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How-to's

On Handholding Technique

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on August 27, 2010


Keywords: fundamentals, camera, basics, guides, tips, tricks

DEVELOPING A PROPER HANDHOLDING TECHNIQUE

 

You may have wondered how come some of your images look "soft" or blurred. Although at times it is an overestimation of the depth of field, quite often it is simply due to improper handholding technique. Your shuter speed is slower that you can hold steady. So you need to work on that. A little DSLR is used for the illustrations.
.

Click for image enlargement
"Winged" handholding with lens cap on and hanging strap

 

An old rule of thumb -developed from practice for 35mm film photography, before VR technology- says that one can shoot, safely, with shutter speeds around the reciprocal of the focal length of the lens mounted; for 50mm, 1/50 sec; 105mm at 1/125 sec; etc. For digital photography the crop factor has to be taken into account.

 

But unfortunately the statement is not complete, you can do it if with appropriate handholding technique. Such technique aims to provide for a more stable hold when neither a tripod or a monopod is at hand.  Reported disappointments in the forums made me remember how and when I learned: by watching my father and uncles shooting their Nikon F cameras, when I was just a teenager, barely emerging out of puberty.

 

 

Enlarged view
Click for enlargement
Click for enlargement

Arms up in the air do not provide a steady hold. Unused camera strap
defies Murphy's Law; use it around your neck.

Arms tucked in. 
Finger on shutter button
gently squeezes, as
against jerking it.

Shooting in vertical format is no excuse for not tucking the arms in for more steady handholding.

 


As the old rule emerged in the days of the prime (single focal length) lenses, it gets tougher with zooms; but once you learn it, it can also be applied to these lenses.
.

 

Enlarged view
Click for enlargement
Click for enlargement

The right arm will induce rotational motion. Closed left eye could make you loose a moving subject.

Turning the camera around allows for both arms to be tucked in. Gently squeeze the shutter, don't jerk it.

With bigger lenses, tucking in the arms becomes even more critical. Left hand always cradles the lens.

     

 

°
Don't hold the camera from its sides. One hand cradles the lens, the other rests on the camera with a finger ready to half depress or trigger the shutter button. Don't jerk it!
°
Plant your feet apart for a steady stand, one in front.
°
If you can lean against a wall or a tree, do it; make a tripod out of your own body.
°
If you can brace yourself to a post, a fence or a tree, do it.
°
If you can slow breath, do it. (Inhale, exhale; inhale, exhale halfway, hold, shoot - this is a well proven rifle sniper technique)
°
If you have to lower yourself, rest on the ground as steady as you can, otherwise the whole tucking-in contortion is useless.
°
Get a rubber eyecup for the viewfinder. Helps to avoid stray light coming into the pentaprism; comfortable for eyeglass wearers and avoids eyeglasses scratching; but more important, by pressing it against your eye you provide one extra point of contact, therefore additional support.
-

 

At right, a wildlife shot of a Bengal tiger image made with a Nikkormat FS camera, 135mm Steinheil Tele-Quinar f/2.8 lens, on Kodachrome 64 film. f/16, shutter speed 1/60, under "controlled conditions" (at the Fairmont Park Zoo in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania).

With just a little frequent good practice you will be able to even beat the old rule of thumb with this technique, but the trick is to make it a habit; better yet: a conditioned reflex.

... Click for enlargement

 

(7 Votes)
J. Ramon Palacios J. Ramon Palacios (jrp)

San Pedro Garza García, Mexico
Admin, 34631 posts

2 comments

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on May 13, 2014

Talal, when shooting macro without a tripod -not a recommended practice- it is best to shoot a high speed burst, one in the series will always be better than the rest. Using flash as a primary or main light source also helps to freeze the subject.

Talal Yafi (Oldy) on May 7, 2014

Hi to all and everybody, Nobody speaaaaks in this chapter about the VR lenses used for micro/macro. Lots of my shuts come ready to be ejected taken with my new Nikkor 105mm VR. Maybe VR does not match micro at 1/1 or even less as I read somewhere. Any help please, appreciate any constructive help and assistence.

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