Shooting Hand Held


Throughout my writings on this blog, I have always stressed the importance of using a tripod. Don’t get me wrong, I still do believe in using one as often as you can. But, what if you don’t have it with you, or it’s not practical to use a tripod in the situation that you are in? In this post I’m going to give you some simple ways you can hand hold your camera, and still get the best results you can out of your images.

In very brightly lit situations, hand holding your camera is pretty straight forward. The amount of available light allows you to shoot with a fast enough shutter speed where camera shake shouldn’t be an issue. It’s in the low light situations where the problem arises. Our whole objective in photography is to get the sharpest, clearest images we possibly can. Typically, this means shooting at a very low ISO setting such as ISO 100. In low light situations, this can cause your shutter speed to be very long, sometimes several seconds. With a tripod, this is not an issue. Hand held, it’s impossible. This is the key to shooting hand held in low light. Crank up the ISO.

Most cameras on the market now produce very acceptable images at high ISO settings, that were unthinkable just a couple of years ago. Yes, digital noise (the grainy appearance in a image) does increase, but it is very manageable with noise reduction software such as that found in Adobe Lightroom™ or Adobe Camera Raw™. There are also numerous third party applications that deal with noise issues quite well. Take your pick. The sacrifice of adding a little graininess to your image is well worth it when you consider the alternative of taking a blurry image, or not taking it at all. I would suggest taking a series of test shots with your camera to see how high you can set your ISO, and still get an acceptable image. Every camera is different. The image at the top of this post was taken at ISO 1600, and post processed in Adobe Lightroom. I think the results are quite acceptable.

In addition to using a higher ISO setting, there are some other steps you should take to maximize your chances of getting a sharp image. If your camera has an Image Stabilizer, use it. Image stabilization technology has improved dramatically over the last several years, and produces outstanding results at shutter speeds much slower than we would have ever considered using before. Basically, when you engage the image stabilizer, the element inside the barrel of your lens floats to counter act any movements of the camera, and achieve a sharp image. It does a pretty amazing job. Again, the image at the top of this post was shot using image stabilization at 1/8 of a second. The results speak for themselves.

Finally, you just need to use some good ole’ common sense. Use whatever you have available to help stabilize yourself when you take the shot. Brace yourself against a tree or a pole. Lean over the hood of a car, and stabilize your arms on it. Set your camera on a sturdy surface. Whatever it takes. For this image, I set my camera on top of a block wall, placed my hand under the barrel of the lens and adjusted the angle of the camera where I wanted it, and used the self timer to take the shot. The results were a clean, sharp image taken without a tripod in very low light.

One last note. Whenever you set your camera to a very high ISO setting, make sure you set it back to where you normally have it when you are done. You don’t want to end up experiencing one of those “Captain Dumb Ass” moments the next morning when you take your entire sunrise shoot at ISO 1600! Trust me, I speak from experience. You won’t be pleased with yourself.

I hope this post helps you out the next time you find yourself in a situation where you can’t use your tripod. Feel free to leave a comment, or ask a question below. I will get back to you. If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for my email list, and to receive notifications when I add another post. The sign up box is on the right side of this page, near the top.

About Jason Keefe

Jason Keefe is a landscape and nature photographer residing in the mountains of northwest Arizona. His passion for photography is driven by an undying love for the great outdoors. Jason has twenty plus years experience in landscape photography, and has taught digital photography and Photoshop for his local community college. Starting in early 2014, Jason will be offering Photography Workshops focusing on teaching people how to maximize the potential of their digital cameras in the great outdoors.

JKeefePhoto – who has written posts on Jason Keefe Photography.

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