7 min read

How to Unblur an Image – The Most Effective Way

7 min read

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sharp image of a young women.

How to unblur an image is a common problem for digital photographers. Opening and reviewing your images and finding that a bunch of them are blurry is a real drag. It’s also a very common problem for people who are new to taking photos.

Thankfully, you can use a few techniques to avoid blurry images because once you have a blurry image, your best option is to delete it. There is currently no sharpen tool, unsharp mask, or app that will fix blurry photos.

If you have a blurred image that’s only slightly affected, many tools available can disguise this mistake. Most make adjustments to edges and contrast levels to make blurry photos look less blurry. But there’s always a difference between photos that are sharp when you take them and those that have been worked on with some photo sharpen tool.

So the best way to unblur an image is to retake the photo. 

woman with a 100% sign.

Make Sure It’s Sharp

Make sure it’s sharp! This is about the best and most important advice I can offer to photographers. There is no substitute for sharp photos because it is virtually impossible to unblur a photo. Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, or any photo editing software cannot currently unblur images if you have a blurry image. Many editing software apps will make noticeable improvements to photos that are a little blurry. But they are not yet capable of unblurring images. 

Never say never. In the future, my cynicism on unblurring photos may well be obsolete. Some online tools appearing lately show technology for unblurring images is progressing. But I do not believe this can ever be a proper substitute for capturing your photos as sharp as you want them to be when you are taking pictures. Don’t start with a blurry picture.

female photographer changing camera settings for sharpness.

Photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are excellent. I have been using both apps for many years and love them. These products are continually being worked on and improved, but, as yet, they have very limited capacity to unblur an image.

The easiest way to do things in photography and life is not often the best. Whether you want to unblur photos or blur a background, do it the right way. There are online tools like Fotor Photo Blur, which in my opinion, appears to do a poor job of blurring backgrounds. You can also use other free editing tools like Microsoft Paint. But you’ll get the quality you pay for, so don’t expect much.

The best free option to unblur photos has nothing to do with a photoshop alternative or an online tool. How to unblur an image is by practicing to make sure it’s sharp when you take it.

woman with an elephant.

How To Avoid Taking Blurry Pictures

The best way to avoid a blurry picture is to make sure you are managing your camera well. 

There are essentially three common mistakes photographers make that will result in blurry images. These are:

  • Poor focusing,
  • Subject movement,
  • Camera movement.

Each of these mistakes creates a different-looking blur. But whatever you have done to make a blurry image, you cannot effectively unblur a picture. So it’s best to learn what you can do to avoid this problem.

close up photo of lotus flower.


Taking time to control your focus is one of the foundation skills every good photographer has done. This often happens only after you have produced a blurry picture a few too many times. 

Don’t rely on your camera to do it for you. Auto-focus is a fantastic tool, but you still need to control it well. Setting your camera on multi-point continuous focus is not a great option. It will often mean the camera chooses the wrong point in your composition to focus on. Selecting the single point focus option, or using the touch screen, means you can be more precise.

Touch screen focusing is more common on mirrorless cameras, but you may have a DSLR camera with this functionality. Whatever method you use, it’s essential to be precise. This is especially so when you have a shallow depth of field. If your focus is out by even a little, your subject will be blurry.

sharp photo without a blur of a woman resting outdoors.

Practice focusing on your camera. Make a point of concentrating on this until you are confident. Experiment with the various focusing mode your camera has until you find what suits you best. I cover how to do this in detail in module one of my 365 Photography Course.

Try using settings that will provide you a deeper depth of field until you are more confident with your focus. This will mean you are more likely to get more of the details sharp in your images. For more information on how to best manage the depth of field, please check out this article. Learning to focus well is a bit of a learning curve, but it means you will have far fewer blurry images.

Subject Movement

A moving subject appears blurred in an image when you use a shutter speed that is too slow to freeze the action. What speed you need to set the shutter at depends on how fast your subject is moving. For faster-moving subjects, you must adjust your camera settings, so you use a faster shutter speed.

At times you may want a moving subject to blur in your image. In this case, the desired image shows a blurred subject, and anything that’s not moving will show more detail. For the best results, you need to adjust your shutter speed so your subject is blurred enough, so it does not look like a mistake. If your subject in the photo is only a little blurred, the effect will not be so effective. If it’s too blurry, your subject may not be recognizable.

studio portrait of woman with dreadlocks for how to unblur an image.

