The shots you took of that once-in-a-lifetime event have all turned out soft, out of focus or blurry.

There are numerous factors that could be responsible, with poor focus being the most obvious culprit.

Make sure you are focused on the part of the frame you want to be sharp, that you are not too close. Above all, take your time.

Movement by your subject can create a blur in your image if the shutter speed is incorrect.

The quicker the shutter speed the more likelihood your subject will be caught without movement.

The faster your subject is moving, the faster the shutter speed needs to be.

Camera shake, the bane of all photographers, is a major source of soft images that correct shutter speed can mitigate.

Any camera movement during the split second when the shutter is open causes the whole image to look soft.

A general rule to remember is that your shutter speed needs to be larger than the reciprocal of the focal length of your lens.

Sound complicated? It isn’t really.

When shooting with a 50 mm lens keep your shutter speed faster than 1/60th of a second. Similarly, with a 100 mm lens, your shutter speed ought to be 1/125th of a second or more and with a 200mm lens, 1/250th of a second or more.

Hold your camera in both hands, keeping it close to your body like the prize possession it is.

Brace yourself against some solid object such as a wall, a signpost or a tree.

A tripod is your best friend in eliminating camera shake and ensuring tack-sharp images. Use one to improve your images immediately.

Use the mirror-up feature with a cable release to eliminate any vibration caused by mirror movement. Remember to turn off vibration reduction features when using a tripod.

The digital camera feature that reduces vibration is known as VR, IS, OS or some other notation, depending on your camera manufacturer. It will reduce camera shake but will not eliminated it entirely. Nor will it reduce blur caused by your subject’s movement.

Every heard of “noise” in a digital image – those little dots that show up on some images, causing them to appear less than sharp and making enlargements difficult or impossible?

Noise can be caused by underexposure or, more frequently, by high ISO settings.

ISO is the sensitivity of your sensor to light and can be adjusted.

Higher ISO speeds allow faster shutter speeds and smaller apertures, but result in more noise. Conversely, the lower the ISO speed, the better the resolution and sharpness.

For those of you with a DSLR – invest in the best lenses you can afford. This is critical to sharpness. Once the shutter is open, the only thing between your sensor and your subject is the glass.

The difference between a mediocre lens and a piece of high-quality optics is reflected in both sharpness and cost. Keep your expenses down by using prime lenses, as they are usually less pricey than their zoom counterparts.

A lens may front or rear focus, causing problems that can be rectified by your digital camera technician. A rear focusing lens is sharp behind the spot your camera focuses on, while a front focus is the opposite.

Each lens has what is commonly known as its “sweet spot” – usually a couple of stops down from maximum aperture. Try f/5.6 or f/8. (Maximum aperture is where the f-stop number is smallest.)

Lenses and sensors benefit from a thorough periodic cleaning. If you’re uncomfortable cleaning your sensor, have a reputable technician tidy it for you.

Consider all things when investigating focus issues. I was having some difficulty with focus issues a few years back and tried everything I knew to rectify the problem.

It corrected itself when I went to my optometrist and got a new prescription for my eyeglasses.

My suggestion? Get a tripod, take your time and enjoy your tack-sharp photos.

Send questions to or post them after the column I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy shooting, and remember to leave the environment as you found it.