Improving your Hand-Holding Technique

480sparky

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One of the basic skills that is required in the art of photography is the ability to hold a camera steady without the use of a tripod or monopod. I realize that a good, solid tripod should be a part of everyone's gear line-up, but sometimes using it may just not be possible. Perhaps where you intend to shoot does not allow them. Perhaps weight is an issue, such as a 2-week backpacking trek through the back country. Maybe you had a Senior Moment and you just plain forgot to bring the QR plate. Or sometimes there just isn't time to set a tripod up.

That's the purpose of this thread.... to discuss the various methods utilized to hold the camera steady and get a sharp image.

The 1/Focal Length Rule

This is a rule encountered early in many a shooter's life. Insert the focal length of the lens used (expressed in millimeters [mm]) under the 1, and that's the minimum shutter speed you should use. For instance, if your lens is 200mm, a good minimum shutter speed to use would be 1/200th sec.

I don't care for the word 'rule' in most cases, especially when it comes to photography. This isn't set in stone. I prefer to call it a 'recommendation'. There's no law that says when you're using a 200mm lens, you cannot shoot at 1/150th of a second as a shutter speed. In this case, the 1/FL is simply a guideline. A basic starting-off point for beginners to use.

Of course, some people will be able to use slower shutter speeds. Others, due to age, medical conditions or whatnot, may need to use higher shutter speeds. That's why this 'rule' should be considered more a 'recommendation' instead. Shooting that 200mm lens at 1/150 sec. isn't going to get one arrested by the Shutter Speed Police. More to the point, the better you get at hand-holding a camera set to lower shutter speeds, the more confidence you will gain. And the benefit will be a better keeper rate.

The reason this 'rule' works is due to the fact that possible camera movement is related to the focal length used. Telephoto lenses not only magnify the subject, they also magnify any camera movement. Ever look at a telescope used by astronomers? Ever see one that's not on a tripod, or some other sort of sturdy mount? That's due to the extreme magnification telescopes offer. Couple this magnification effect with the size and weight associated with long lenses, and you'll see the benefit of learning better hand-holding technique.

At the other end of the scale, wide-angle lenses tend to minimize the same camera movement instead of magnifying it. So while you would use 1/500 sec when using a 500mm lens, you can usually get away with using 1/20 sec with a 20mm.

Turn off the Image Stabilization

Yep, that's right. Turn off that VR. Or IS, or OS, or VC... whatever your camera brand calls it. Image stabilization mechanisms are great tools, but they're not intended to be a set-and-forget tool. They're only useful in certain situations. In others, they afford no help at all.

VR%20off.jpg


And in some situations, they can actually work against you. So having it turned on may actually cause a blurry image where had it been off the image would be pin-sharp. Take some time to check around on the internet for information about your specific camera to learn when you should be turning the VR on.

Get that ISO up

Many beginners get told, "Use the 'base ISO' when shooting. You'll get sharper images with less noise doing that." 'Base ISO' is the native ISO the camera sensor is manufactured for. Other ISOs will tend to increase noise, and the further you get away from this base ISO, the worse the noise becomes.

ISO.jpg


However, this can cripple many into thinking that shooting at higher ISOs should be avoided at all costs. So one shoots at the base ISO, only to end up with lots of blurry images simply due to the shutter speed not being fast enough.

So would you rather have noisy but sharp images, or image that has no noise but they're all blurry? Me, I'll take the first choice. Cameras are getting better with dealing with noise at higher ISOs, and today's software is MUCH better at handling it in post.

True, some cameras are total garbage at, say, ISO 6400, while others shine. So how far up the ISO scale you're willing to go depends not only on your gear, but the level of noise you're willing to accept. The point is, don't be afraid to get that ISO up there if the situation warrants it.

Breathing

One of the two things us bipedal humans have working against us in holding a camera still is we are cursed with a repository system. This means our chest walls move in and out as we suck in air, then expel it. Fortunately, this is something we can control, even if only temporarily.

The first thing to remember is to be conscious of your breathing. Imagine climbing a steep trail to be awarded with a stunning view spread out in front of you. You're panting and wheezing like a dog chasing a stick, so you must remember to suppress that urge to raise the camera to your eye. Take a moment. Let your respirations drop down to a much lower and controllable rate.

