One of the most common problems that new photographers have is blurry images. While there can be more than one element behind this, one of the most common causes is “camera shake”. If the camera is not held steady enough while the shutter is open, the image loses sharpness. This becomes even more of a problem when shooting in low light and indoors because the shutter is open for longer. Using a tripod is the best way to stabilize your camera, but isn’t always an option. The following techniques will help you get sharper results when holding your DSLR.
The main idea behind holding the camera more steadily is to support your arms and the camera by creating as many points of contact as possible.
There are a few general techniques that you can practice when shooting in any position. Your whole body moves while you breathe. You can take a deep breath, hold it, then take the shot and exhale. Another method is to exhale slowly then take the shot just before you start to inhale again. Everyone is different, so try them both and find out which one works best for you.
Instead of holding the camera in front of your face, press the back of the camera against your face. This will create another contact point between your body and the camera.
Shooting while standing
The best thing you can do while shooting standing is to tuck your elbows into your body. A common first approach is to have your elbows out to the side while holding the side of the lens. A better solution is to grab onto the lens from the bottom and tuck your elbows in, pressing them against your body. Gripping the lens from underneath provides more support, especially with longer heavier lenses. The contact between your elbows and your body also provides stability. Be sure to stand up straight with your feet spread apart.
Holding the camera vertically (portrait) while standing is the most difficult position to shoot. Your right arm has to raise with the camera to press the shutter, leaving your elbow in the air with no support. You can, however, still keep your left elbow placed firmly against your body.
If you find it difficult to shoot vertically, you might want to look into getting a battery grip for your camera. A battery grip puts a second hand grip and shutter button on the bottom of the camera for shooting vertically. This way you can keep both of your elbows planted against your body while shooting. They also have space for a second battery allowing you to shoot for longer without changing the batteries. Pro DSLRs like the Nikon D800 or Canon 1D have these grips built in, but you can purchase them separately for all DSLR cameras. Nikon and Canon battery battery grips usually cost around $200, while there are third-party models available for under $50.
Shooting while crouching or sitting
While getting down low to shoot, sitting is the most stable option. The most natural position is to sit with your legs crossed, but this leaves your elbows extended with nothing to push against for support. Instead, sit on the ground with your feet extended forward with your knees bent. Press your elbows against the side of your knees for support.
When the ground is wet or dirty, sitting might not always be an option. To maintain stability while crouched, try not to rest on the ball of your feet. Instead, keep your feet planted flat on the ground and tuck your elbows into the inside of your knees. If you find this uncomfortable, you can also plant your elbows onto the top of your legs, just don’t place your elbows onto your knees. Pressing your elbows against the top of your legs is always a better option than against the knees. The muscles in your legs provide cushion and stability that the knees don’t.
Practicing proper technique may feel a little awkward at first, but keep working on it and it will become second nature in no time. There are lots of other techniques that can help you take sharp images besides holding the camera properly. To learn more about how to take sharper photos read my post on Tips for sharper photos.