Fix Blurred Photos with Free Software

Every photographer knows the disappointment of taking a great photograph only to find the picture was ruined by camera shake or the subject moving.

Such photographs cannot be brought back to crisp focus but they can be improved using software that employs an advanced mathematical technique called deconvolution to try to undo the blur.  Deconvolution is widely used in many areas of signal processing such as reducing the severity of echoes in long distance phone conversations.

The best deconvolution software for deblurring photos is commercial but there is a program called Unshake that can produce good results and is free for private use. 

To get the best out of Unshake you need to do quite a bit of trial and error testing to determine which parameter settings yield the most acceptable results. Most of the time the improvement is considerably better than that obtainable by using simple sharpening filters like those that can be found in digital editing software such as Photoshop; it all depends on the nature of the blur in a particular photograph.

Unshake does not require installing as it’s a Java program and will run on any computer including Windows, Macs and Linux boxes that have Sun Java installed.

On a Windows PC you need to unzip the download file to a folder then run the program called “launch” from that folder.



The interface is simple enough but usage requires experimentation. In particular you will need to play around with the settings in the two drop boxes at the top as well the amplification setting below. I strongly recommend that you read the file Instructions.html contained in the product folder before using the product.

Because Unshake is written in Java it runs quite slow – a 10 megapixel photo may take 5-10 minutes to process. For that reason I suggest you do your experimentation on a reduced size image (PNG format works best) and then process the full scale picture once you’ve worked out what settings give the best results.  I used 1024*768 images for my testing and Unshake was able to process these images in 10-15 seconds.

So what results can you expect?

If you are using the results for forensic purposes such as deblurring a car license plate then you will be pleasantly surprised. That’s because image clarity is important in these applications not image quality.

With normal landscape and portrait photos the results are less spectacular as too much deblurring results in increased noise artifacts and unpleasant etching.  Still the results are usually considerably better than using sharpening filters in a digital editor.  Here is a before and after sample photo I processed with Unshake.


Original Photo


After deblurring with Unshake


Unshake is not a tool that you will use everyday but is a handy addition to your toolkit should you need to improve a valuable photograph that can not be replaced.

So next time you find a wonderful photo that’s been blurred by movement, do try Unshake. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.



Unshake Version 1.5 Release 1
Download link: (0.99MB)
System requirements: Works on any Windows, Mac or Linux system with Sun Java installed.
Free for non-commercial use

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by Jubal Harshaw (not verified) on 25. November 2011 - 16:09  (83881)

Maybe I'm missing something. The Gizmo rundown says "aa 10 megapixel photo may take 5-10 minutes to process. The "instructions" file says "2048 by 2048 is the largest image which can be processed at the moment." I agree that the program is interesting and the price right but I need a larger capacity than 4 megapixals

by jamie76 on 9. September 2010 - 5:35  (57490)

i need to try it out to see if it dose the job

by Anonymous on 8. June 2010 - 1:11  (51593)

After I got it working on my Vista x64 machine, I ran unshake through its paces on some very poor photos. In one case, it made zero difference. In three other cases, it did quite a reasonable job at making a very blurry face into something recognizable. I had to run the resulting images through Noiseware Community Edition to reduce the image noise, however.

The biggest drawback to me is that unshake resizes the images to a maximum dimension of 1024 on either x or y axis. I couldn't figure out if this is an option I can change or not.

by Anonymous on 19. May 2010 - 2:35  (49919)

This software was compiled with an old version of Java -- the problem is that there is no path variable setting in Windows 7 64 bit to the newer JRE.

Forget the "launch"(launch.pif) file, that won't work in Win 7.