Once that's done, you can take it a step further and borrow from the handbook for firearms shooters. Since it's possible to stop breathing for a moment by 'holding your breath', you can use this to your advantage. Take a deep breath, let it halfway out, then take the shot. This technique will remove most of your respiration movements from the equation.

Heart rate

As with your respiration, you can, to a limited degree, control your heart rate. Of course, there's no way to just stop your heart from beating like you hold your breath, but you can let your heart rate drop down to a more manageable rate. As in the example above, climbing the steep trail, your heart is pounding from the work-out. Again, be conscious of your heart rate and let it return to 'normal' instead of taking the shot while your heart is pounding furiously.

Of course, these last two techniques won't help if you're forced to be physically active while your shooting, such as running up and down the sidelines of a football game to keep up with the action. But simply being aware that your breathing and heart rate can induce camera movement that in some cases can be controlled, you'll be able to 'get the shot' that you might otherwise toss in the recycle bin if you hadn't been thinking.

Don't jam the shutter button

This is a common problem with newbies. They hold their finger well above the shutter release, then jam the shutter button down in one swift motion when they want to take the photo. This is a very easily corrected problem, and again we'll take a page from the handbook of firearm shooters: "Slowly squeeze the trigger."

Finger.gif


Let your finger rest on the button, but don't apply pressure until you're ready. Most cameras today have two functions to the shutter release: a 'half-press' will initiate the auto-focus and metering systems, and a 'full-press' will trigger the shutter.

Get in the habit, whenever possible, to gently press the shutter button halfway down. Let the camera confirm autofocus, then slowly press the rest of the way down to trip the shutter.

Not all situations will benefit from this technique as some will require a rapid-fire shooting system. But if you have the time, this trick will be invaluable and help increase your keeper rate.

Spread the feet

The human body wasn't designed to really hold something in an awkward position, such as a camera. But we can use our own bodies to our advantage. Most people will take a photo with their feet together, turning themselves into a semi-rigid monopod. And while a monopod proper is a useful tool, one made of flesh and muscles isn't exactly sturdy.

So instead of being a monopod, we have the ability to become a bipod (after all, we are bipedal creatures, aren't we?). So spread your feet apart! No, not to where you're uncomfortable (like you see in the cop shows; "Spread your feet! More! More!"). But 24" is more than enough to help stabilize your upper body.

feet.jpg


Lean against something solid

This is a technique I use religiously. Anything solid will work. I've leaned against walls, door frames, car bumpers, rocks, trees, fence posts, desks, park benches, parking meters,.... you name it, my knees, the backs of my hand holding the camera, my elbows and even my back have been pressed against it.

It doesn't matter what it is.... if it's solid and steady, you can take advantage of it. And the higher up on your body it is solid, the better. But even pressing your knees against the bumper of a car is a help. If you have something solid to lean your back, shoulders or chest against, that's a tremendous advantage! Of course, the solid object may not be in the ideal place you need to get the shot you want, and you may have to adjust your interpretation of the scene, but that might be a small price to pay to get the sharpest capture.

Lean.jpg.jpg


Sure, you might look like a dork trying to "reproduce with a parking meter", but who cares? If it means the difference between a bunch of shots being trashed and getting that one shot that's a keeper, hey... that's the name of the game!

Hold the camera against something solid

If pressing your body against something solid helps, take it a step further and hold the camera itself against the solid object. Innumerable times I've held my camera up against the same objects listed above and obtained sharp photos. The real trick here is to remember to look around for possible usable objects that are solid.

hold%20against.jpg


Use self-timer

Imagine this scenario: You're in the state capitol building (or other public building) and there's an absolutely gorgeous dome straight above you. What do most people do when they want to take a photo of this dome? They lean back and hold their camera above their tilted back head.

self%20timer.jpg


If there's tons of light, that's fine. But many old buildings with these beautiful domes aren't exactly well-lit, and we need to use long shutter speeds to get a good shot. Of course, such slow shutter speeds also mean there's a chance we'll end up a blurry picture.

