Beginner Cat Photo Skills

How To Transform A Blurry Cat Photo

If you’ve captured some adorable moments of your cat but they turned out blurry, don’t stress! There are a couple of tricks you can use to sharpen those photos quickly.

One thing to try is an online photo sharpening tool. These are easy to use and can make a noticeable difference in the clarity of your cat photo. Additionally, there are various software programs available that offer advanced features, allowing you to bring out a lot of details in your cat photos 

  • I have tried to keep this non-technical but if you want to explore filters and sharpening in more depth I have added links to the Resources Section.

Basic Glossary

Let me introduce a few camera/software terms so they don’t confuse you. Some you may know, but others may be unfamiliar and they will make reading the post easier.

  1. Unsharp Mask – a way to sharpen images used in digital image processing software.
  2. High Pass Filter – works by filling the entire image with neutral gray. It looks for edges in the image and highlights them by making the light side of the edge lighter and the dark side darker. Your software uses this to sharpen edges.
  3. Online Photo Editors – image editing for the budget conscious and photo editing on the move. No software is downloaded and your image is processed online then downloaded to your device.
  4. Artificial Intelligence (AI) – this software offers you a number of settings to capture what it is the best version of your photograph. As it uses a set of adjustments outside your control, you need to use your own judgement to decide if you agree with the adjustments made.
  5. Smartphone Photo App – software that can be downloaded to your smartphone that helps with editing and adding filters or the treatments yto your images. There are free and paid apps.

Sharpen Fur With A Computer Photo App

Your first place to try fixing a blurry photo is in your own computer, smartphone or tablet’s photo editor.

There are lots of ways to adjust your photos but the aim here is quick wins with sharper photos, so let me introduce you to my own ‘go to’ tools that will help on your computer.

How Do You Fix a Blurry Cat Photo? Tabby cat sharpened image.

Photo Sharpening Software

I use Affinity Photo, you may have Photoshop Elements, Paint Shop Pro, Photoshop, Photo Works or GIMP. There are lots of photo editing options and your software should have the Unsharp Mask and High Pass Filter options. 

Both of these tools work by faking sharpness and enhancing the contrast between two edges in your photo. The technical explanation goes much deeper but this description works for me and, I hope, for you too. I look at it as adjusting the size or ‘radius’ of a pixel to add the sharpness I need. The higher the radius you set the more sharpening is applied to your photo.

How To Use The Unsharp Mask

Your Unsharp Mask (USM for short) is found in the Filter menu. Look for a sharpen option, which will give you options including USM. In Affinity Photo it is in the menu Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask.

The USM can sharpen a photo that is not quite sharp enough and it is a great first choice to add a definition to fur. Try this filter first and use a gentle touch as you try out the tool. 

Results With The Unsharp Mask

This smartphone shot of Natasha came out well, I am looking upwards, her cheeky cat face is almost in focus but looked too soft for a dynamic and fearless cat climbing a tree in the garden. After I used the USM you can see that it has given the photograph a slightly sharper feel.

  • To see the original photo check out the ‘extreme’ sample underneath this one.
How Do You Fix a Blurry Cat Photo? Using Unsharp Mask
Smartphone photo successfully sharpened using Unsharp Mask

TOP TIP: Experiment with a digital copy of your photo. You can add a copy on top of your digital image by using Cmd/Ctrl J. If you prefer you can duplicate your photo and work on the new image. This way you keep the original unedited.

My best advice with this filter is to avoid pushing the USM tool too far. You will get unpleasant haloes, jagged edges or blotchy mottled textures.

Sample photo. How Do You Fix a Blurry Cat Photo?
Unsharp Mask showing a more extreme adjustment
What can go wrng with your high pass filter
Toulouse Portrait with USM pushed to extremes.

How to Use The High Pass Filter

This has more steps than unsharp masks and you might want to explore how the process fits together on a practice image. The High Pass Filter (HPF) will add a touch of refinement that is helpful if you are saving a photo at a very high resolution. This high resolution is valuable for printing onto canvas and to make greetings cards or other printables.

