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Monday, July 20, 2009

Reducing camera shake

Good ol' Boys
© 2009 Simon Hucko

Today's post is about reducing camera shake to get sharper pictures. The easiest and best way to accomplish this is to use a sturdy tripod and head. However, you can't always carry a tripod with you (and it can be a real pain to lug around), and the good ones tend to be very pricey. Here's a few steps you can take to improve your hand-held photography:

- First and foremost, make sure that you are holding your camera correctly. Here's a short video on how to hold your camera from Chris Marquardt (Tips From the Top Floor). The key is to support your camera with both hands, and to keep your elbows in and as close to your body as possible. That will help you keep it stable while you shoot. This is especially hard when shooting vertically (portrait) - make sure you don't let your elbows go flying out everywhere when you turn the camera.

- Another very important step is to make sure your shutter speed is fast enough. Generally, you should avoid shooting slower than 1/(35mm effective focal length) - ie a 50mm lens on a crop sensor dslr is equivalent to a 75mm lens on a full frame camera, so you won't want to shoot slower than 1/80th or so. This can be pushed a little slower with good technique, but your rate of blurry shots will increase dramatically the slower you get. Open your aperture or increase your ISO if possible to get a faster shutter speed.

- If you're lucky enough to have some sort of image stabilization on your camera/lens (VR for you Nikonians, IS for the Canonites, sometimes OS for other brands), you can push the above rule by an extra 2-3 stops.

- Find additional support. Lean your body against a wall, rest your elbows on a table, or find some other way to add support from your environment. With solid holding technique, this added stabilization can buy you a stop or so of shutter speed.

- Make a "string tripod" (tutorial here). Not as good as the real thing, but it's lightweight and very portable - you could easily keep one in your camera bag.

- Pan your camera (only works for a moving subject). Today's photo (above) was taken with a 1/10s shutter speed. Normally that would result in a blurry mess, but since I was panning with the car my constant body motion helped prevent some jerking or shaking.

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  1. In addition to your great tips, I like to put my finger down on the shutter button and just let it fly for the 4 shots I can usually get in before caching, just to try to get a better chance at a stable shot when I'm trying to shoot in a less than desirable lighting situation. Doesn't work all the time, and isn't a very elegant solution to the problem, but sometimes the "throwing spaghetti at a wall" solution works.

  2. @Matt - good point! Shooting a few shots off in burst mode is another good idea, usually one is sharper than the others. Works best with stationary subjects

  3. If you are shooting blind over-the-head crowd shots, (assuming you are right-handed) hold the neck strap as taut as possible in the left hand, as you raise the camera up and release the shutter with your right hand. The tight strap helps to reduce camera shake when there's nothing else to support the camera at that altitude.