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How to Properly Hold an SLR and Point-and-Shoot Camera

written by: Ryan C.•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 2/2/2010

In this article, we outline ways to hold your digital camera in low light conditions and stabilize yourself for sharper photos.

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    One of the biggest problems plaguing photographers everywhere is trying to figure out how to stabilize themselves and their camera when taking pictures in low light. How many times have you found yourself in a situation where you either did not or could not have used a flash (or tripod) and wanted to get a sharp shot? We've all been there. It's impossible to hold a camera as still as a tripod, but there are ways to steady yourself and use technology to your advantage. Whether you have a point and shoot or a DSLR, you can use these techniques to improve your shots.

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    Camera Grip

    learn the correct camera grip The grip varies between cameras, but in general, the right hand should be gripped firmly around the right hand side of the camera with your index finger resting gently over the shutter release button. When you go to take a picture, press the shutter button lightly. There is no need to mash down hard on the button resulting in unnecessary movement. For an SLR, the left hand should be curled underneath the lens using your palm to cradle to base of the lens. This will give the camera balance and evenly distribute the weight. For a point and shoot, the left hand should be gripped around the left hand side of the camera with the index finger resting along the top edge and your thumb firmly supporting the bottom. Whatever camera you have, place your hand underneath the area where the weight is the greatest.

    Photo by Hryck.

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    Plant both feet firmly in the ground and spread them out about shoulder width apart with your feet pointing outwards (an open stable stance). Your arms should be tucked in as close to your body as they will go. If you are using a viewfinder (which I highly recommend), keep the camera close to your face while the picture is taken. If you can only use your LCD to frame your image, hold it close to your body so that your arms are still tucked in. By keeping your arms close to your body, you create more points of contact to stabilize your shot. If there is a wall, fence, or poll nearby, use this to your advantage. If possible, set the camera down and use your camera's self timer. If not, do the next best thing, lean on the object and find a steady, comfortable position to brace yourself and/or the camera.

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    To further minimize movement, stay relax and breathe. Take a deep breath in, exhale slowly, and then take your picture. Hunters use this trick all the time to steady their shots. Conversely, you could try a different method. Take a deep breath in, hold your breath, then take a picture, followed by exhaling. See which method works best for you.

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    Additional Tips to Steadying Your Shot

    Lastly, here are a few additional tips to steadying your shot.

    • Use a higher ISO, faster shutter speed, or larger aperture to bring more light into your digital camera's sensor quicker (resulting in a shorter exposure time).
    • Add more light to your environment (if possible).
    • Turn on image stabilization (IS,VR,SSS, etc). Most modern point and shoots, many lenses, and some SLR bodies have this capability. The y may go by different names, but they both help to counter movement during your exposure.