At arm’s length

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With the coming of the digital age in photography, a new paradigm has occurred in how one holds the camera. Not so much with Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras, which still owe much of their design, and thus usage, to their film counterparts, but with point and shoot cameras. When those cameras first went digital, they were designed and used much like their film predecessors. People still had to hold them up to their eyes to frame the picture. Then they evolved to having the rear monitor used as the main way to see “through” the camera. Many still featured a vestigial viewfinder, but as newer generations came along the viewfinder got smaller and smaller and digital displays got bigger and bigger until today many, if not all, point and shoots have no optical viewfinder at all. Cameras today are so small you can easily fit one (or more, in some cases) a your shirt pocket.

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Now the shooting posture is to hold the camera at about arm’s length to take a picture. The problem is the dreaded “camera shake.” Mostly a concern in low light-indoor situations (in bright sunlight the camera will automatically select a high shutter speed, canceling all but the most vigorous camera motion), sometimes the slightest tremor can cause a shaky, blurry photo. if you’re having trouble with camera shake, then using a bulky tripod would guarantee the elimination of camera shake, but it sort of defeats the convenience and spontaneity of a point and shoot.

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The popular stereotype of a race car driver’s driving position is one of being seated way back and arms outstretched. In reality the racers sit close to the steering wheel with arms bent. It affords the driver leverage and the movement needed to make quick corrections.

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In the same way it is more difficult to hold the camera still while holding it with your arms unfurled. With the old film point and shoots, one could steady the camera with three points of contact: both hands and the forehead, giving a sort of tripod effect. Holding the camera away from the body eliminates one of those points. But there are techniques that can help.

If you can set your elbows on a firm surface, perhaps a table, desk or, if you’re sitting, even your knees. That will lessen any unwanted movement in your arms. In lieu of that, try bending your arms a bit and tucking them into your body and leaning up against something that’s fixed, like a wall, tree or pole.

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The simple act of pressing the shutter button can cause camera shake in low light. Pushing the button with a slow even motion will help. Also, rather than only pressing down on the button, try gently pushing the camera up from the bottom at the same time with the same amount of force, sort of a pinching motion. It takes some practice, but the technique can significantly reduce shaking.

All theses methods can help reduce camera shake but won’t do anything for “motion blur” which is caused by your subject moving faster than what the shutter speed can stop. But at least you’ve done everything on your end to make the picture as sharp as possible.

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  • Blog Author

    Clifford Oto

    Clifford Oto, an award-winning photographer, has been with The Record since 1984. Through the changes from black and white to digital photography, he’s kept his focus on covering the events, people and life of San Joaquin county. This blog deals ... Read Full
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