The filter is applied to a grey ‘mask’ or layer on top the photograph. You need to adjust the ‘Radius’ (pixel size) of the filter to sharpen your image. The masks available include effects like Overlay, Darken, and Soft Light. I suggest you explore the layer options.

Results Using The High Pass Filter

I use the Overlay option for my sample and here are the steps I used for the filter.

  1. Create a duplicate image using Ctrl/Cmd J and work on this
  2. Find Your Layer Masks and select Overlay (usually on the right or in your tool bar)
  3. Choose your Filter menu>Sharpen>Select High Pass
  4. Adjust the Radius Slider to add your preferred level of sharpness
  5. Click Apply
  6. TIP Don’t push the slider too far. Moderation is the key to a quick and successful result.
  7. Delete your layer if it doesn’t work and experiment further!
Comparison of High Pass Filter After/Before
Comparison of High Pass Filter After/Before

Sharpen Fur With Online Photo Editors

You might not have access to photo software or just want to adjust an image quickly. At times like these, an online image sharpener can be helpful. Let me show you three in action, although there are plenty of others to shoose from.

Lunapic Online App

  • Availability: Online
  • Cost: FREE

You can find a simple and super fast sharpening tool in the very popular online image editor Lunapic.

Results with Lunapic

Once you arrive at Lunapic look for Adjust>Sharpen. This brings up a window so you can quickly upload an image and use the slider to sharpen or soften it. I

Lunapic software sharpening a cat photo
Lunapic Software Sharpening a Cat Photo Software

  • Availability: Online for Everyone
  • Cost: FREE

This is a very easy to use online image sharpener that also has plenty of other image editing options in the left sidebar. The site says you can sharpen an unlimited number of photos.

Results with ImageOnline Software

I was pleased with the level of sharpening I was able to get with Dash’s picture. The difference is not huge but the subtle improvement is very helpful for me to be able to print cards or add the image to publicity printables.

Imageonline Sharpening Software With Cat Fur Adjutments.
Imageonline Sharpening Software With Cat Fur Adjustments.

Vance AI Image Sharpener

  • Availability: Online, and Windows PC
  • Cost: 3 free images per month or Basic $9 per month

The number of programs using AI (Artificial Intelligence) to adjust images is on the increase so I am spotlighting one here. Vance AI has been getting a lot of positive attention and if you want to learn more check out this review. Vance AI software gives you three free photos per month.

Results with Vance AI Software

I found that the program works well with a photo that already looks clear but that you feel needs more help. With some gentle dodging to lighten Dash’s face, this would be a sharp image I would love to use for a card or canvas print.

Vane AI Image Sharpening Software
Vane AI Image Sharpening Software

Smartphone Filter Suggestion

There are dozens of smartphone filters to transform your photos whther your phone is iOS or sndroid you are spoiled for choice so try out as many as you can. If you have apps installed, take a few minutes to explore then, and check out tutorials online. There are a lot of free opportunities for enhancing your cat photos, if you are budget conscious. I have reviewed two easy to use free apps with excellent results:

  1. Photoshop Camera App
  2. A Cat Lover’s Guide to Snapseed

The sophisticated AI within this free smartphone app automatically reviews your image and makes basic adjustments and sometimes this is just what you need to make the photo perfect for an Instagram or Facebook post. Any adjustments made can also be reversed if you don’t like that the AI has done (click the little magic wand top right).

AI Tips

The whole area of AI is worth a blog post on its own. You will find many online sites will offer you a free drag and drop function to demonstrate how good ‘their’ software is.

The best sharpening software is judged to be Adobe Lightroom but unless you have a suscription already the software can be expensive. To add insult to injury New Zealand does not have its own payment plan only Australian dollars.

An excellent resource for paid/cheap/free AI options is this at Fix the Photo. I am investigating the Topaz Software. Paid and not the cheapest but better than a monthly subscription.