Enter the lowly self-timer. How can it help you in this situation? Easy! You're standing on a floor, aren't you? And how much will that floor be moving? Not much, I'm sure. So engage the self-timer and simply set your camera on the floor facing straight up and walk away or crouch down so you're not in the frame. Let the camera fire the shutter.

And you thought self-timers were only for getting into your own picture!

Continuous High

Does your camera have a Continuous High mode? That might be all you need in some cases. Instead of repeatedly pressing the shutter button, which may cause you to move the camera every time you push down, using CH mode removes your finger movement from the equation. Fire off 4 or 5 shots, and you'll find one in there that's sharp.

Get down low

Who says every shot must be taken at eye level? It's not illegal to get down on your knees, or sit down altogether. It's also fine to lay on your stomach, side or even back! Laying on your stomach allows you to make your forearms into a great bipod. Again, you may look strange, but we are consummate photographers who don't' care what others think.

Get%20low.jpg


Another trick I use is to kneel down on my right knee, resting my left elbow on my on my right knee. I cradle my camera in my left hand and use my right to trip the shutter. This makes my left foot/left leg/left arm/left hand a rudimentary monopod.

monopod.jpg


Getting down low is a wonderful method to gain a bit more ability to steady your camera.

Why?

OK, so your lenses have VR/IS/OS/VC. Why on earth do you need to learn to hold your camera steadier? Simple... image stabilization, while a great tool, isn't a cure-all for every situation. Eventually, you'll come across a scene that the IS just isn't up to taking care of.

And not all lenses have image stabilization. Especially older glass. And don't discount older lenses simply because they're not filled chock-full of the latest gee-whiz technology. There's plenty of glass out there that don't have auto-focus motors, image stabilization mechanisms or top-end coatings that can still provide you with fantastic images if they're used by someone using the right techniques.

In fact, as of the time of my writing this, only 5 of the 26 lenses I own have image stabilization. And only one of those five has it turned on by default. The other four I leave turned off unless I find I need it.

And proper hand-holding is one of those techniques that every photographer should strive to improve on.

PRACTICE!

So get out there and practice! No, you don't need to go out to a certain location and make a concerted effort to get a particular image in order to practice. You can try any of the techniques right in your own home at any time.

Got 5 minutes before the Big Game starts? A few minutes at the end of your lunch break at work? Grab your camera, set it to a lower ISO and a small aperture and practice shooting at 1/15 of a second. Just take some shots of your living room or office. You're not shooting for the cover of National Geographic here, folks. You're taking some quick JPEGs so you can pixel-peep the results on the computer.

Once you get 1/15 down, set the shutter to 1/8 and practice that. Use the various methods above, and keep working at it until you 'master' 1/8. Then it's on to 1/4! Of course, everyone will have their limit, and it will vary from person to person. But the further down the shutter speed scale you become proficient at, the better your images will be overall.

The idea here is to train your brain to first stop and think about using any of the many methods available to you (and at NO COST!) that can increase your chances of getting that sharp image. Once you train yourself, you'll find it becomes second nature.

Once a technique become automatic, you'll find your keeper rate starts to climb.

And that's the goal! Wouldn't it be nice to be able to use your dream 800mm lens to shoot wildlife with?.... at 1/60-sec?...... while sitting in a canoe?........... with a stiff breeze blowing across the lake? OK, I'll admit, not many people can actually do that, but I'll bet those who can are keenly aware of all the steadying techniques out there.

So those are some of the techniques I use. I don't claim to know them all, so if anyone has any others they'd like to share, be sure to chime in!



Go forth and actuate!
 
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Good stuff, sparky! The one I am the most guilty of forgetting is my IS/VR setting. I constantly forget to turn it OFF when I'm shooting handheld--and I shoot handheld a LOT.
Most of the rest I do as the situation allows.
Well, except for that kneeling on one knee thing--if my knees make that kind of contact with the ground, I will scream like a girl from the pain (of course, fortunately, I'm a girl, so that helps), and buckle over from the pain.
My alternate is to get down on my sit-upon, pull my legs up in front of me, and use my knees as a prop that way to help keep the camera steady.
 
A wonderful post!!! I rate this post a total winner!

