Five Ways to Steady Your Camera Without a Tripod

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is a professional photographer. See his site at Mike Panic Photography.
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Tripods are wonderful tools in photography but are also one of the most inconvenient pieces to carry around with you.  Since it’s not always possible to carry a tripod with you here are five ways to steady your camera without one.

Raise the ISO.  Generally speaking, a tripod should be used when your shutter is slower than the focal length of your lens.  Since modern DSLR cameras have amazing high ISO performance, try raising the ISO to get a shutter speed closer to or exceeding your focal distance.

Hold your camera close.

Jerry holding pentax camera

Photo By dmcopernicus

Unlike the photo here, you want to hold your camera in close to your body with your elbows tucked in next to your sides.  Use the viewfinder of the camera, not the live view, so the camera is right in front of your face.  With your feet shoulder width apart, keep your body relaxed and when you breathe out, squeeze the shutter release button.

Get your lean on.

Mystery man #1

Photo By Ed Yourdon

Find something solid to lean against, a wall, light post, a friend, car, anything solid to help steady your balance.  Utilize the previously mentioned techniques to hold your camera close and breathe.

Lay down on the job.

laying down

Photo By massdistraction

If there is nothing to lean against, try laying down to get your photo.  use your elbows as a bi-pod to keep you steady and again, following your breathing.

Use a string.

This technique is amazingly simple and should cost more more than a dollar to make.  You’ll need to make a trip to the hardware store and buy a 1/4-20 bolt, about a half inch long, this will go into the tripod socket of your camera.  While you’re at the store, pick up a large washer, perhaps 2-3 inches in size and some string or twine.  Tie one end of the string to the bolt in your camera and then measure out enough string to hold the camera comfortably to your face and tie the other end to the washer, plus an additional 6-8 inches.  With the string dangling and the washer on the ground, step on the washer and pull the string taught while keeping your elbows in and watching your breathing.  A picture tutorial on how to do this can be found here.

Tripods are wonderful things, and have a time and place, however that time and place doesn’t always mean lugging one along with you all the time.  Four of these five tips are technique based, the last one is something small enough to fit in your pocket and take anywhere, and cheap enough to keep one in the car glove box, another in your camera bag and a few more stashed in other places around your home.

7 thoughts on “Five Ways to Steady Your Camera Without a Tripod

  1. Kat Landreth

    I’m a fan of the Joe McNally “Grip” as well, but I’m right-eyed so I can’t really use it.

    I would add a beanbag to this list. Even a folded up sweater or jacket can be useful. Set the camera down on something solid (the ground, a wide fence post..) and use the Beanbag (or folded clothing..) to keep it propped up.

  2. Mike

    I also enjoy the Joe McNally grip.

    In response to the bean bag/sweater tip, I keep a small rain poncho in my bag, and I find that makes a decent rest too. Just leave it in the pouch. ;)

    Great tips!

  3. JOHN MCNAMARA

    TENSION HOLD
    Push the camera away from you to apply tension on your neck strap and use the viewing screen . Allows a variety of fast positions and cuts perhaps one stop from my shots.

  4. Tim

    The first photo looks uncomfortable to hold a camera lol Here is how I hold mine.. also if you notice how I wrap the strap around my arm.. that keeps me from dropping it to the ground and breaking it.

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