How to Change an Out of Focus Photograph to One That is in Focus

By Anise Hunter

Things Needed

  • Digital camera
  • Photo editing program (Photoshop or free download)
Even with a good camera, it can be hard to take photos when people are moving.

For new photographers, one of the most challenging skills to master is taking photos while people are in motion. Taking photos on a bus or in a car can also lead to jiggling that results in a photo that is out of focus. Whatever the reason the photo is out of focus, photographers may turn to photo editing software to change the look of the photo and make it appear sharper. While you can't go back in time and change the focus of a photo, you can change some of the digital elements in a shot to make the photo appear to be focused.

Take your photos, then upload them to a photo editing program.

Open up a photo editing package. This could be a purchased package like Adobe Photoshop or a free internet download like Photoscape or GIMP for Windows.

Crop the photo to focus on the subject

Crop your photo to focus on the subject of the photo and remove extraneous details. Even if the subject is out of focus, this will move the eye toward the subject.

Work with the color and the contrast of the photo to adjust it to your liking. Look at the subject of the photo. What are the main colors? If the subject is mostly blue, then move along the toolbar in your editing program and click on the blue area of the color spectrum to focus on this color. Watch what happens to the subject and background. The subject will pop out of the background, and the background will decrease in intensity. Move along the contrast toolbar and increase the contrast between colors. Do not go all the way to the highest level of contrast. Move somewhere between medium and high contrast, click on the toolbar, and make sure that the photo does not look overly adjusted before you print it.

This technique works when the subject and the background are two different colors on the spectrum. It does not work for a person in green standing in a green forest.

Go to the toolbar at the top of the photo editing screen. Click on filter and look for the tool called "sharpen." Click on sharpen. This feature makes the pixels stand out more and provides an illusion of photo clarity. You can click on this button several times until you find the right level of sharpening for your photo. Like color contrast, too much sharpening can make the photo look overly processed. If you find that you have gone too far, press the undo button on the toolbar and the last sharpening will reverse itself.

Make your subject stand out by cropping it.

If your photo requires more sharpening, go up to the toolbar at the top of the screen and click on filter. Find the tool that says "sharpen edges." If you cropped your photo well and the photo is now concentrated on one subject, this will make the subject stand out.

Tip

Use the RAW setting instead of the JPG setting when you are shooting photos in a place where you are likely to end up with out of focus photos. This preserves more of the original scene than the JPG and makes the photos easier to edit.

About the Author

Anise Hunter began writing in 2005, focusing on the environment, gardening, education and parenting. She has published in print and online for "Green Teacher," Justmeans and Neutral Existence. Hunter has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of British Columbia and a Master of Resource Management in environmental science from Simon Fraser University.