Hold still, please

Using a good, sturdy tripod is the best way to ensure that your pictures are shake-free. However, not everyone likes to carry one around all the time. Depending on the model, they tend to be bulky, heavy and awkward to use. I’m one of those people. If I have a subject that I definitely know needs a tripod to shoot, then I’ll bring one along. If not, then it stays home. I don’t carry one with me just as a matter of course. A telephoto lens can magnify the camera’s shakiness. To counter this the general rule of thumb is to match your shutter speed to the focal length of the lens. For example for 200mm lens, your shutter speed should be set at a minimum of 1/200th of a second. If you have a wider lens, say a 50mm, you can go down to about 1/50th of a second with decent results. When you’re caught without a tripod there are a few things you can do to mitigate camera shake. It is possible to hold the camera still for shutters speeds that are 1-2 stops slower than the lens’ focal length by turning yourself into a tripod. Pull your arms in tight and cradle the camera and lens in your left hand while holding on to the grip on the right side with your right hand and set your feet about shoulders-width apart. Try to control your breathing and shoot in-between breaths. If your prone to shaking or unsteadiness, try leaning up against something stable line a tree, pole or wall. There are very low-light conditions or times when you want to used a very slow sputter speed where the aforementioned techniques wont work. But there are other things you can do. Set the camera down on a stable surface, a table, fence or even the ground, anything that won’t move. The push down on the top of the camera to guarantee that if won’t move even in the slightest. Hold it down while you’re pressing the button and don’t lift up until the exposure is done. It’s possible to do a several-second exposure this way. Theoretically you can even do an exposure that last minutes in this fashion but practically one’s hand, arm of other body part could start cramping up, or you could have the urge to sneeze or get an itch to scratch and then you’d be forced to abandon your long exposure shot. There’s one big disadvantage of this technique. Whereas you can move a tripod around for the best angle, using some a flat rock or bench or something limits where you can take your shot from. One might be in the best spot, then again, it might not be either. If you know your going to be taking long exposures beforehand, there’s nothing better than a tripod to hold your camera still and one should be your first choice. But if you need to shoot with a slow shutter and you’re without one, there are things you might be able to do in a pinch.

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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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