Special Tips for Digital and Printed Cat Photos

  • It is always worth trying a gentle touch of sharpening, as I did with Nemo’s photo, because the repair might be worth it for a treasured cat memory. Only you can decide if the changes make a difference to your photo and the memories you have.
  • Consider getting a skilled image editor to sharpen a scanned image in Photoshop or other high end image adjustment software. This is how many old sepia photographs or tattered prints are transformed. If the memory is important to you, the option to get professional help is worth considering. They will work with a digital image or a high resolution scanned copy of your cat picture.
  • If you want to try photo repair at home look for ‘photo repair or try Image Colorizer.

When a photograph can’t be sharpened

Frustratingly, there are times when you have to accept that a photo just can’t be improved as much as you hope. This is because the software to clear blurred images works with digital information stored in your photo. If there is no information there the software will struggle to sharpen the photo.

How Do You Fix a Blurry Cat Photo? This did not work.
The is an old photo. Unsharp Mask struggles

You can see in my iPad photo of Nemo from 2015 (below) that although I can add a tiny amount of texture, it doesn’t make too much of a difference. The split-screen shows the After/Before with pixelated fur and jagged edges to the blanket.

I love the photo as it is, blurred but linked to happy memories, so have left the image alone.

FINAL SUPER TIP: To avoid having to do ANYTHING to your photos, learn to photograph pets confidently with your camera! Get it right when you take a photo with your smartphone, compact, or DSLR for the fastest and sharpest win.

Read these helpful tips for sharp cat photos.

I hope these online editors give you an idea of the help an editor can give you when you need quick results with your cat photo editing. If you have your own favourite fast image sharpener, let me know in the comments.

Image Sharpening Resources

16 thoughts on “How To Transform A Blurry Cat Photo”

  1. Great tips! I definitely need to save this for future use. I do use the “sharpen” tools on some of the photo editing software and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t

  2. These are great tips! I had no idea there were AI versions that could do the “heavy lifting” for you!

  3. Amazing! It almost makes me think I might be able to take a half way decent photo with these tools. I especially like the online options. They always seem to work the best for me. Now, if I could just channel your talent, I’d have it made! 😀

    • Of course you can! Even the experts take less than sharp photos and sometimes whisk them through Lightroom or Photoshop!

  4. I love how many great tools to improve pet photos are available; many of these affordable or even free. Memories of our pets as priceless.

    • Two things beginners need, low price/free and easy to use. This means they can make mistakes without worrying about any perceived cost.

  5. It is hard to get a good photo of our kitten because she’s so active. I’ll have to try sharpening the photos and see if that helps. Thanks for these tips.

  6. Thanks for sharing these tips. I’m always a fan of FREE options so I’ll have to check out Lunapic and image sharpeners. You did a great job altering these photos. I actually like the more extreme adjustments too. It gives a big bold pop with color and texture.

  7. Great tips as some of my pics turn out blurry as such and I need to sharpen them, am going to check the links you put to see if they will help, thanks and great photos as always

  8. Your cat photos always seem to turn out sharp and brilliant, Marjorie! It’s no wonder with all of the detailed work you put into them. I use Photoshop to adjust my images on my computer. I rarely adjust photos on my phone, but when I do, I use Photoshop Express. I fully agree that starting with the best possible photo is the best way to go. Take lots of photos so that you have a few to choose from. Thank you for the ideas for more photo editors to try!

  9. I have ‘Sharpen’ and ‘definition’, and noise reduction on my Photos editing program, and those are on Gimp, too

    I use the =m often, but like you, I try to make good images that don’t need those fixes.
    Mostly I use the auto mode for those so then its not too extreme…though sometimes i see its not doing better with the auto, so thanks for the tips on what to do.,manually.

  10. A wealth of information, I really need to catch up to the newer techniques one day! I’ve been using an older photoshop. Maybe one day they will make an option called Catfur Tool, lol.

    Beautiful photos, as always!

  11. This is really nice and thanks so much for teaching me about my photo editor that I know so little about

  12. I always get so frustrated when an otherwise great photo comes out blurry. I don’t know why I never even thought about trying to fix them before! Thanks for the tips.

  13. That was really interesting and it sure beats just filing away those blurry photos, thanks. Thanks for joining our Thankful Thursday Blog Hop!


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