One tip I can add is that when hand-holding speeds are marginal, it can really pay off to shoot sequences, using the continuous firing setting on your camera; first, if the pressing of the shutter release causes some camera movement, there's a possibility that frame #2 or #3, made while the finger is still depressing the shutter release, will be a bit sharper than the first frame, so shoot MORE than just single frames, shoot in Continuous advance and shoot short bursts when the speeds are marginal. If you are a shutter release jabber, this tip will likely help overcome that bad release form you suffer from.

Second tip, blurring is a somewhat random event...it's not one hundred percent predictable, nor is it consistent. You can experiment and see how that works by shooting 5-shot or 7-shot or even 10-shot sequences when working at very marginal hand-holdable shutter speeds. Shooting longer sequences, five to ten frames, works quite well with VR or IS systems, as well as with non-stabilized systems. Out of two, five shot strings, there might be seven utterly useless frames, two passable frames, and ONE, single really crisp frame. We're not shooting film these days at 50 cents per click...so if the shooting settings are marginal, it can pay off to acknowledge that fact, and shoot enough frames to get one or two that will be good enough to use.
 
When taking pictures and when I have the option, I shoot with both arms tucked up tight against my body, essentially making my body one unit without the arms out there waving around with me hands at the end.
 
I think this should be Nominated Post for like forever. Excellent post,well thought out and picture illustrations make this a winner.
 
A wonderful post!!! I rate this post a total winner!

One tip I can add is that when hand-holding speeds are marginal, it can really pay off to shoot sequences, using the continuous firing setting on your camera; first, if the pressing of the shutter release causes some camera movement, there's a possibility that frame #2 or #3, made while the finger is still depressing the shutter release, will be a bit sharper than the first frame, so shoot MORE than just single frames, shoot in Continuous advance and shoot short bursts when the speeds are marginal. If you are a shutter release jabber, this tip will likely help overcome that bad release form you suffer from.

This also helps because the mirror doesn't clang up after the first shot in burst mode, so subsequent shots don't have mirror induced vibration. (Or at least I think the mirror doesn't clang up and down, but now as I think about it, I'm doubting myself there)
 
one related to Derrel's suggestion for shooting in burst mode is also, if the subject allows it, use a short timed delay on your shutter release. Basically set it for as short as your camera will allow. This separates your camera firing from you pressing the shutter button completely. You kind of mention this when you talk about putting your camera on the floor, but people forget that the self timer can also be useful even if you're still holding your camera in your hand. anything you can do to put time between physical manipulation of the camera (pressing the shutter button, mirror moving out of the way) will increase stability and image sharpness.

Another tip to use, when possible, is the mirror up setting. You'd be shocked how much camera vibration is induced by the fact that the mirror bangs around inside the camera when you actuate the shutter, because to see through the viewfinder the mirror has to be down, but for the image to hit the sensor, the mirror has to get out of the way.

also, tips 2 & 3 here can help A LOT
 
The same techniques used for shooting a fire arm, you use for a steady camera shot. Another tip for shooting hand-held is to rely on your skeletal structure more than your muscular. Your bones don't twitch or get tired of holding up a camera the way your muscles do. Try and position yourself in ways that you are using as few muscles as possible to support your camera.
 
Another tip I discovered years ago, regarding Nikon's Active and Normal VR types. Normal VR is for normal situations, and Active VR is for use on moving platforms, like when shooting from tour buses, helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, cars, aboard boats or ferry boats, things like that. But something I was told, and later proved to myself is that at EXTREMELY slow speeds, like the 1/8 to 1/3 second range using the 80-400 VR Nikkor lens, is that shooting hand-held the human body is so shaky at that speed range, with such slow speeds, that the "wrong" setting, the Active VR option, actually performs better than the Normal VR setting. If I shot braced, like against a door frame or wall, or car roof, etc, using the 80-400 VR lens on Active VR, I could get some very good shots at ridiculously slow speeds.