Camera Movement

If your camera moves a significant amount as you expose your photo, the whole image will blur. Some cameras and lenses have shake reduction built-in. This function helps avoid blur when your shutter speed is slow.

The best way to avoid blur from camera movement is to hold your camera steady and use a fast enough shutter speed. Sometimes, when you need to adjust your shutter to a slow setting, you need to mount your camera on a tripod. This will save you from camera movement and blurry pictures.

sharp knife on a table.

How To Get Sharp Pictures – Summary

Get your focus right. Practice until you are confident, and then practice more. It’s much more effective to sharpen images using the right focusing techniques than messing around with them in a photo editor.

Use a fast enough shutter speed for the subject and situation. When you are photographing a moving subject, adjust your shutter speed to capture the action in sharp detail. Don’t guess it or leave it to your camera to decide what shutter speed to use. In low light, this is more critical.

sharpening a knife.

When You Want to Unblur Using Photo Editing Tools

There are many ways people try to unblur pictures. They try using a free tool or uploading an image online to a photoshop alternative. There are several tools available that supposedly unblur pictures. But I have never found a free app and any expensive editing options that adjust a blurry photo and make it look sharp.

You can mess around all you like with layer selection, high pass filters, or the snapseed app on your iPhone. But no current sharped slider or sharpen button will fix your problem. You can work with editing options like adjust the radius setting, use filters, or drag a slider bar around as much as you like. Often you’ll make your image look worse.

It does not make a difference if you use the iOS or Windows operating system. A blurry photo cannot be fixed by adding a background layer or messing with the sharpen slider in the detail panel. No matter how you save your image, when it’s blurred from the beginning, it can not be repaired, no matter what blend mode or editing tool you use. You can download the free version of an app or pay for expensive tools to edit your images. But none of the currently available tools will sharpen a blurred image. 

man and woman with shaver and shave cream.

All an app or edit tool does is alter the contrast levels and edges. This often does not look so terrible in photos taken in hard light where contrast is higher. But this does not unblur a picture or sharpen it. A skilled photo editor can make some difference using photoshop or another app to a slightly blurred photo. But they can never sharpen a very blurred picture. 

couple having a water fight.

Conclusion on How To Unblur a Photo

Save yourself the stress of trying to use a photo editor to fix a blurred image. Learn to master your camera and practice until you don’t want to sharpen your photos with a photo editor. Practice how to unblur a picture. Learn to focus well. Control your exposure settings, especially your shutter speed. Then you will not need to unblur a photo when you upload it. 

Woman appearing to cut a man's moustache for how to unblur an image.

Often when you download an app, a free version, or one you pay for, don’t use it to over-edit your photos. When you have a photo that’s a little soft, you can sometimes unblur a picture somewhat. If you overdo the edit, the photo will suffer. It may appear to sharpen, but you may lose technical quality in other areas of the image. When the whole image has the sharpen tool applied, it can actually make it look worse. Your subject may look better, but areas in your composition that are meant to be out of focus will start to break down.

The best way to unblur a photo is not to blur it at all. At least not where it matters. Having your subject sharp is important, having as much or as little of the rest of your photo blurred or not is a matter of taste.

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Kevin bought his first camera in the early 1980s and started working in the photography department of a daily newspaper a few years later. His whole career is focused on photography and he’s covered a multitude of subjects. He loves to photograph people the most. During the past decade, Kevin has begun to teach and write more, sharing his passion for photography with anyone who’s willing to learn.
Kevin bought his first camera in the early 1980s and started working in the photography department of a daily newspaper a few years later. His whole career is focused on photography and he’s covered a multitude of subjects. He loves to photograph people the most. During the past decade, Kevin has begun to teach and write more, sharing his passion for photography with anyone who’s willing to learn.

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  1. Ah, interesting.
    In our studio, when retouching we sometimes at a tiny tiny tiny bit of ‘noise’ in Photoshop, just to add a touch of contrast, although the effect is subtle—it does add a nice bit of sharpness which looks a bit more natural.
    However, that said, sometimes the best photos are technically imperfect. Especially with portraits.

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