The Definitive Guide to Stabilising Your Camera for Crisper Shots


Camera shake is a problem that almost every photographer is going to experience. Sometimes there's just nothing you can do, but in most cases there are a few tricks you can use to get a little bit of extra stability. Here are some things you might like to think about, next time you get jolted out of a perfectly focused shot.

Holding the Camera Correctly – This really should be your first port of call when you're getting photographs that are blurred due to movement (assuming you don't want that blur). One of our early articles on how to hold a camera correctly has been consistently popular, somewhat controversial and is worth a re-read every now and then.

Tripod – No big secret with this one, but the thing to remember is not to be cheap when getting one. You really only ever need to buy one tripod, so make sure it's a good one. You can also read our Twitter follower's advice on how to buy a tripod.

Photographer, Camera and Tripod: Shadow Self Portrait, Spirit Withinphoto © 2010 Dominic Alves | more info (via: Wylio)

Monopod – You can use a monopod with a surprisingly long shutter speed if everything is steady and it beats carting around a huge tripod in many situations. If you're a hiker, then you can also use it as a walking stick and it makes a convenient club when the situation really goes south (jokes). Manfrotto makes an excellent one that simply pulls out to extend and locks without needing you to tighten each extension manually.

String, Washer and Bolt– This is a fantastic little device that you can make at home that doesn't take up any room and weighs next to nothing, but will keep your camera surprisingly stable. You stand on the washer on the end of the string which is attached to your camera and pull it taught. You can read exactly what I am talking about here.

Gorilla Pod – Basically a tripod with bendable legs that lets you wrap them around stable objects and secure your camera in whatever position you think is suitable. Get a larger one, because the smaller models tend to sag under the weight of heavy lenses and bodies. Not everyone likes them, but if you have the space and money, then they can come in handy in many situations.

Joby Gorillapod SLRphoto © 2008 Rob Nunn | more info (via: Wylio)

Put it Down and Use the Timer – Every DSLR and most point and click cameras have a timer function. This let's you put the camera down and step away before the frame is shot. It's the poor man's tripod and if you can find a suitable place to put your camera, then it works just as well as a tripod.

Lean Against Something – Bracing yourself against a tree or fence or any stable object and holding the camera properly will let you open the shutter that little bit longer. It differs from person to person as to how long that might be so do a few tests first to see if it reduces your movement enough.

Brace – Simple getting yourself into a better and more stable position will help. This might mean sitting down and leaning on your knees like the photo below. It might mean pulling your elbows into your sides more tightly. It varies from situation to situation.

Taking careful Aim, Bracing - Female Photographer Dawn Beattie 29 April 2010photo © 2010 Mike Baird | more info (via: Wylio)

Shoot With Mirror Lock On – This is a slightly more advanced technique that is most suited to long exposure landscape shooters who are looking for absolute clarity in their shots. It only works with cameras that have the mirror lock function, but you can read about the technique here.

Setup Out of the Wind – Shooting landscapes in the golden hour or blue hour can be very frustrating if it's a windy day. Even with a tripod, your camera can get moved around and even slight movements can ruin a shot. If possible, simply set up out of the wind. The same rule applies for setting up near heavy machinery or highways that are likely to move the camera – try to find somewhere else.

Try Image Stabilized Lenses – Many lens companies have developed technology to vary the optical path to the sensor according to movement. With Canon, it's their range of IS (image Stabilization) lenses. With Nikon it's called VR (vibration reduction). Most other major lens companies have a range of image stabilized lenses (but rather inconveniently, they all call it something different).

Try Sensor Shift Cameras – Several camera manufacturers have built bodies that allow the sensor to move to counter the movement of the camera body. Konica Minolta makes the “Steadyshot” line of cameras. Olympus makes some too as do Pentax and Fujifilm.

Match Shutter Speed to Focal Length – The rule of thumb is that shutter speed should be set to 1/Focal Length. That means that if you are shooting at 500mm then your shutter speed should be 1/500 or higher. You can read more about shutter speed here.

Some of these tips should be fairly obvious. Others you might need to practice a little first, but getting a stable camera when you want it is a skill that will save you a lot of heartache.

About Author

Rob is the founder of Light Stalking. His love for photography started as a child with a Kodak Instamatic and pushed him into building this fantastic place all these years later, and you can get to know him better here.
Rob's Gear
Camera: Nikon D810
Lenses: Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8

Note that the “1/Focal Length” rule must be adapted if one shoots with a crop (e.g., APS-C) camera. With Canon cameras that means that 500mm should not be shot slower than 1/(1.6*500) = 1/800 and with Nikon/Pentax the shutter speed shouldn’t be slower than 1/(1.5*500)= 1/750.

“Try Sensor Shift Cameras – Several camera manufacturers have built bodies that allow the sensor to move to counter the movement of the camera body. Konica Minolta makes the “Steadyshot” line of cameras.” Konica Minolta was purchased several years ago by Sony who produces an impressive line of ‘Steadyshot’ cameras.

There is no need to have both a tripod and a monopod – I extend my tripod and secure the legs at the bottom with a heavy rubber band effectively turning it into a monopod.

Great tips. That blur has been my biggest issue. I try to buy good, but relatively inexpensive cameras due to lack of money so that might also be an issue. However, I will be using these tips when I do a shoot. Thank you for sharing.

i like the new Lytro camera as it lets you focus it AFTER you’ve taken the shot. of the things you mention above, the gorrillla grips are my favorite for stabalizing a shot

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