may suffer blur for different reasons.

  6. This problem occurs less often with better cameras, like the NEX, as opposed to the iPhone 5s or a point-and-shoot.

  7. I'm aware of blur caused by a slow shutter speed. I recognize that, and I believe I can deal adequately with it. That's not the problem I'm referring to in this question.

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    How do the 2-3 shots you take of each scene compare to each other? Are they all of about the same quality or is there significant variation between the different samples? – Michael C Feb 6 '14 at 14:29
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    What are you taking picture of? Camera shake is just one factor in blur... Is the scene changing? If yes, you need faster shutter. Also, a focusing error can cause improper focus, ending in blur. Try taking pictures of well-lit still objects. Are you still having blurred photos? – TFuto Feb 6 '14 at 14:49
  • Could you add some photos showing the problems you're typically having which mean you need to take 2-3 shots? All your changes are going to reduce camera shake - but that's not the only cause of blur, and if your problem is something else, it doesn't matter how little shake you have. – Philip Kendall Feb 6 '14 at 21:52
  • Thanks, everyone. Please look at the edit to the question, which should answer Michael's question. TFuto, I was not talking about blur caused by low shutter speed. I think I can recognize that and adequately deal with it. Regarding focus, please see the edit to my question. – Vaddadi Kartick Feb 8 '14 at 6:51
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Shooting multiple shots like this is certainly common, but it's not optimal. As your skills improve, you'd like to see your consistency improve, too. Shooting digitally, we're lucky that multiple shots cost next to nothing for us, but you want to move away from using that as a crutch.

Instead, try to understand why you're seeing variation from shot-to-shot, and then give thought to whether this is something you can address proactively. It sounds like you've taken steps to stabilize the camera, which certainly helps in some scenarios. In other cases, though (a moving subject, for instance), stabilizing the camera won't help you too much. Finding the right combination of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings is a journey itself, as it will vary from one setting to the next.

Your performance as a photographer will improve markedly as you learn to manage these settings rather than to hope that one of a set of shots gets it right. You're clearly moving in the right direction -- keep it up! Over time, your consistency will improve, and you'll find yourself working on artistic aspects of your shots more than technical aspects.

As AJ mentioned, there may still be settings where you want multiple shots to capture a facial expression or an action sequence. You might also find yourself dialing down shutter speed for something like a panning shot which can bump your "reject" rate again while you learn techniques for successful panning. In these cases, though, you'll be shooting multiple shots deliberately for a good reason -- not just out of habit.

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If the camera isn't moving and the subject isn't moving, there shouldn't be a significant change between shots. If either the camera, the subject or both are moving, then some shots are going to come out better than others.

The steps you listed should adequately keep the camera still in most cases, so it comes down to subject. If the subject is completely stationary, such as a landscape with no activity in it, then you are probably fine with one image as long as you get the settings right the first time, however it is still common to take a photo and then tweak settings a bit and try again.

If the subject is moving, such as taking a portrait, then multiple shots are needed to capture the subject just right and to make sure you have a shot where the subject was relatively still. (This in addition to the possibility of making adjustments between shots to fix minor exposure or focus issues.)

When doing portraits, I normally take 3 to 5 shots in rapid succession, more if it is a bigger group of people, simply to be able to make sure I get one where they are all smiling or at least not blinking. For long exposure photography, I often take at least 3 or 4 shots to dial in the exposure and focus just the way I want, particularly when it is really dark out.

  • Thanks, AJ. I updated the question to clarify that I'm talking about scenes that are static, like landscapes. – Vaddadi Kartick Feb 8 '14 at 6:43
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It seems like you're the only person who can answer this.

If you consistently find all 3 pictures are well focused, then it's not helpful to take multiple shots every time.

Also, after taking a shot you can look at the LCD and zoom in to check if the last picture was focused. If not, take another. If it was, don't bother.

  • Thanks, Jeremiah. I had developed a habit of not viewing the photos on the LCD, because it's tiny, but I will try doing that before I decide to take another photo. – Vaddadi Kartick Feb 8 '14 at 6:42

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