Instead, edit the "launch.bat" file by adding this line at the top (assuming you installed the 32 bit version of the most recent Java runtime environment (JRE):

if exist "c:\Program Files (x86)\java\jre6\bin\javaw.exe" path "c:\Program Files (x86)\java\jre6\bin\"

Then launch by double clicking that file.

by Anonymous on 1. June 2010 - 4:10  (50759)

THANK YOU for the tip - it seems I need your tip and the other one:

I took out the irrelevant 32b stuff, so myy unshake.bat file now looks like:
if exist "c:\Program Files (x86)\java\jre6\bin\javaw.exe" path "c:\Program Files (x86)\java\jre6\bin\"
if exist "C:\Windows\SysWOW64\javaw.exe" path "c:\WINDOWS SysWOW64";%PATH%
java -Xmx512m -jar .\Unshake.jar source\*.*

by Anonymous on 19. May 2010 - 2:01  (49918)

FYI works fine on my Window7 Ultimate x64 bit...

see above Anonymous on Sun, 05/16/2010 - 22:21 (#49815)

"...If you add this line to the Launch.bat it works on my Win7 64bit"

"if exist "C:\Windows\SysWOW64\javaw.exe" path "c:\WINDOWS SysWOW64";%PATH%"

by Anonymous on 17. May 2010 - 11:01  (49838)

Mine tells me every time- "Batch file missing". Is that because I have Java 6 and not 5??? If I already have 6, will my PC let me run version 5 also? Or will it just auto-update to version 6? i really wanted to use this too. Thanks.

by Anonymous on 15. May 2010 - 0:31  (49809)

Does not want to run on Win7 64 bit. Tried both 32 and 64 bit of the current Java (6u20). Also tried Java5 (j2re-1_3_1_20-windows-i586) which is recommended on the Unshake installation page. Seems to be a Windows issue since the error message that pops up says "The version of this file is not compatible with the version of Windows you're running" and refers to the file launch.pif.

by Anonymous on 16. May 2010 - 22:21  (49815)

I had the same issue. If you add this line to the Launch.bat it works on my Win7 64bit

"if exist "C:\Windows\SysWOW64\javaw.exe" path "c:\WINDOWS\SysWOW64";%PATH%"

It's hard to get good results. I will keep playing with the settings ;-)

hope this helps

by Anonymous on 13. May 2010 - 21:17  (49747)

Just how cheap does software have to get before someone is at all impressed with what it does?

by Anonymous on 13. May 2010 - 22:07  (49749)

Results impress more than pure cheapness, for me.

by Anonymous on 13. May 2010 - 19:18  (49744)

What's wrong with you grouches?

Here's a guy that develops a program and gives it away free. If you don't like it, simply don't use it. Constructive criticism is one thing but don't go into attack mode. He's giving it to the world out of kindness and a good heart.

The more people I meet like you lot, the more I like dogs!

by Anonymous on 14. May 2010 - 12:40  (49780)

Excellent comment! The dogs do deserve more love.

by Anonymous on 7. June 2010 - 23:37  (51585)

My wife and my dogs recommend this comment! (me too!)

by Anonymous on 13. May 2010 - 17:46  (49738)

Didn't work with my 64bit vista either... but then I can't seem to get the java to update... so it may be a chicken and egg problem...

by Anonymous on 13. May 2010 - 4:13  (49692)

Too many opinions here and not enough facts so I set up some test shots.

I created a test set of images with different problems and then compared Unshake with Photoshop CS3 Smart Sharpen filer.

Moving subject: Unshake did a better job at fixing the blurred subject
Panned camera: Ditto
Shaken camera: Not much in it but arguably Unshake better
Out of focus: Not much in it but arguably Photoshop better

So Unshake is useful for particular types of blurred image but not much use for common old garden out of focus images. It's also a pain in the butt to use compared to Photoshop

But yes, it's earned a place in my toolkit.

Kevin Maloney

All my images were taken RAW but converted to PNG for processing.

Just my 2 cents worth.

by Anonymous on 13. May 2010 - 22:58  (49752)

My budget doesn't run to cameras that can take RAW photographs or being able to afford PhotoShop so I did a cheapskape version of your test.

