Any suggestions on keeping camera steady without a tripod?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by PaulaSims, Jun 29, 2004.

  1. PaulaSims

    PaulaSims Guest

    Hello all,
    When it comes to photography, I'm am below a rank amateur but keep
    practicing and am learning to use Photoshop quite well ;)!

    My problem is my inability to keep the camera steady. I have the Rebel
    300D and love the results but there is the "user operator" error that
    can't be solved by taking back the user!

    So any suggestions on how to keep steady when taking photos, especially
    in low light situations? I have ordered the EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM
    and a friend said he'd lend me his EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM so I
    hope that the IS might help.

    Thanks for your help

    Paula Sims
    PaulaSims, Jun 29, 2004
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  2. PaulaSims

    Alfred Molon Guest

    F3.5-5.6 is a very "dark" zoom lens. It may be cheaper than a brighter
    one, but it certainly doesn't help you in low light. See if you can find
    a zoom lens with an aperture larger than F3 at the tele end.
    Alfred Molon, Jun 29, 2004
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  3. Something of a specialty of mine.

    First, a tripod really is better than any of these. But sometimes
    impossible (not allowed) or too much trouble (hauling the tripod miles
    into the hills, say).

    Fast lenses help a lot. Yours are really slow; I don't own any lenses
    that slow except for a 500mm mirror lens. The IS makes up for that
    somewhat, but why give up the actual optical brightness? (Yeah, I
    know; money and weight). I use a 24mm f2, a 58mm f1.2, and a 135mm f2
    quite a lot for low-light work, and a 300 f2.8 if I need extreme

    Learning to stand firmly, brace the camera well, and squeeze the
    shutter release smoothly can make an amazing amount of difference.

    Learning to creatively lean against things adds a lot more stability.

    If there's a horizontal surface to rest your hands on at a useful
    height, while holding the camera, you can steady yourself a LOT.

    Taking many pictures and picking out the sharp ones to keep can help a
    lot, too (and in digital isn't nearly as expensive as on film).

    All of those techniques work without having to haul *anything* extra
    around with you.

    My favorite bit of kit for camera support is a "bean bag" (they're
    also sold as "pillow pods" -- a fairly small fabric sack, sewn closed,
    with pellets inside (in mine, plastic rather than actual beans; beans
    would absorb water if given the chance to do so). This can be used
    between the camera and a horizontal surface to provide a firm support
    while letting you aim the camera precisely. Using the self-timer or a
    remote release, I've taken multi-second exposures this way quite
    successfully. It can also be used against a *vertical* surface --
    I've taken 5-second exposures inside a cathedral, with the camera
    supported by being pushed sideways against the pillowpod against a
    stone column (that was with a wideangle lens). I've put the pillowpod
    on top of the camera bag to get a little additional height when

    A monopod helps a lot, and is lighter and less trouble than a tripod.

    One of the cleverest ideas I've seen is a chain or bit of string
    attached to a screw. The screw should be the right size for the
    tripod socket, and should be turnable with your hands, so it needs a
    wing head or something. Attach the chain to this, screw into your
    camera, drop the chain, step on it, pull *up* on the camera, and
    suddenly you've steadied it rather a lot.

    I have a miniature tripod that incorporates a 4-inch clamp. I can
    clamp this onto some kinds of supports, and it'll hold the camera
    steadily enough for night photography (5-10 second exposures mostly).
    David Dyer-Bennet, Jun 29, 2004
  4. PaulaSims

    Ed Guest

    One little trick I have learned is, if I'm using the lcd rather than the
    viewfinder, have a neck strap on the camera and hold the camera out in front
    of your face till the neck strap is pulled tight against the back of your
    neck. That helps me a lot with my kind of shakey hands.

    Good luck,
    Ed, Jun 29, 2004
  5. PaulaSims

    Bill Hilton Guest

    One thing not mentioned yet ... increase the ISO, one of the big advantages of
    digital. Better to have a shake-free image at ISO 1600 than a blur at 100 ...
    but then you'll need to learn Neat Image or similar noise reduction program :)
    Bill Hilton, Jun 29, 2004
  6. PaulaSims

    Phil Wheeler Guest

    Try a higher ISO. I use 400 most of the time. On interiors I get good
    results at ISO 800. That gives you higher shutter speeds. And you can
    get good results with the Digital Rebel.
    Good move. If I'm half careful I can shoot at 1/6 second with mine, my
    walkaround lens. A friend is on his third 28-135 IS, not because they
    are defective but because he has worn two of them out.

