Anymore, most people talk about digital image editing like it’s some kind of magic. To the uninitiated, it might as well be. A certain amount of technical and artistic expertise is necessary for pulling off some of the amazing tricks that you see people doing with programs like Photoshop. However, basic image editing tasks have always been accessible to people without as much training and experience in these types of applications. Today, we’re going to show you how to unblur a blurry picture using a digital image editor. We’ll talk through the “Photoshop method,” and also point out some online resources that might just be even better, for you.
If you have blurry photos that you want to touch up, read on to find out how! However, you should know going in that it’s sometimes impossible to completely remove the blur from a photo, depending on the reason that the blur is there in the first place.
First things first–let’s talk through some of the differences in image editing solutions before we even begin looking at how to use them. Some of the applications that get the widest word-of-mouth are also prohibitively expensive for many users. They far exceed the use cases of the hobby photographer. And it’s always a good thing to save a little bit of money when you can, right?
What many don’t know (until they see the price tag) is that Adobe Photoshop is a program designed almost expressly for professional use. It has one of the steepest learning curves of any image editing program on the market, and though it’s incredibly powerful, it can take upwards of a year for a person to truly learn the many ins and outs of this jam-packed software. Because of this, it’s actually far more than most users will ever need, especially if you’re looking to simply unblur a few photographs.
Because Photoshop has more of a niche purpose for creative professionals, many image editing solutions have sprung up in its wake. Many of these are aimed at “lighter” users who don’t need all of the muscle that Photoshop brings to the table. Blessedly, they’re also far less expensive! We’re going to take a look at these applications, as well. There’s no reason for a person to be spending upwards of $10 per month on a program that they’re only using for one task, after all!
However, because some of our readers might already be happy owners of Adobe Photoshop, we’re going to cover that angle, as well. It’s not terribly hard to remove the blur from a photo when using Photoshop, but it’s going to take some prior knowledge of how the application works.
On top of all of that, it’s going to be important that we know some basic photography lingo, too! After all, there are several different things that can cause blur in a photo, and depending on the specific cause for the blur, it might not even be something that you can fix.
What Causes Blurry Photos?
When taking photos with a camera, or even your phone’s camera, there are two major things that contribute to blur: motion and focus.
Depending on the shutter speed of the particular device you’re using, an excess of motion can cause a photo to turn out blurry. This might mean that the hand holding the camera or smartphone was shaking, or it might mean that the subject of the photo was moving too fast for the camera to snap a clear picture of it. Either way, the result is motion blur, and it threatens to ruin the integrity of an otherwise good shot!
The other major cause of blur is focus, which is more difficult to fix in post-processing applications. No matter which type of device you’re using, it has a focusing function that allows you to give the greatest sharpness to the subject of the photo you’re taking. Think about the last portrait that you saw. In it, the subject (probably a person) was so sharp that they seemed real, right? Meanwhile, the background of the photo was slightly blurry.
This is frequently called the “bokeh” by photographers, and it refers to the out-of-focus areas surrounding the subject of the photograph. When it works, it lends extra clarity to the photo’s subject. When it doesn’t, it usually means that the camera was focused on the wrong object in the frame. This leads to the intended subject being blurry, which can be exceptionally hard to remedy!
First, we’re going to take a look at some of the online applications that you can use to remove image blur. These are the easiest approach for most people, primarily because they’re automated. You don’t have to deal with the associated learning curve that comes along with image-editing software.
However, you should also be aware that motion blue is much easier to remove than blue caused by an image being out-of-focus.
Because it’s an online image editor, you’re not going to find a huge toolset in LunaPic. It was designed for fast, easy, and specific use. It’s somewhat opposite of Adobe Photoshop, in this regard. Still, it’s a powerful photo editor that all but automates the blur removal process.
You can upload an image easily, and get to work in a matter of clicks. If the blur can be removed, you’ll know right away. If it can’t, you can always give another application a shot!
Blurity is somewhat similar to LunaPic in that you upload an image and let the app go to work, but it’s far less of an editor and more of a singular service.
There isn’t even much of an interface for you to navigate. All that you need to do is click through to the site (use the link, above!) and upload the image that you want to remove the blur from. If Blurity can doctor it using its automated process, then it will do so!
Be warned, however, that you may run the risk of losing some of your image integrity when you put it through an automatic “deblurring” process like this. The file-size may shrink and you may also lose some of the image’s sharpness.
Image Editing Software
Going from online utility to full-blown image editor is a massive leap. To be entirely truthful, it’s not one that many users are ready to make. Image editing suites are extremely powerful toolkits that will allow you to perform exactly the type of photo magic they’re known for, but there is often a steep learning curve associated with them.
If you’re an avid learner, that might make them right up your alley! If you’re not, you may want to try other solutions first.
Here’s the thing about Photoshop–it’s easy to say that it’s more than what the average user needs. Hell, it’s more than what almost anyone needs, professionals included. In spite of that, it’s still king-of-the-hill when it comes to pure, creative imagery muscle. Photographers and digital artists use it almost religiously for a reason, and that’s why it’s also very much able to remove blur from your photographs.
Since we’re aiming this article for the average user, we’ll show you the simplest way to remove blurriness.
Once you have your image loaded up in the application, select Filter from the toolbar. Next, highlight the Sharpen option, and then select Shake Reduction. As you might surmise, this is the tool that’s going to let you lessen the impact of movement on your image. Using the sliding scales in this tool, you can watch your image being adjusted in real-time as you make changes to the Shake Reduction settings. Neat, right?
If you’re combatting blurriness that’s a result of the image being out-of-focus, however, you’re going to use the Sharpen and Smart Sharpen tools. You’ll be far more limited in what you can fix in the image, but it will nevertheless give you better results than almost any other software option out there.
Ironically, you can follow almost the exact set of steps above to achieve the same results with GIMP. They might not be as good of results, and the interface in this app isn’t remotely as intuitive, streamlined, or attractive as Photoshop, but it’s still powerful.
What makes GIMP good, then? The fact that it’s free! It’s an open source software application, which means that it’s the hard-earned labor of many, many dedicated people, but it also means that you won’t have to pay a dime for it. GIMP has many of the same features as Photoshop, including a built-in layering system that’s helpful for individual edits you make to your images. It also supports filters, though they aren’t quite as powerful as what you’ll find in the Adobe software.
We hope that this article has given you a brief (yet helpful!) window into the tools that you can use to “unblur” your blurry pictures. Whether you use one of the simple online tools that we’ve linked above or opt for a full-fledged image editing suite, these are some of the most fruitful methods you can employ to sharpen up your images! Any questions? Let’s hear them in the comments below!