I just went out to the front street and took a shot of a passing vehicle (cool BMW 7 series in red - never seen a red 7 series beamer before) on my 2 year old, 5 megapixle Fuji.

The BMw was blured in the photo but not too blured - everthing else was sharp.

I sharpened the photo using Picassa but the BMW still looked very blurred. More sharpening just made everything look weird.

I tried UnShake and the BMW looked less blurred than with Picasso. I played around with setting and improved things a bit more.

Sitting back and looking at both snaps UnShake was the clear winner but even it didn't remove all the beamer blur. Actuallt it looks godd with a bit of blur - makes it look fast.

Cheapskate Charlie

by Anonymous on 13. May 2010 - 4:06  (49691)

Great tip!
Thank you very much, Gizmo. ; )

by Anonymous on 13. May 2010 - 3:43  (49690)

I have to say - this program was the worst to use program I have ever seen. it's terrible. how do you even know if it's finished your image? If you're not sure if your image can be corrected - how do you even know if the program is working? You can't even get your whole picture in. Terrible...
the online help is almost useless as well.

Nice to see you're still around though Gizmo.

by Anonymous on 13. May 2010 - 4:50  (49695)

Hey Dude - the viewing window is deliberately small - it's for setting the deblur region. It's also resizable. As ever, R.T.F.M.

by Anonymous on 18. May 2010 - 1:39  (49861)

I did read the manual - it was terrible. and the deblur area I wanted to process was the whole photo.

I'm not bagging the guy who wrote it - he's done a seriously good job judging by the photos Gizmo put up. but the interface is just too bad to use, especially with no progress dialogue boxes. Nice idea, but need to try harder I'm afraid (and yes i know the program is free, but I'd pay for it if it had a good interface that made the program usable)

by bernardz on 13. May 2010 - 2:51  (49684)

Having tried it, I do not think it produces results that significantly improve the pictures enough to justify its use rather than existing filters

It is also not such a nice program to use

by Anonymous on 12. May 2010 - 23:39  (49675)

ouch, some of you are pretty harsh!

looks like a nice little program to do quick fixes, thanks Gizmo

by Anonymous on 12. May 2010 - 19:40  (49664)

It looks like the original photo was plurred in photoshop. Blur over the background (hi-fi, cd's, waitres) wasn't made by shake or long exposure of camera. It looks like some software blur.

by gizmo.richards on 12. May 2010 - 21:48  (49668)

Nope the shot was straight from camera. It was shot indoors without flash at an exposure of 15th of a second. Hence the shake.

There is also some movement blur. If you look closely the mother's face it's slightly more blurred than the child as I suspect she moved her head while the photo was being taken.


by Anonymous on 12. May 2010 - 17:02  (49659)

Didn't seem any better than two sharpens in Irfanview, and that's the fast and dirty way.

by gizmo.richards on 12. May 2010 - 21:53  (49669)

The results with deconvolution software are quite variable and depend very much on the nature of the blur. My experience to date has been the program works best with movement blur and worst with out of focus blur.

On the other hand sharpening programs work more consistently regardless of the cause of the blur.

With the full size original of the sample photograph I got much better results from Unshake that using any combination of sharpen filters in PhotoShop. With other photos the it may well be the other way around.

Whatever, good result with Unshake require experimentation with the program parameters. If you are not prepared to experiment it is unlikely you will get satisfactory results


by Anonymous on 13. May 2010 - 22:04  (49748)

The screen images are small files to work with, how about posting a link to the original image file so that better comparisons can be made?

by tony on 12. May 2010 - 14:47  (49653)

The work I have done so far produces too much noise. I thought this would be the case. Will still experiment on it just to see if I have gotten the right settings

by gizmo.richards on 12. May 2010 - 22:30  (49671)

Tony try using your digital image editor to blend the image sharpened with Unshake with the original image. That gives you complete creative control on the trade-off between sharpness and noise. You can also do selective blending of one area of the photo to achieve the most aesthetically pleasing result.

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