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Common Photography Problems

Fuzzy, unsharp pictures.
Pictures too light, too dark.
Pictures occasionally too light.
Blank negatives (no prints) or black slides.
Pictures consistently too light or dark.
Pictures with dark obstructions.
Pictures with unusual color.
Pictures overlapped.
Light streaks and spots on pictures.
Consistent streaks and spots.
Flash pictures too light, dark.
Flash too dark.
People or animals with glowing eyes.
Flash pictures: black slides, blank negatives, and no prints.
Glare spots in flash pictures.
Flash pictures unevenly exposed.
Flash pictures partly exposed.

Sometimes things go wrong and you get results you didn't plan or want. Here are some of the most common problems, the reasons, and some suggested solutions.

Fuzzy, unsharp pictures.

Reason: Shutter speed too slow. 
Solution: For pictures of still subjects, use a shutter speed no slower than 1/30 second if handholding the camera. For fast-moving subjects, use the fastest shutter speed possible-usually no slower than 1/250 second.

Reason: Incorrect handling. 
Solution: Make sure you hold the camera very steady and gently press the shutter-release button.

Reason: Incorrect focus. 
Solution: Make sure you focus correctly on your subject. Refer to your camera manual. 

Reason: Dirty lens. 
Solution: Keep your lens clean of dust and smears.

Pictures too light, too dark.

Reason: Incorrect film-speed setting on camera or on handheld meter.
Solution: Set or check the film speed every time you load a new roll of film.

Reason: Dead or weak meter battery.
Solution: Check battery periodically according to camera manual. Replace at least once a year.

Reason: No adjustment for side-and back-lighting.

Pictures occasionally too light.

Reason: Shutter may be sticking.
Solution: See competent repair person.

Reason: Photofinisher printing too light.
Solution: Return for reprinting darker.

Blank negatives (no prints) or black slides.

Reason: Shutter did not open.
Solution: See camera repair person.

Reason: Film did not advance through camera.
Solution: Check loading procedures in instruction manual or have repair person check film-advance mechanism.

Reason: Lens cap not removed.
Solution: Make sure you remove lens cap.

Pictures consistently too light or dark.

Reason: Exposure meter may need adjustment.
Solution: See camera repair person.

Reason: Photofinisher printing needs adjustment.
Solution: Return for reprinting.

Pictures with dark obstructions.

Reason: Finger in front of lens. 
Solution: Check camera-holding position to make sure hand or fingers dont obstruct lens. 

Reason: Material inside camera.
Solution: Carefully check inside camera for foreign matter obstruction. 

Reason: Camera strap or case in front of lens. 
Solution: Check that lens is clear of strap or case in front of lens. 

Pictures with unusual color.

Reason: Yellowish-red daylight film used in tungsten light.
Solution: If using daylight film in tungsten light, consider a 80A filter

Reason: Bluish-tungsten film used in daylight. 
Solution: Make sure that the film matches the lighting conditions. If not, add a 85A filter

Reason: Mottled, streaked, maybe greenish or muddy-film outdated. 
Solution: Make sure you use fresh film and have it processed promptly. Check packing material for expiration date. Do not leave film in extremely hot places.

Pictures overlapped.

Reason: Too many pictures on roll. 
Solution: Don't try to squeeze one more shot at the end of the roll. 

Reason: Film winding mechanism needs adjustment. 
Solution: See a camera repair person. 

Light streaks and spots on pictures.

Reason: Direct rays of light strike lens. 
Solution: Don't shoot directly into the sun or other bright light source. 

Consistent streaks and spots.

Reason: Fogging: light leak in camera. 
Solution: Have camera checked by repair person. 

Reason: Camera back opened accidentally. 
Solution: Never open the camera without checking to see if it has film inside. 

Reason: Film handled in direct sunlight. 
Solution: Load and unload your camera in the shade or other subdued light. 

Reason: Sticking shutter. 
Solution: Have camera checked by repair person. 

Reason: X-ray exposure
Solution: Ask for hand inspection of camera and film by airport security.

Flash pictures too light, dark.

Reason: Light- too close to subject. Dark- too far from subject. 
Solution: Check snapshot-camera distance-range or check focus setting with adjustable/automatic camera. 

Reason: Film speed on camera/flash unit wrong. 
Solution: Check to see that correct film speed is set on flash unit or camera. 

Reason: Aperture setting wrong. 
Solution: Make sure that aperture setting on camera agrees with information on flash calculator dial. 

Flash too dark.

Reason: Dark-electronic flash may not have fully recycled. 
Solution: Allow flash to recycle fully until ready light shows. 

Reason: Weak batteries. 
Solution: Change batteries. 

People or animals with glowing eyes.

Reason: Flash positioned too close to lens for subject with dilated pupils and retina reflection. 
Solution: Turn on all room lights. If possible, remove flash from camera to increase distance between lens and flash. Increase flash-to-subject distance. Have person avert eyes. 

"Red eye" in some color flash photographs is caused by a reflection from the layer of blood vessels lying between the retina and sclera (whites) of the eye. Red eye usually occurs when the eyes are dilated because of alcohol, medicine or the light level is relatively dim and the subject is looking directly at the camera.

Flash pictures: black slides, blank negatives, and no prints.

Reason: Flash didn't fire. 
Solution: Battery dead, poor connection between flash and camera. 

Glare spots in flash pictures.

Reason: Flash aimed into reflective background. 
Solution: Adjust your position so that any reflective material (mirrors, paneled walls, spectacles) is at an angle. 

Flash pictures unevenly exposed.

Reason: Foreground objects closer than main subject- gets overexposed. 
Solution: Use a position where the main subject is closest to the flash. 

Flash pictures partly exposed.

Reason: Incorrect shutter speed.
Solution: Check your camera manual for correct shutter speed with flash.

Back to photography tips main page.

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