    Phil Wheeler, Jun 29, 2004
  7. PaulaSims

    Skip M Guest

    You've never used a lens with IS, have you? True, it won't help if you are
    photographing moving objects, but it gives you 2-3 useable stops if what
    you're shooting has the consideration to hold still...
    Skip M, Jun 29, 2004
  8. Use a monopod or lean against something solid. I've gotten
    some good results leaning against light poles or bracing
    myself against a fence or wall. If there are no structures
    to brace against, then the only other suggestion would be
    taking many exposures of static subjects whenever possible
    in the hopes of getting a least one sharp image from the
    bunch. I've never been able to assess the sharpness of a
    photo on the diminutive 1.8" LCD screen used on most
    digicams. Try digging your elbows into your sides tightly
    and slowly exhale while pressing the shutter button.
    Practice, practice, practice.

    BTW, after 2 cervical fusions I sometimes am unable to quell
    a tremor in my right hand, making picture taking very iffy.
    Most of the time it's not so bad that it interferes with
    picture taking.

    Good luck!

    Bay Area Dave, Jun 29, 2004
  9. PaulaSims

    wendeebee Guest

    I use a monopod, with a swivel ball head and a quick release head (I can pop
    it off the monopod with a flick of the lock rather than screwing it on and
    off). Here's a picture from the zoo last weekend, with a Canon 75-300mm IS
    lens; 400 ISO so you can see a bit of noise (and I have also compressed this
    picture for the web). I would normally sharpen this a bit, and play with the
    levels, but this pic is unretouched. Obviously, the ball head came into play
    as I had to swivel up to get Ms. Giraffe. I find when I have a long lens
    hanging off the camera, it gets heavy, and it's much easier to lug around
    when it's attached to the monopod, always with the camera strap loosely
    around my neck.
    wendeebee, Jun 29, 2004
  10. PaulaSims

    Ron Hunter Guest

    And if possible, avoid using the LCD this way. Just holding the camera
    firmly against the head adds about a 10 lb. mass and its inertia to the
    system, providing a LOT of steadiness.
    Ron Hunter, Jun 29, 2004
  11. I found it hard to add anything to your all inclusive list. However
    maybe I can expand on this one. You can try taping one of those laser pens
    to the camera. Then while holding it (or using any of the other tricks
    suggested) watch the image of the light on the subject area when the shutter
    is released. This gives accurate feedback as one practices and tries
    different methods to find which method works and how to train for minimal
    Joseph Meehan, Jun 29, 2004
  12. PaulaSims

    Kakadu Guest

    IN 1968 I was given a table of lens length/shutter speed values by a very
    well known sports photographer. He contended that a 125mm lens needed a
    minimum of 1/125th shutter speed to overcome mirror slap of a SLR camera. He
    also suggested I might stay above 1/250th to avoid the effects of my inept
    camera handling. This doesn't look too good for low light photography, does

    Today I can hand hold a Canon 10D at 1/30th without image stabilisation and
    get a good shot... 200 mm lens length! I might suggest anyone intent on hand
    held, low light photography with an SLR camera should avoid coffee or any
    other caffeine for 48 hours before the shoot. Unless of course you have no
    interest in perfection.

    Kakadu... Paradise through a lens.
    Northern Territory, Australia
    Kakadu, Jun 29, 2004
  13. PaulaSims

    Ron Hunter Guest

    A good idea for shooting pictures of inanimate objects, dangerous for
    living creatures.
    Ron Hunter, Jun 29, 2004
  14. It is best used with inanimate objects for practice. Once you have the
    technique down you don't need the pen and can use it on any object. You are
    right that it is a good idea to avoid using any of those lasers near living
    creatures. They may not be as dangerous as some would suggest, but there is
    still some danger so take care.
    Joseph Meehan, Jun 29, 2004
  15. PaulaSims

    Don Stauffer Guest

    Why do you reject the idea of a tripod? Modern tripods are compact,
    light, and compared to the past, relatively inexpensive now.
    Don Stauffer, Jun 29, 2004
  16. I reject a tripod because of the weight and inconvenience. Not quite the
    thing to take into a restaurant for dinner, nor will many museums,
    theatres etc. allow them.

    David J Taylor, Jun 29, 2004
  17. ANy reccomendations for a good cheap light one? It seems like something
    handy to have, but I'd like to be able to fit it in my day pack.
    Justin W. Holmes, Jun 29, 2004
  18. Probably not a good idea to use a red lazer pen when taking photos of
    important people, that red dot does tend to freak out the body guards,

    Actually I'll confess at this point, I have no idea if a real lazer
    guided site on a rifle or gun makes an obvious red dot, especially one
    as large as tends to be used for show in films... Perhaps its me, but
    suddenly having a red dot flying arround rather gives the game away
    that someone is aiming at you.

    Oh well, lol.
    Jonathan Wilson, Jun 29, 2004
  19. How does one wear out a lens?
    this old user, Jun 29, 2004
  20. Juggling will do them in pretty quickly.
    Brian C. Baird, Jun 29, 2004
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