Photography Concepts & Techniques: Techniques

Articles provide information about the various techniques used in Photography

How to hold a DSLR camera

After having bought your new Digital SLR camera, the first thing you should learn is how to hold the camera properly which will result in sharp, crisp photographs. When hand holding the camera, it is imperative that the camera is held steady. Learning to properly grip the camera makes you more comfortable and allows you to hold the camera steady and prevent tired and shaky hands.

This article will offer tips and techniques for hand holding your digital SLR camera that will prevent blurring of your photographs due to camera shake.

Camera Shake

Camera Shake Example
Figure 1: Camera Shake

Holding the camera incorrectly often results in a phenomenon called camera shake. Camera shake occurs while the shutter is open and movement occurs. If this movement happens then the resulting photograph will show blurry images. Some people actually blame this blurring effect on focusing issues when in fact it is actually caused by camera shake a majority of the time. So, we have establish that camara shake is bad. Let's proceed with the article and talk about how we might avoid this problem.

Minimum (acceptable) Shutter Speed when hand holding a DSLR camera

In photography, there is a general rule of thumb when it comes to the minimum shutter speed you need to have when hand holding a camera to prevent camera shake. Only with the use of a tripod can you ensure no movement of your DSLR camera. When hand holding however, you are limited by your ability to hold the camera as steady as possible. As a general rule of thumb to prevent camera shake when hand holding the camera, make sure that the shutter speed is greater than the focal length of your lens. The following example below shows you the concept:

Lens Focal Length Minimum Shutter Speed
50mm (Prime lens) 1/60 sec or faster
24mm (Wide Angle lens) 1/30 sec or faster
28-200mm (Zoom lens) 1/30 sec - 1/250 sec (depending focal length used)

So, as long as your shutter speed doesn't go below the focal length, you should be ok.

Holding a DSLR camera while standing

Use your left hand to hold the camera and your fingers grip around the lens softly. Your left arm will carry most of the weight of the camera and so make sure to keep it steady.

Horizontal or Landscape orientation

With your left hand holding the camera, keep your left elbow tucked in tightly against your body. This will support the weight of the camera and keep your hand and arm steady. Your right hand can be used to hold the camera softly on the side with your forefinger on the shutter release button.

Holding a DSLR Horizontally - Standing (Recommended)
Recommended
Holding a DSLR Horizontally - Standing (Bad)
NOT Recommended!

FOOT POSITION: Put your feet shoulder width apart with your left foot slightly forward to provide better stability like a tripod.

Vertical or Portrait orientation

Hold the camera with your left hand softly with your fingers around the lens. Keep your left elbow tucked in tightly against your body. Hold the bottom of your camera with your right hand softly and place your forefinger on the shutter release button. Tuck your right elbow in tightly against your body to keep it steady as well.

Holding a DSLR Vertically - Standing (Recommended)
Recommended
Holding a DSLR Vertically - Standing (Bad)
Not Recommended!

Holding a DSLR camera while sitting

The main idea here to keep your camera steady is to have your left arm (which bears the weight of the camera) rest comfortably on your left leg. This will keep your left arm steady and minimize movement.

Position #1 offers the most stable sitting position with the right knee resting on the ground. The left and right foot forms a "tripod" which makes this position very steady. Position #2 is a variation and is a stable position but not as steady as Position #1. Position #3 and #4 is another variable with your buttocks resting on the ground and together with both feet, also form a "tripod" which makes for a very steady position. Lastly, Position #5 is an example of a bad idea.

Holding a DSLR - Sitting (Recommended)
Position #1
Holding a DSLR - Sitting (Recommended)
Position #2
Holding a DSLR - Sitting (Recommended)
Position #3
Holding a DSLR - Sitting (Recommended)
Position #4
Holding a DSLR - Sitting (Recommended)
Position #5: Bad!

Holding a DSLR camera while lying down

When in a lying down position, use your elbows to steady yourself. Position the elbows approximately at shoulder width apart to maximize stability. Any more apart from that will lessen the stability of your position. Below are the recommended and the "Not recommended" examples.

Holding a DSLR - Sitting (Recommended)
Stable position
Holding a DSLR - Sitting (Recommended)
Not so stable position

Don't Lean!

As shown below, leaning forward or backward is not a good idea. What you need to do instead is simply take a step back or forward, that's it. Keep your body straight for optimal results.

Holding a DSLR - Leaning forward (Not Recommended)
Dont' Lean!
Holding a DSLR - Stand straight (Recommended)
Stand Straight
Holding a DSLR - Sitting (Recommended)
Don't Lean!

Lean on something instead!

If you are able to lean on something solid, I would advise you to do so as it will provide you with a much better support and stability compared to just standing by yourself without any kind of support. Below are some examples of this.

Holding a DSLR - Leaning on a Wall (Recommended)
Lean (side) on wall
Holding a DSLR - Leaning on a Wall (Recommended)
Lean on wall
Sitting Position
Holding a DSLR - Leaning on a Wall (Recommended)
Lean (back) on wall
Related Topic
  1. What is a DSLR Camera?