BetterPhoto Q&A
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Photography Question 
Levix M

Avoid Camera Shake Without a Tripod?

Are there any tips to taking good pics without a tripod? Thanks!

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1/17/2007 1:19:01 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/18/2000
  (a) Fast shutter speeds. The general rule of thumb (your results may vary) is to use a shutter speed at least as fast as 1/focal length. eg. 50mm lens = 1/60 shutter speed, 200mm lens = 1/200 or faster.
(b) Good technique: solid stance; left-hand cradle camera, left elbow in and against chest; lightly press the shutter button rather than a quick punch; control breathing, avoid caffeine; if necessary, try to brace yourself against a solid object like light pole, wall, fence post, etc.

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1/17/2007 1:26:40 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  Have a seat ... on the ground, if you must, and anchor your elbows firmly on your knees. Take a deep breath and squeeze it off.
If your camera has multi-frame capabilities (i.e., a motor driven film transport or digital equivalent), set your camera for multiple exposures and, again, SQUEEZE the shutter button. Whatever movement you are responsible for will register on the first and last exposures ... (when you pressed and released the shutter button).
That said, use your tripod whenever it is practical to do so or in critical scenarios.

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1/17/2007 2:11:48 PM

John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
Hi Levix,
Use a chain pod. The simplest and best piece of photo equipment you can build is the chain pod. It works like a monopod, weighs a couple of ounces and fits in your pocket. To build it, drill a small hole in 1/2 inch 1/4X20 (that is a thread size) thumbscrew. Attach about 6 feet of chain to the hole (more if you are really tall). Next put a nut onto the thumbscrew and position it so that the screw canít go too deep into you tripod socket and glue it in place. To use, attach the thumbscrew to the base of your camera. drop the chain and step on it. Now pull up against the chain. Steady!

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1/17/2007 3:40:37 PM

BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/28/2002

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1/17/2007 3:48:31 PM

Christopher A. Walrath
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/25/2006
  In cold weather, wait to stop shaking before pressing the shutter. Don't stab at the shutter button but gently press down the shutter button with the tip of your finger while applying pressure on the camera body with the rest of your hand. Take a couple of deep relaxing breaths and then exhale before shooting. And to be safe, when possible, increase Jon's formula by one exposure factor (ie. 50mm x2 = 100 or 1/125 s/s). I know, basic stuff, but easy to overlook when excited by a wonderful image through the viewfinder.

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1/17/2007 5:24:53 PM

Steve Parrott
  All the above is good advice, but there is one more thing which is of TREMENDOUS help. Use the 2 second timer release for the shutter. Brace your camera against your face / body or whatever, frame your photo, press the shutter, hold your breath, and the shutter will activate 2 seconds later. Just not having to press the shutter button can go a long way towards sharper photos.

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1/23/2007 7:53:29 AM

Dennis C. Hirning
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  One comment on John's chain pod, I use a 1/4x20 eye bolt and a carbiner to connect it to the chain. I haven't heard of any problem with this but I am always careful not to pull too hard on the chain. I figured that the tripod hole was designed for weight pushing down instead of force trying to pull it out of the camera.

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1/23/2007 8:38:00 AM

Barbara Sherman   John's chainpod works realy well. I just finished his 4 week course and built one of these for under $5. It is great in those situations you forget your tripod or don't have room to use it. I am also trying to "pan" with the chainpod and have mixed results so far.

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1/23/2007 8:58:12 AM

Shankar Bose   All the above is great advice. I use these techniques all the time. Just want to add one more point. Sometimes, when you have no tripod, no chain, no wall or tree, make your body the tripod: stand with your feet apart with the toes pointing 90 deg from each other - form the letter 'L'. Your body automatically becomes steady. Now hold the camera in your left palm with the thumb sticking up the side holding it steady. Elbows tucked into your body. Now gently SQUEEZE the shutter.

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1/24/2007 11:10:21 PM

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