And as to VR or IS ruining shots at faster shutter speeds: YES, it can happen! I ruined hundreds of frames one summer by using VR all the time!!!
 
when it comes to VR/IS though, check the manual. Canon, for instance, recommends using their IS II on their L glass at all times you aren't on a tripod, as they claim that it doesn't run into problems with losing sharpness, and it will help the camera focus faster. And when I was shooting the 70-200 IS II f/2.8 L, this did seem to hold. Focus was much more consistently accurate with IS turned on, even though I was usually shooting in the 1/320-1/600 range for sports.
 
One of the basic skills that is required in the art of photography is the ability to hold a camera steady without the use of a tripod or monopod. I realize that a good, solid tripod should be a part of everyone's gear line-up, but sometimes using it may just not be possible. Perhaps where you intend to shoot does not allow them. Perhaps weight is an issue, such as a 2-week backpacking trek through the back country. Maybe you had a Senior Moment and you just plain forgot to bring the QR plate. Or sometimes there just isn't time to set a tripod up.

That's the purpose of this thread.... to discuss the various methods utilized to hold the camera steady and get a sharp image.

The 1/Focal Length Rule

This is a rule encountered early in many a shooter's life. Insert the focal length of the lens used (expressed in millimeters [mm]) under the 1, and that's the minimum shutter speed you should use. For instance, if your lens is 200mm, a good minimum shutter speed to use would be 1/200th sec.

I don't care for the word 'rule' in most cases, especially when it comes to photography. This isn't set in stone. I prefer to call it a 'recommendation'. There's no law that says when you're using a 200mm lens, you cannot shoot at 1/150th of a second as a shutter speed. In this case, the 1/FL is simply a guideline. A basic starting-off point for beginners to use.

Of course, some people will be able to use slower shutter speeds. Others, due to age, medical conditions or whatnot, may need to use higher shutter speeds. That's why this 'rule' should be considered more a 'recommendation' instead. Shooting that 200mm lens at 1/150 sec. isn't going to get one arrested by the Shutter Speed Police. More to the point, the better you get at hand-holding a camera set to lower shutter speeds, the more confidence you will gain. And the benefit will be a better keeper rate.

The reason this 'rule' works is due to the fact that possible camera movement is related to the focal length used. Telephoto lenses not only magnify the subject, they also magnify any camera movement. Ever look at a telescope used by astronomers? Ever see one that's not on a tripod, or some other sort of sturdy mount? That's due to the extreme magnification telescopes offer. Couple this magnification effect with the size and weight associated with long lenses, and you'll see the benefit of learning better hand-holding technique.

At the other end of the scale, wide-angle lenses tend to minimize the same camera movement instead of magnifying it. So while you would use 1/500 sec when using a 500mm lens, you can usually get away with using 1/20 sec with a 20mm.

Turn off the Image Stabilization

Yep, that's right. Turn off that VR. Or IS, or OS, or VC... whatever your camera brand calls it. Image stabilization mechanisms are great tools, but they're not intended to be a set-and-forget tool. They're only useful in certain situations. In others, they afford no help at all.

VR%20off.jpg


And in some situations, they can actually work against you. So having it turned on may actually cause a blurry image where had it been off the image would be pin-sharp. Take some time to check around on the internet for information about your specific camera to learn when you should be turning the VR on.

Get that ISO up

Many beginners get told, "Use the 'base ISO' when shooting. You'll get sharper images with less noise doing that." 'Base ISO' is the native ISO the camera sensor is manufactured for. Other ISOs will tend to increase noise, and the further you get away from this base ISO, the worse the noise becomes.

ISO.jpg


However, this can cripple many into thinking that shooting at higher ISOs should be avoided at all costs. So one shoots at the base ISO, only to end up with lots of blurry images simply due to the shutter speed not being fast enough.

So would you rather have noisy but sharp images, or image that has no noise but they're all blurry? Me, I'll take the first choice. Cameras are getting better with dealing with noise at higher ISOs, and today's software is MUCH better at handling it in post.

True, some cameras are total garbage at, say, ISO 6400, while others shine. So how far up the ISO scale you're willing to go depends not only on your gear, but the level of noise you're willing to accept. The point is, don't be afraid to get that ISO up there if the situation warrants it.

Breathing

One of the two things us bipedal humans have working against us in holding a camera still is we are cursed with a repository system. This means our chest walls move in and out as we suck in air, then expel it. Fortunately, this is something we can control, even if only temporarily.

