How To Unblur a Photo or Image
We’ve all done it; we take that great shot of our kid doing something exciting or the perfect product picture for our Ebay listing, and then later when we go to look at it, it’s all blurry! You may be able to fix the problem with a reshoot, but that isn’t always possible. That blurred photo can be caused by a number of things. Camera shake, vibration, or insufficient focus can all create a blurry image that either detracts from or outright ruins the image. But is a blurry image game over? What if you caught something that will never happen again? Can you unblur a picture? The answer is: sometimes.
Digital image manipulation software will always let you sharpen an image, although that sharpening process can cause the addition of “noise” (random-looking pixels) to the image. Sometimes, a moderately-blurred image can be considerably improved in terms of overall quality. There are a number of software tools available that will let you sharpen images. You can do it with Photoshop or other desktop software, a mobile app, or an online tool. The results largely depend on the tool you use and the level of blur in the image.
With images rapidly taking over social media and the internet at large, the quality of your pictures counts for a lot. We will often have the luxury of time to frame, focus, and take a shot carefully, but that isn’t always the case. In this article, I’ll introduce you to the basic tools that you can use to try to unblur a photo or image.
No matter what tool you use, the first thing to do is to make a backup copy of the image file you are going to work with! That way if a tool doesn’t work for you, or makes the situation worse than it was, you at least have a clean copy of the original photograph! I usually make a copy of the backup for each tool I’m going to try, i.e., “imagename_photoshop_working.png,” “imagename_gimp_working.png” and so on.
Unblur a picture using Photoshop
Photoshop has several tools you can use to unblur images. I know of three different ways to achieve a much sharper image from an initially blurry image. Each does things slightly differently and works better or worse in different situations. You just need a little trial and error to figure out which is which.
- Open your image in Photoshop Elements.
- Select the Filters menu and then Enhance.
- Select Unsharp Mask.
- Adjust both the Radius and Amount until your image is sharp.
This takes a little adjusting to get right, but it works very well at unblurring a picture.
Using just Photoshop:
- Open your image in Photoshop.
- Duplicate the background layer and select it.
- Select Filter, Other and High Pass and set it to 10%.
- Select the blend mode of the layer to hard light and set the opacity until the image is clear.
If you use a newer version of Photoshop, you can also use camera shake reduction to reduce blur in images.
- Open your image in Photoshop.
- Select Filter, Sharpen, and Shake Reduction.
- Allow Photoshop to work its magic and preview the differences.
This final option has Photoshop do all the work. No user input as to settings and levels is required. As long as you have preview enabled, you should see the before and after image side by side.
Unblur a picture using GIMP
If you don’t have Photoshop, you could use the free image editor GIMP. It is an excellent program that can do a lot. Considering it is free, it is a very feature-rich application that I often recommend. It isn’t quite as powerful as Photoshop, but it is free and does everything most of us need it to do, including unblurring an image.
- Open the image in GIMP.
- Select Blur/Sharpen from the Toolbox.
- Select Sharpen and drag your mouse over the image to sharpen it all or select a portion to sharpen just part of it.
As you select parts of the image to sharpen, GIMP automatically does its work. You should see the image dynamically sharpen as you move your mouse. It is quite effective at unblurring images and works well.
Unblur a picture using Paint.net
Paint.net is another free image editing tool that can achieve a lot at no cost. Sharpening is not one of its strong suits but it does a credible job of reducing blur in images.
- Open the image in Paint.net.
- Select Effects, Picture, and Sharpen.
- Move the slider in the Sharpen popup to a level you are happy with.
- Select OK and save.
The Sharpen tool can then introduce noise to the image. You may be able to reduce that by using Effects and Noise Reduction. Again, adjust until you are happy.
Unblur a picture using Snapseed
Snapseed is an app from Google that works on both Android and iPhones. It is a full image editor that works on most newer devices and has a very full feature set. One thing it does well is sharpen images. You can also selectively blur images, too, if you want to go the other way.
- Open your image in Snapseed.
- Select the Details menu option.
- Select Sharpen or Structure, then either unblur or show more detail.
Both Sharpen and Structure combine to make a lot of difference to a once blurry image. I tend to use Sharpen first to remove as much blur as possible and then use Structure to bring back the detail. This will take a little trial and error until you get the levels just to your liking, but once you do your image should be crystal clear and ready to go.
Unblur a picture using online tools
Fotor is a great photo editing suite that offers a range of free photo editing tools from within the website. There are Pro tools as well for a cost, but for most of us the free ones do enough. The tool itself is labeled as adding artistic blur to an image but by using it and then scaling blur down you can use it as a sharpener.
Use the Basic tools in the left menu, then Basic in the second left menu. There is a Sharpen slider there to unblur your picture.
Photo Sharpen is much lower tech and does the work for you. It uses an algorithm to sharpen images. You upload your image and select the Sharpen button. The website does the rest. It will then show you a sharper image as a result. You cannot tune the results but the site does a pretty good job of reducing blur.
Those are the ways I know of to unblur a picture. I’m sure there are dozens of other ways to do it. Know of any? Tell us about them below if you do!