Jeff asks: I hate lugging my tripod around just to get steady shots for the quick stuff. I usually just lean against a wall with my video camera but was wondering if the professionals had more tricks up their sleeve.
Answer: Jeff you came to the right place. Here are 6 little known body positions that will take the place of your tripod (thanks to digital-photography-school.com) These tips apply to video and DSLR cameras and will keep your shot steady and maintain your professional composure without looking like a twisted limb contortionist: (yes we actually encountered a wedding videographer who stabilized his camera between his two knees while standing – believe it!)
1. Keep that shoulder close
I am definitely a right eyed photographer, but this tip that I learned from “The Moment It Clicks” by Joe McNally, requires that I shift for a moment to my left eye. What I’m doing here is raising my left shoulder, and bracing my left elbow into my rib-cage (no arrow for this one). For further stability, you can pull your right elbow in to your chest. As always, exhale completely before depressing the shutter to avoid introducing shake.
Sit the camera on something flat
Possibly the most obvious practice but often the easiest and most reliable approach is to simply sit your camera on a wall, chair, table or anything rigid. The only problem with this approach is that you are limited in how you can orientate your camera; placing it on a chair will mean you can only shoot straight ahead.
Hold Your Breath and pan
Breathing is necessary but sometimes it gets in the way of moving video – if you are trying to be the tripod then you must make yourself as steady as possible. Taking a deep breath and holding it will reduce your natural tendency to sway (very slightly, but enough to ruin a long exposure shot) as the air enters and leaves your lungs.
Avoid The Zoom
If you are using hand held camera techniques try to zoom out as much as you can. The more you are zoomed in the more the shakiness at the edge of the frame will be obvious and distracting to the viewer.
Bring It Into Your Body
If you do not have a strap you can do essentially the same thing by just resting it against your chest. Cup the camera with both hands and prop your elbows against your chest for stability. Try bending your knees just slightly to absorb any shock. If you are going to be doing this for quite a while try raising the camera up to shoulder level and rest your head on the eyepiece.
Lean against something
Often you can put your arms around a pole, if one is available, and lean one shoulder into it, giving you an anchor to steady yourself with. Kneeling is also a simple and effective way to reduce shake – by lowering your centre of gravity you are less prone to wobble.
Use the Machine Gun Hold
This next technique is sometimes referred to as the machine gun hold. I rarely use this technique as I find it awkward and difficult to maintain for more than a second or two. Just because it doesn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t for you. . . give it a try.
Don’t use the LCD screen, use the view finder instead
Although there are arguments for and against using the LCD screen on a camera, for long exposure shots I would say it is definitely a no no. When using the viewfinder you tend to hold your camera away from your body, as much as arms length perhaps. This will simply lead to increased blurring as holding outstretched arms still, even without a camera, is a difficult task. It is better to use the viewfinder and keep the camera in tight to your body – it is much easier to lock your arms steady against your chest.
Wrap the strap around your elbows
What this does is introduce tension in your camera’s strap so the strap is taut, constraining it from moving in at least one direction, relative to your own body. I’ll explain the setup as best I can (I’m assuming you’re right handed and are using a DSLR yes?):
* Hold your camera in front of you, letting the strap hang down.
* Put your right arm through the strap, past the elbow, and bring your hand back out around the outside of the left part of the strap.
* Hold the camera as normal and dig your elbow into the strap.
* Depending on the length of the strap you should be able to increase its tension by tilting your right arm accordingly.
Sit down and Create a Tripod With Your Knee
You can create your own tripod by resting your elbow on your knee while in a seated position. Again, bring that other elbow in for greater support.
Those are just some of the many possible ways to minimise shake that I use. Are there any more you can think of? Do you stabilize your camera in other ways?
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