The first thing to remember is to be conscious of your breathing. Imagine climbing a steep trail to be awarded with a stunning view spread out in front of you. You're panting and wheezing like a dog chasing a stick, so you must remember to suppress that urge to raise the camera to your eye. Take a moment. Let your respirations drop down to a much lower and controllable rate.

Once that's done, you can take it a step further and borrow from the handbook for firearms shooters. Since it's possible to stop breathing for a moment by 'holding your breath', you can use this to your advantage. Take a deep breath, let it halfway out, then take the shot. This technique will remove most of your respiration movements from the equation.

Heart rate

As with your respiration, you can, to a limited degree, control your heart rate. Of course, there's no way to just stop your heart from beating like you hold your breath, but you can let your heart rate drop down to a more manageable rate. As in the example above, climbing the steep trail, your heart is pounding from the work-out. Again, be conscious of your heart rate and let it return to 'normal' instead of taking the shot while your heart is pounding furiously.

Of course, these last two techniques won't help if you're forced to be physically active while your shooting, such as running up and down the sidelines of a football game to keep up with the action. But simply being aware that your breathing and heart rate can induce camera movement that in some cases can be controlled, you'll be able to 'get the shot' that you might otherwise toss in the recycle bin if you hadn't been thinking.

Don't jam the shutter button

This is a common problem with newbies. They hold their finger well above the shutter release, then jam the shutter button down in one swift motion when they want to take the photo. This is a very easily corrected problem, and again we'll take a page from the handbook of firearm shooters: "Slowly squeeze the trigger."

Finger.gif


Let your finger rest on the button, but don't apply pressure until you're ready. Most cameras today have two functions to the shutter release: a 'half-press' will initiate the auto-focus and metering systems, and a 'full-press' will trigger the shutter.

Get in the habit, whenever possible, to gently press the shutter button halfway down. Let the camera confirm autofocus, then slowly press the rest of the way down to trip the shutter.

Not all situations will benefit from this technique as some will require a rapid-fire shooting system. But if you have the time, this trick will be invaluable and help increase your keeper rate.

Spread the feet

The human body wasn't designed to really hold something in an awkward position, such as a camera. But we can use our own bodies to our advantage. Most people will take a photo with their feet together, turning themselves into a semi-rigid monopod. And while a monopod proper is a useful tool, one made of flesh and muscles isn't exactly sturdy.

So instead of being a monopod, we have the ability to become a bipod (after all, we are bipedal creatures, aren't we?). So spread your feet apart! No, not to where you're uncomfortable (like you see in the cop shows; "Spread your feet! More! More!"). But 24" is more than enough to help stabilize your upper body.

feet.jpg


Lean against something solid

This is a technique I use religiously. Anything solid will work. I've leaned against walls, door frames, car bumpers, rocks, trees, fence posts, desks, park benches, parking meters,.... you name it, my knees, the backs of my hand holding the camera, my elbows and even my back have been pressed against it.

It doesn't matter what it is.... if it's solid and steady, you can take advantage of it. And the higher up on your body it is solid, the better. But even pressing your knees against the bumper of a car is a help. If you have something solid to lean your back, shoulders or chest against, that's a tremendous advantage! Of course, the solid object may not be in the ideal place you need to get the shot you want, and you may have to adjust your interpretation of the scene, but that might be a small price to pay to get the sharpest capture.

Lean.jpg.jpg


Sure, you might look like a dork trying to "reproduce with a parking meter", but who cares? If it means the difference between a bunch of shots being trashed and getting that one shot that's a keeper, hey... that's the name of the game!

Hold the camera against something solid

If pressing your body against something solid helps, take it a step further and hold the camera itself against the solid object. Innumerable times I've held my camera up against the same objects listed above and obtained sharp photos. The real trick here is to remember to look around for possible usable objects that are solid.

hold%20against.jpg


Use self-timer

Imagine this scenario: You're in the state capitol building (or other public building) and there's an absolutely gorgeous dome straight above you. What do most people do when they want to take a photo of this dome? They lean back and hold their camera above their tilted back head.

self%20timer.jpg


If there's tons of light, that's fine. But many old buildings with these beautiful domes aren't exactly well-lit, and we need to use long shutter speeds to get a good shot. Of course, such slow shutter speeds also mean there's a chance we'll end up a blurry picture.

