August 20, 2010

Shoot It Like a Gun

One of the tricky bits about taking pictures is holding the camera still.  It can be a difficult thing to do and depending on how dark it is and the camera you're using - nearly impossible.

Let's face it - 99.99% of people taking pictures for their own enjoyment are NOT going to carry a tripod or even a monopod along with them.  It ain't gonna happen. Camera geeks can bemoan this fact or even be smug about it - but that doesn't change things nor does it help. 

So, how does one make the best of it when hand holding a camera?

Choose the right ISO speed the for the light available - the bigger the number the faster the shutter will click.  Higher numbers (anything over 400) are handy for evening and indoor shots.  Lower numbers (400 or below) for outdoor and bright shots - experiment!  This is like - how much light is on your target and how do you aim at it and hit it in the light you have to work with?

Anyone who shoots guns and hits the target with consistency should be able to take a very nice clear picture under most circumstances.  Even if you don't like guns or have never had the opportunity to learn - you've probably seen television shows or movies where someone is being taught how to shoot.

1 - hold the camera still and frame your subject
2 - take a deep breath and let it half way out 
3 - gently depress the shutter button

Depending upon the camera you use - timing may need to be varied.  But the steps above will get you decently sharp pictures almost every time.

Let's look at the cameras because here is where you have the most variation:

Point and shoot where you must hold the camera away from your face because there is no viewfinder - these are the hardest to work with.  It's really really hard to hold the camera out away from you, depress the shutter and NOT move one side of the camera down with the shutter button!  It can be done if you work at it - but it's not easy!  Unlike using a pistol - you don't have one hand underneath the other for support - it's on the opposite side of the camera trying to keep the picture straight. So very gently depressing the shutter button is the key here.

If the shutter speed is fast (on a bright day) it's not too hard to do because the shutter speed being fast will stop the blur.  If it's darker and you are taking a pic, you may want to use the timer feature.  Set it for 2 or 3 seconds.  When you push the shutter release button the camera can stop moving before it actually takes the picture - great for night shots.

Regular DSLR with a viewfinder - far far easier because you have the camera against your face to help hold it still.  The same timer trick can be used if you still tend to push the shutter button too hard and jerk the camera.  Most DSLR's tend to take better pictures at higher ISO settings too - just the nature of the beast, like the difference between rifles and pistols.

Depending on your camera - take into account the time it takes to "lock the focus".  That's how long it takes the camera to automatically focus and lock on the subject.  Some cameras are fast at this, others are abysmally slow.

Almost every autofocus camera has the feature allowing you to depress the shutter half way to lock the focus - some cameras  beep (I like the beep others don't).  So you may want to include this in step 1.  Depress the shutter until you lock the focus THEN do the deep breath in step 2.  This way you don't strangle from lack of air while waiting for the camera to focus. 

To hold my camera steady in low light, I have been known to sit on the ground and prop my elbows on my knees, kneel on one knee and prop one elbow, lean against a wall, wrap my camera neck strap tightly around my arms in various ways to provide extra tension, prop my elbows on a half wall... I'm sure there are more - be creative.   

There you go.  Taking photos is fun.  It's even more fun when the end result isn't blurred out. 

So shoot it like a gun. 

Posted by: Teresa in Photos at 01:40 PM | Comments (11) | Add Comment
Post contains 759 words, total size 4 kb.

1 I just mentioned that I have some difficulty with shaking the camera; I wasn't expecting a dissertation on it LOL. However, it's good info & great advice. Thank you!

Posted by: Rev. Paul at August 20, 2010 02:32 PM (0DZhf)

2 Always keep the thumb of your shutter finger hand supporting the bottom of the camera.  Don't hold it by the sides.  If you have to, dig your elbow into your side or your hip.  Bodies make the best tripods.  I can't imagine that digital cameras of the SLR type are more difficult to steady than a mechanical film SLR.  My old Hanimex has about thirty moving parts that flop all over the place when you trip the shutter.  I don't own a digital camera, other than an old pocket size point and shoot, but I can't think of anything that happens than the mirror flipping up out of the way in a digital SLR.
I assume there's no actual shutter?   

Posted by: gregor at August 20, 2010 03:37 PM (1jLiI)

3 Rev Paul - it's not just you... a few people have commented over time about camera shake and your comment just reminded me. LOL.

Gregor - DSLR's do have a mirror. Real pros will put the camera on a tripod and - if it's a shot in low light, will put the shutter on a timer then lift the mirror so it doesn't cause any shake.  Too much work for me since I am not into selling my work.  LOL.

Posted by: Teresa at August 20, 2010 03:54 PM (TeQXy)

4 My crummy little Panasonic Lumix was one of the first under-$300 boxes I saw with actual image stabilization, which is definitely handy if your role model is Mary-Anne with the shaky hand.

That said, I do own a tripod.  Sometimes I even remember to bring it.

Posted by: CGHill at August 20, 2010 05:48 PM (mZyUc)

5 Love the timer; use it often.  Never been good at holding the camera still, however I hold it... or lean or kneel or sit...

Posted by: Pam at August 20, 2010 08:26 PM (i3Kno)

6 And here I thought my phd (push here dummy) camera just had a built in blur.  Little did I know it was the "d" part that was contributing.

Posted by: MGA at August 21, 2010 07:42 AM (RZtDy)

7 Nah - MGA - most people don't realize that the lower the light (like out of direct bright sun) means the camera must be held stock still or they get blur.  On my phone it's really hard to take a good pic because of the placement of the button almost "making" the camera move when shooting.  Interestingly all the reviewers say it's a bad camera - which isn't really true at all. The camera works fine and takes clear pics... it's the movement when taking the picture that's bad.  heh. 

I see it happen so often on cell phones I've come to expect it. Next most often on point and shoot.  And some even have a hard time with DSLR.  I've also watched people take pics with these devices and I can tell nearly every time someone will get a shot full of motion blur.  Just watch - you can see it as they take the pic - that little movement.  

Posted by: Teresa at August 21, 2010 10:04 AM (TeQXy)

8 Love the how-to post, T.  I own a point & shoot, but I searched forever to find the one I wanted because I insisted on having a viewfinder, which was so difficult to find. Not only does it help in bright light where your viewscreen is impossible to see, but I also found it helpful when taking night photos -- though I didn't know why. Now I'd bet it is simply because it helps me hold the camera steady.

Posted by: Joey at August 22, 2010 12:54 PM (3c2YW)

9

I shoot my gun like I shoot my camera too.

 

Posted by: Laura at August 22, 2010 12:54 PM (G4roC)

10 "Higher numbers (anything over 400) are handy for evening and indoor shots. Lower numbers (400 or below) for outdoor and bright shots - experiment!" Thank you for this. Do you know how many camera geek types don't want to just ... say this in plain language? It's like they're actively resisting it, or something. (Followed you here from a comment you made on a post of Miz Booshay's on PW's blog. :-) )

Posted by: Rooo at September 30, 2010 07:34 PM (kmcFe)

11 Hi Rooo thanks for the nice words!  I keep trying because while I explain it here I'm also explaining it to myself. LOL. 

Posted by: Teresa at September 30, 2010 07:54 PM (TeQXy)

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