Blurry iPhone 4S photos [Updated]

I’m a week into owning an iPhone 4S. It’s a great device, and I’ve been eager to play with the improved camera. I’ve only taken a handful of photos, but so far I’m a bit disappointed as I’m getting a lot of blurry pictures. The iPhone 4S camera seems very sensitive to motion, both on my part as the photographer and my subjects.

I’m not sure if the problem is me, the camera or bad practices, so here’s a look at what I’ve been shooting. Suggestions/comments welcome.

Updated with input from readers after the break.

Here’s a photo I took yesterday. My son was sitting at a table with natural light behind him and artifical light above. I had my left elbow on the table when I made the exposure, yet, it’s blurry. You can see the EXIF data below the shot.

Here’s a photo taken with the iPhone 4 under similar conditions. My son was staning in front of a window with flourescent light above. I did not steady my hands at the time of exposure. Again, EXIF data is included.

Finally, two more photos taken with the 4S.

Note that all of the iPhone 4S photos show f/2.4 while the one shot with the 4 shows f/2.8.

I’ve got to do more shooting with the 4S – outside, tripod, etc. – before I can form an opinion. I’ve got the flash set to auto, and I’m not sure why the phone is selecting such a low ISO (or how to force it not to). So far, I’m not getting results like Apple’s example shots and won’t be giving up my Canon point-and-shoot anytime soon.

Update: Many of  you wrote and tweeted ideas and suggestions. I appreciate it very much. A common theme was the slow shutter speed the iPhone 4S is selecting. As far as I know, there’s no hard-and-fast way to force it to choose another. I try to tap the area of the subject I want to focus on and and use as the basis for the exposure, but not always successfully, as you can see.

Reader “Anon” wrote a lengthy and super helpful email that included this bit:

“Certainly though, it seems like the camera does not do a good job turning up the sensitivity to increase the shutter speed.

Your first shot is at ISO 200, ƒ/2.4 and 1/20s, which I suspect is the limit, the others are 1/20s and 1/24s, but only at ISO 64/80. The camera should have increased the sensitivity to at least double the shutterspeed. (to at least ISO 120/160, if not 200)

Unfortunately I don’t think this is something you have any control over. Ideally you would be able to tell it to use a minimum of 1/40s , even if it meant the image was under-exposed. (too dark) You can fix up an image that is under-exposed (to some extent, at least) but there’s not a whole lot that can be done about camera shake.”

That’s great information. I’m going to try keeping the flash on whenever I’m indoors to see if that makes a difference. I’ll also make an effort to steady my hands. Finally, I’ll take some outdoor shots in good light to see what I get.

Some of you asked if I use the volume button or the Camera app’s shutter button to make the exposure. I use the app’s button. Over the years I’ve gotten used to shooting with the iPhone’s rear-facing camera in the positioned in the upper right (if you’re looking at the back of the camera). That puts the volume buttons on the button. If I flip it around so that the buttons are on top, the lens moves to the lower left, just behind where I position my right hand. I’m constantly blocking the lens in that orientation, so it doesn’t work for me.

Obviously I’ve got more experimentation ahead of me. Thanks for your feedback, and please share any further tips/insight you might have regarding taking killer photos with an iPhone 4S.

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