Why are so many of my pictures blurry? I get asked that question quite often and after taking a look at a sample of the images the cause is most often one of two things. Either motion blur or missed focus is the cause about 95% of the time. I see motion blur more often than missed focus and I predict that I will continue to see missed focus be a smaller percentage in the future. I predict that because the auto focus systems continue to improve on point and shoot cameras.
The cause of both is easy to identify and relatively easy to fix, to a point.
Motion Blur is caused by the shutter that blocks the light from hitting the sensor until you actually take the picture being open long enough for either the camera to move or the subject to move while it is open. This causes the image of the subject to streak across the sensor and therefore look blurry. The non technical reason this happens is because point and shoot digital cameras try to use the lowest light sensitivity they can because they have a lot of digital noise at higher sensitivities. This problem is compounded by the fact that most point and shoot cameras have slow lenses in terms of how much light they let through to the sensor especially when zoomed. To keep from having motion blur you need to go into the menu system of your camera and manually set the ISO (sensitivity) to a higher number. Try setting it to ISO 200 first (the default is usually 50-80) then go higher if needed. Remember the higher you go the more noise you will have in the image so only go as high as you need to. Manually setting the ISO has one other draw back besides noise. When you are in bright light you need to remember to either put the ISO back to auto or set it to something lower. I would recommend auto but if you want to continue to have control try 80-100. What will happen if you forget? Possibly nothing, possibly over exposed images. Point and shoot cameras are not able to operate the shutter fast enough to deal with high ISO images in bright light. So if the maximum shutter sped is not fast enough then the image will be over exposed. Not to mention you will be adding noise to your images for no reason.
Some cameras have a shake reduction system built in and they do work pretty well but remember that will only help prevent blur from camera movement and only to a point. If your subject moves you will still get motion blur and nothing but a faster shutter speed can prevent that.
Many cameras will show you the aperture and shutter speed chosen by the camera before you take the shot. As a general rule I recommend a shutter speed of at least 1/60th of a second if it is below that raise the ISO setting.