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How to Hold a Camera

Updated on August 27, 2010

Blur caused by camera shake is one of the commonest faults in negatives exposed with the camera held in the hand. This is understandable because most amateur snapshots are taken with shutter speeds of 1/25 and 1/50 second. Most people think that they can hold a camera steady for such short intervals. But actual tests show that shake is common at all shutter speeds up to 1/150 second. Even so, it is fairly easy to learn to hold a camera steady at 1/25 second.

Photo by Sanja Gjenero
Photo by Sanja Gjenero

Gripping the Camera

The exact way of getting hold of the camera body will depend on the type of the camera used, on its size relative to your hands, and on personal preference. The grip to aim at in every case is one which permits pressing of the release (and operation of other essential controls, e.g., rangefinder focusing knob where appropriate) without detracting from the support which the hands should give the camera. This is often a matter of trial and error; try different holds and see how comfortably you can release the shutter while still holding the camera still.

Cameras with eye-level finders are best pressed against cheek and forehead for steadiness, with the hands gripping each end of the body. With a folding model, the ringers of one hand may, if there is room, curl round one side of the baseboard, or else be tucked behind it. In either case, keep all fingers clear of the lens and rangefinder windows (if any). If the camera is in an ever-ready case, use the third and little fingers of one hand to keep the lid or flap of the case out of the way of the lens when necessary.

A camera strap can increase steadiness, too. For that purpose, shorten the strap until the camera lies well up on the chest with the strap hanging round the neck. Then bring the camera up to the eye, and hold it so that one or both hands are inside the loop of the strap. A certain amount of outward pressure will then tension the strap and keep the camera firmly pulled against the face.

The normal hold for a camera with waist-level finder (such as the old box cameras as well as reflex models) is to press it against the chest keeping both arms and elbows close to the body. If the camera or case has a neck strap, it is again useful to shorten this so as to bring the camera up as high as possible for comfortable viewing. Pulling against the strap will aid in holding the camera steady.

Finally, release the shutter smoothly. To do this you must practice until your finger can take up the first idle motion of the release quite quickly, and then squeeze steadily until the shutter trips. Do not try to release the shutter with one sharp movement or you will almost certainly jerk the camera. Aim at maintaining a uniform pressure throughout, without worrying about when the actual release will occur.

Camera Supports

When making a fairly lengthy exposure, look around for something to brace your body against or rest your elbows upon. By using a tree, the side of a building, a lamp post, the top of a car or a gate, you can greatly reduce the risk of camera shake from the start. It is even better if you can hold the camera itself against something solid like a tree or lamp post.

If you are forced to work without some such support, go down on one knee and brace your elbow against the other, like a marksman. If this is impossible, or if it results in an unsatisfactory viewpoint, then at least stand with your feet well apart and your heels flat on the ground.

Breathing

Some people find it easier to breathe put and then release the shutter, others breathe in and release the shutter while they hold their breath. Both of these methods lead to trouble if you have to wait before you make the exposure. The best way is simply to breathe naturally throughout the release.

Finally, waste no time over the operation. Do not prepare to release the shutter until you are quite ready to shoot, then proceed without hesitating. If you spend needless seconds at the ready you will stiffen up, start worrying about camera shake, and inevitably produce it.

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