Enter the lowly self-timer. How can it help you in this situation? Easy! You're standing on a floor, aren't you? And how much will that floor be moving? Not much, I'm sure. So engage the self-timer and simply set your camera on the floor facing straight up and walk away or crouch down so you're not in the frame. Let the camera fire the shutter.

And you thought self-timers were only for getting into your own picture!

Continuous High

Does your camera have a Continuous High mode? That might be all you need in some cases. Instead of repeatedly pressing the shutter button, which may cause you to move the camera every time you push down, using CH mode removes your finger movement from the equation. Fire off 4 or 5 shots, and you'll find one in there that's sharp.

Get down low

Who says every shot must be taken at eye level? It's not illegal to get down on your knees, or sit down altogether. It's also fine to lay on your stomach, side or even back! Laying on your stomach allows you to make your forearms into a great bipod. Again, you may look strange, but we are consummate photographers who don't' care what others think.

Get%20low.jpg


Another trick I use is to kneel down on my right knee, resting my left elbow on my on my right knee. I cradle my camera in my left hand and use my right to trip the shutter. This makes my left foot/left leg/left arm/left hand a rudimentary monopod.

monopod.jpg


Getting down low is a wonderful method to gain a bit more ability to steady your camera.

Why?

OK, so your lenses have VR/IS/OS/VC. Why on earth do you need to learn to hold your camera steadier? Simple... image stabilization, while a great tool, isn't a cure-all for every situation. Eventually, you'll come across a scene that the IS just isn't up to taking care of.

And not all lenses have image stabilization. Especially older glass. And don't discount older lenses simply because they're not filled chock-full of the latest gee-whiz technology. There's plenty of glass out there that don't have auto-focus motors, image stabilization mechanisms or top-end coatings that can still provide you with fantastic images if they're used by someone using the right techniques.

In fact, as of the time of my writing this, only 5 of the 26 lenses I own have image stabilization. And only one of those five has it turned on by default. The other four I leave turned off unless I find I need it.

And proper hand-holding is one of those techniques that every photographer should strive to improve on.

PRACTICE!

So get out there and practice! No, you don't need to go out to a certain location and make a concerted effort to get a particular image in order to practice. You can try any of the techniques right in your own home at any time.

Got 5 minutes before the Big Game starts? A few minutes at the end of your lunch break at work? Grab your camera, set it to a lower ISO and a small aperture and practice shooting at 1/15 of a second. Just take some shots of your living room or office. You're not shooting for the cover of National Geographic here, folks. You're taking some quick JPEGs so you can pixel-peep the results on the computer.

Once you get 1/15 down, set the shutter to 1/8 and practice that. Use the various methods above, and keep working at it until you 'master' 1/8. Then it's on to 1/4! Of course, everyone will have their limit, and it will vary from person to person. But the further down the shutter speed scale you become proficient at, the better your images will be overall.

The idea here is to train your brain to first stop and think about using any of the many methods available to you (and at NO COST!) that can increase your chances of getting that sharp image. Once you train yourself, you'll find it becomes second nature.

Once a technique become automatic, you'll find your keeper rate starts to climb.

And that's the goal! Wouldn't it be nice to be able to use your dream 800mm lens to shoot wildlife with?.... at 1/60-sec?...... while sitting in a canoe?........... with a stiff breeze blowing across the lake? OK, I'll admit, not many people can actually do that, but I'll bet those who can are keenly aware of all the steadying techniques out there.

So those are some of the techniques I use. I don't claim to know them all, so if anyone has any others they'd like to share, be sure to chime in!



Go forth and actuate!
 
The other way to hand hold a camera is to rest it on your elbow. If you are a right handed shooter, then you would position your left hand on your right shoulder. Now you have a triangle with your left arm. Place your camera on your left elbow and execute the shot after you exhale which aids in the balance. I've shot at speeds as slow at 1/5 sec.
 

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