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by Phil Ball

Q: I bought an autofocus camera because of a friend’s glowing recommendation.  I took some photos of my son’s birthday party and they turned out dark and very blurry. Am I doing something wrong or is autofocus not as good as I was told?

A: The camera is probably fine; you may not be using it right which is easily fixed.  You mentioned that the problem occurred at a birthday party.  Was it indoors and were you using flash?  If so, were you within ten feet of the birthday boy?  Today’s small cameras have small flashes that don’t reach very far which might account for the dark pictures.  As for the poor focus, was anything in focus in the pictures?  If so, then you just need to read the manual and find out how your camera can be set to allow you to choose the focusing point.  Today’s cameras free us from most of the technical details of taking photos but you still need to control the focusing.  Let the camera do the auto focusing; you just need to tell it where to focus.  However, if nothing in the photo is sharp, then the problem could be due to camera movement when the camera tried to make up for insufficient light by giving a long exposure.  It is almost impossible to hold the camera steady at slow exposures.  Steady the camera with both hands and hold it still while shooting.  Practice taking photos in the same conditions and see if these suggestions don’t help.

Published: Courier 7/19/09 - Page 5C