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Stay Sharp: Eliminate Camera Shake

beginners technique tips Jan 31, 2024

One of the most common errors in photography is a blurred image caused by camera shake.

Not to be confused with motion blur caused by a moving subject, camera shake affects the entire image and it happens when the camera is moved, even just slightly, during the exposure resulting in a loss of sharpness. This can happen when you press the shutter button directly on the camera, as the movement of your finger can cause the camera to shake. The problem is made worse if a long focal length lens (telephoto) is being used, or if the shutter speed is relatively slow.


Fear not, there are several techniques we can use to eradicate camera shake from our photos.

Here are some effective strategies to mitigate this issue and achieve crisp, clear images every time:


Using a Tripod

A tripod is the obvious, and one of the most effective, methods of eliminating any camera movement during exposure. It provides a stable platform for your camera, especially crucial in low-light conditions or when using slow shutter speeds. When choosing a tripod, consider its weight, stability, and the weight of your camera. A sturdy tripod will ensure minimal movement, even in windy conditions. (Check out our blog on why you might need a tripod for more info on how to choose one that’s right for you).


Remote Shutter Release and Self-Timer

A remote shutter release allows you to take a photo without physically touching the camera, eliminating shake caused by pressing the shutter button. Alternatively, using your camera's self-timer can achieve a similar effect. These methods are particularly useful for long exposure shots, night photography, or macro photography where even the slightest movement can disrupt the image - even when using a tripod.


Proper Hand-Holding Technique

When a tripod isn't available, it's crucial to know how to hold your camera correctly. With your legs slightly apart, tuck your elbows in close to your body and use your left hand to support the lens as you press the shutter button gently. This technique reduces the chances of introducing shake.


Optimal Shutter Speed

Follow the reciprocal rule for shutter speed to minimise shake if you’re not using a tripod and are hand holding the camera. The rule suggests using a shutter speed faster than the reciprocal of your focal length. For example, if you're shooting with a 100mm lens, use a shutter speed of at least 1/100th of a second.


Image Stabilisation

Most modern cameras and lenses come with built-in image stabilisation (IS) technology (sometimes called Vibration Reduction or VR). This feature compensates for minor hand movements, making it possible to shoot at slower shutter speeds or lower ISO settings without introducing blur. Check your IS settings and make sure you have this feature turned on.


Lens Choice

The choice of lens can also impact camera shake. Longer, heavier lenses are more susceptible to movement. Using a shorter, lighter lens can reduce the potential for shake, especially when shooting handheld.


Higher ISO Settings

Increasing the ISO setting allows you to use a faster shutter speed, thereby reducing the likelihood of shake. However, be mindful of the increased noise at higher ISO levels.


Breathing Technique

Your breathing can influence camera stability. Practice taking your shot at the end of a slow exhale, when your body is naturally more steady.


Brace Against a Solid Surface

When a tripod isn’t an option, brace your camera or arms against a solid surface like a wall, railing, or tree. This can provide a makeshift stabiliser in a pinch.


Practice and Muscle Memory

Regularly practicing these techniques will develop muscle memory, making it second nature to stabilise your camera during shooting.


Understanding Your Camera’s Limitations

Knowing the limits of your camera's performance in various shooting conditions can help you make informed decisions about stabilisation techniques. Practice shooting at various shutter speeds and with different focal lengths until you have a good feel for what you and your camera are capable of.


Reducing camera shake is key to producing sharp and professional-looking images. By combining the right equipment with proper technique, photographers can significantly improve the clarity and quality of their photos. Remember, every situation may require a different approach, so it’s important to experiment and find what works best for your shooting style and conditions. With practice and patience, mastering these techniques will ensure that you don’t have shots ruined by avoidable camera shake blur.


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