Back to Basics: How to Hold Your Camera

Do you remember what it felt like the very first time you held a digital SLR? Perhaps a little bit clumsy, but an exhilarating feeling I’m sure – it felt right! I’ll preface by saying that there isn’t really a “right” way to hold your digital SLR, however, there are some techniques to ensure you are using your gear in the most optimal and efficient way.

For first-time users, and some of us who are entering our golden years, the problem of blurry images can often be attributed to “camera shake.” This can be even more prevalent in lower lighting conditions where longer shutter speeds are necessary. In some cases, the shutter speeds will be so slow that you may require the use of a tripod to eliminate any shake or blur in your image. However, even at slow shutters speed there are some hand-held camera techniques you can employ to avoid camera shake. Let’s go back to the basics with some quick and easy tips to minimize camera shake and make your photos sweet ‘n sharp!

Your Hands: Holding Your Camera

The optimal way to hold your camera is with your right hand gripping the right side of the camera body, with your index finger comfortably resting on the shutter button. Your left hand can support the weight of the camera by resting the bottom of the camera body against your left palm, with your fingers supporting the lens (and in position to operate the zoom or focus rings (if using manual focus). Try not to use your left hand to hold the left side of the camera body; the importance of your left hand is to provide weight support. Every camera body shape and weight is slightly different, so experiment and find the position which feels most comfortable.

Try not to squeeze the camera body or hold it too tightly. Tense hands are one of the largest contributors to camera shake and blurry photos!

Your Arms: Keep Them Close!

Many digital SLRs on the market now have the ability to shoot while viewing your composition on the LCD screen rather than through the viewfinder. While this is a popular way to compose images for photographers who are more used to their previous point-and-shoot cameras, shooting this way with a DSLR can contribute to blur in your photos. For the best stability, keep your elbows (comfortably) tucked in close to your body. This position helps with your body’s center of gravity and stance, which is our next tip.

Your Legs: How to Stand

I know what you’re thinking… “You’re not really going to try telling me there’s a certain way to stand now are you?” Well… although I’m sure you all have a great deal of “standing experience,” there is something you can be aware of in your stance to also help reduce any shake in your photos. When shooting in crowded areas or outdoors (especially on uneven ground), stand with your feet apart with your knees slightly bent to give you the most stability. Locking your knees straight can increase the chances of your body swaying ever so slightly, which can translate into blur quite easily in your images. By being conscious of just these little things, you’ll find you will be able to shoot handheld and minimize blur in your photos.

Breathing is Important!

Believe it or not, your camera will translate the movement of your body as you breathe, hence they way that you breathe can also be a contributing factor in your photos. Take in a deep breath and just as you finish your exhale, depress the shutter button. You will be shooting at a moment where your body has the least movement. Combine this with all of the above factors, and you’ll be impressed with just how slow you can shoot handheld.

Quick Tips: Program Timer and Shutter Speeds

Every camera is different in size, weight, and design, and sometimes the movement of pressing down on the shutter button is what results in camera shake. If you find this is the case, one thing you can do is to program your camera’s timer. This way, when you press the shutter you will have a few seconds before the shutter fires, and you will have eliminated the shake caused by pressing the shutter button. This technique can only work in the case where timing is not critical to your shot of course!

Some of us are more steady than others, and I am sure you all know yourselves well enough to know just how shaky your hands can tend to be at times. By using the techniques above, you will realistically be able to shoot in the neighbourhood of 1/60th of a second without significant movement causing blur in your shots. Some photographers with very shaky hands may find they need to use a minimum shutter speed of 1/125th, while other photographers with more steady hands can even go as slow as 1/2 of a second. Every one of us is different, and as you practice you will find the speeds at which you can most comfortably shoot at without causing blur from camera shake. Tip: You can also adjust your camera’s ISO higher and open the aperture as wide as possible to use faster shutter speeds.

Remember!

  1. Support your DLSR with two hands.
  2. Elbows in, knees slightly bent.
  3. Take a deep breath in, exhale, and shoot!

As a beginner or even a more experienced shooter, I hope there was a little something to take away from this brief technique. Happy shooting folks!

6 Responses

  1. Arne

    Sounds quite basic, but basics are most important.

    Although I knew those things they were quite a good reminder. Therefore I’m going to pay more attention on stance and breathing in future.

  2. I love these back to the basics articles. We always need a reminder because we tend to get a little lax. I’m amazed at how many “self-taughts” miss out on fundamental things, as well. I started a blog for those self-taughts called Shooting In Manual that helps photographers understand controlling the camera in full manual mode. You should check it out.

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