There’s nothing more upsetting than aiming for a shot and spoiling it due to shaking the camera — especially if you only have one chance.
If there’s nothing in a photo that is sharp, then everything is out of focus and this is enough proof that the image may have suffered the effects of camera shake.
You may say, “Hold the camera steady!” — the logical answer to the problem. But there are cases when this just doesn’t ‘cut it’ as in a case where you are using a very slow shutter speed. The (technical) truth is that we can never truly hold a camera with perfect steadiness. Even the most stable of us will introduce some measure of camera shake at low shutter speeds.
The good news is that there are several ways to keep your camera steady at the time of taking a shot so you can produce those sharper images you crave.
Hold Camera and Lens Properly
One of the first preventative measures against camera shake is to hold your D-SLR properly. Gripping your D-SLR with right hand while using your left hand to cradle the lens. If you have a battery pack, you may even have a steadier and more comfortable grip. But your hands are not all there is to holding a camera steady, but rather your entire body and even breathing patterns.
So if you are standing, see to have you legs spread a decent distance apart and tuck your elbows in. Other innovative ways of supporting your body is to brace yourself against a wall, column or other structure.
Use a Fast Enough Shutter Speed
Use an appropriate shutter speed along with holding the camera steady. The rule of thumb is to use the basic ratio of:
[note color="#baffca"] Focal length of ‘x’ (mm) = Shutter speed of ‘1/x’ (sec)[/note]
So for example if you’re using a lens at focal length 200mm, then your slowest shutter speed should be 200th of a second i.e. 1/200 sec.
From left to right: 1/200 f3.2, 1/80 f5.0, 1/30 f9.0
This is a general rule of thumb which is accepted by a number of photographers, but this is not to say that you can’t take handheld shots with lower shutter speeds or that the shots taken with ‘the right’ speed will allways be sharp. However, it would be wise to keep your eye on the rule of thumb unless you have some sort of support system.
The images above were shot with EF 70-200 f2.8 attached to Canon EOS 5D at the focal length of 200mm (no IS was used and no sharpening applied)
Use Continuous Burst Mode
You can avoid camera shake messing up your photos by using continuous burst mode and taking multiple photographs of a scene within a second or so. Some photos may come out to be blurry due to your arms moving — especially the first image. You may be able to salvage some good shots using this technique if you are using a risky shutter speed.
Use a Tripod, Monopod or Other Stable Platform
There are at times where you absolutely need a supporting system such as a tripod or monopod. For example, night photography involves the shutter being open for a long enough time that no handheld trick can be good enough for getting a sharper images. Besides, it’s impractical to try to hold a camera still for half a minute let alone for minutes, therefore a tripod will come in as the ideal support system. Monopods add a good measure of stability, though not as much as a tripod unless you have a self-standing monopod.
You can also improvise and use a desk or even a sandbag for a supporting platform. Avoid placing your camera directly on the ground though, or else it will suffer some nasty scratch marks.
Self-Timer and Remote Trigger
Even though your camera may be on a steady supporting platform or surface, you can still introduce camera shake via pressing the shutter release button. In this case, you can either use the self-timer or use a remote trigger — this should do the trick!
Lenses with ‘Anti-Shake’ Technology
Some lenses are built with the technology to compensate for camera shake which allows you to take reasonably sharp photos even when using shutter speeds below a particular recommended value. Image stabilization (IS) and vibration reduction (VR) — terms used to describe this technology are available on a number of lenses. Some select lenses may have two control buttons for counteracting camera shake — one for vertical vibration and the other for horizontal vibration. Only use IS or VR when necessary — i.e. if you are taking handheld shots with low shutter speeds. Otherwise, the technology may introduce unneeded vibrations that may cause the very thing that you are trying to avoid — a blurred picture.
These methods discussed are basic and necessary to prevent camera shake. The primary support system for a camera is not a tripod but is the photographer. Some photographers may hold their breath while taking a photograph to avoid any sense of movement of their body. Some practice the techniques of sharpshooters as this involves aiming and keeping steady while taking the shot. Utilize the techniques that suit your purposes, and your flexibility in taking photos will increase.