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Tips & Tricks

5 Tips on How to Hold Your Camera

By fotosiamo on July 3rd 2012

This may be a topic that seems basic and easy to gloss over, but have you ever thought about to properly hold your camera? Sure, DSLRs have been designed to give you better and better ergonomics and grip, but when you start shooting with slow shutter speeds or telephoto lenses with no vibration compensation, having the right technique can be the difference between a photo that looks sharp and a photo that has shaky motion blurs.

Some of these technique may feel weird, but think of it like learning to play golf. It doesn’t always feel right, but the results will speak for themselves.

Tip 1. Tuck the Arms When Standing

INCORRECT: One of the most common mistakes in holding a camera is to have the elbows out to the side, which makes it easier for your arm to sway around. This also makes your left hand hold the lens from the side, which provide less support for the camera, especially when you have larger and longer lenses attached.

Holding the Camera Wrong

CORRECT: Tuck in your elbow to your body so that your arms are anchored to your torso’s center of gravity. This helps keep your arms from swaying and also allows you to move your left hand under the lens to give it more support. It does feel weird at first to hold it like this, but you will be able to shoot at much slower shutter speeds without noticing camera shake. As for your posture, be sure to stand up straight without leaning forward or backwards with your legs apart in a comfortable, but stable stance. All of this applies when you’re shooting in portrait mode.

Holding the Camera Standing Right

Tip 2. Brace Yourself Against a Stable Object

If you are using a really slow shutter and you are still getting some shakiness in the image, try to find a wall (or something else that is stable) to support and stabilize your upper body.

Holding the Camera Against the Wall

Tip 3. Brace Your Camera On Your Arm

If you cannot find a wall, this is another standing technique can give you that extra stability. What you do is bring your left arm around the right arm and hold on tight to your right shoulder. This restricts motion in your right hand. Next, by placing your camera on the upper part of your left arm, you now have a more stable base. Time your breathing as well by holding your breath while taking your shot.

Of course, the disadvantage of this technique is that you can’t zoom or focus with the lens, so be sure to set that up first or use your camera’s focus points.

Holding the Camera Extra Stable

Tip 4. Place Your Feet Flat-Footed

INCORRECT: If you have to crouch to get a low perspective, there is a big difference in stability between the two popular ways of crouching. The first one, where you are on the ball of your feet, is inherently unstable and will transfer motion to your camera.

Holding the Camera Squatting

CORRECT: Plant your feet so you are crouching flat footed, then tuck the elbows in either on or between your knees.

Holding the Camera Squatting

Tip 5. Sit With Your Elbows On Your Knees

INCORRECT: Sitting down is generally the better choice when you have to shoot from a low perspective. But even while sitting, there still methods we can use to improve stability. If you are just sitting with your legs out or legs crossed, your torso and your arms are essentially still free-standing with minimal support.

Holding the Camera Sitting Wrong

CORRECT: While sitting, place your feet on the ground with your knees propped up. Place each elbow on each side of the knee using your knees as a brace. If you think about it, you are essentially acting like a human tripod. When Post Production Pye does this move, I like to call him the Pye-Pod =)

Holding the Camera Sitting Right

That’s it folks! If you have any other tips in shooting with slow shutter speeds or long telephoto lenses without a handy tripod or monopod, post it in the comments below!

Info on these photos: Shot by Joe at 1pm in the afternoon under the shade with Panasonic GH2 at f/8 and 1/160 shutter speed with a variable ND filter at 2 stops under, and lit with an Einstein with gridded 22″ beauty dish.

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

Joe is a fashion and commercial photographer based in Los Angeles, CA. He blends creativity and edge with a strong style of lighting and emotion in his photographs.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa


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  2. Ed Rhodes

    thanks for the tips

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  3. How to be Creative with Slow Shutter Speed | SLR Lounge

    […] If you have to shoot handheld, however, the rule of thumb is that when you use a shutter speed number that is lower than your lens’ focal length number, you will start to introduce camera blur into the photo. An example of this would be if you were to shoot 1/30th second shutter speed while using an 85mm prime lens. One way to help minimize camera blur is to use your camera or lens’s image stabilization system. You want to also make sure that you are using the proper camera holding technique. We have an excellent article that can help you improve the way you hold your camera. […]

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  10. Diana Elizabeth

    this is awesome!!!

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  11. Andry R.

    Thanks for these very useful tips.

    For tip 4 I might suggest that one puts the right knee on the ground and use the left one as support by putting your left elbow on it. This is of course if the situation allows it.

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  12. Lorelai Mounro

    I could use those tricks ..thanx

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  13. Nienke Nijenhuis

    Nice article; but next time you might want to pay attention to what the model is wearing.. the super wide sleeves don’t exactly show how she’s holding her arms. It’s not hard to imagine, but that’s just what I’d have done..

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  14. Kevin Wilton

    If you choose the marksman technique, you breathe deeply and quickly for three breaths and then inhale a fourth time but on this occasion let out very slowly. The first three breaths oxygenate the tissues and prevent the muscles shaking and the slow letting out of the fourth breath helps prevent the heart’s beating from affecting the shot with a regular up and down thump-thump.

    The other one is, wherever you can, squeeze the butt cheeks together as well, as hard as you can. Try it, you become much more solid.

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  15. 5 Tips on How to Hold Your Camera tutorial | Shall we Focus on You?

    […] 5 Tips on How to Hold Your Camera tutorial. […]

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  16. Dave

    Good ideas but if you add the technique of turning your body sideways from the waist, you can brace your lens hand on your shoulder. This takes the weight off your arm muscles which can be helpful with heavy lenses.

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  17. Jess Oei

    great tips!! thanks!

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  18. lucia

    …just don’t use the last one if you are wearing a skirt/dress, though, ladies!

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  19. Anthony

    Good article, one think you might want to note though, which is a tip I transferred from my days in the Marines; holding your breath is actually a bad idea to stabilize yourself. Lack of oxygen can increase shakiness, instead you want to take a deep breath, slowly exhale, and press the button when you have fully exhaled, this is your bodies natural point of rest and it is when you are most stable. Food for thought.

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  20. Jake

    Thanks for the tips. Unfortunately I have hand trimmers that make it really difficult to take sharp photos without a tripod. I’ll give these tips a try and see if I can get better shots while hand holding my camera.

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    • Marc

      Me too, Jake. One thing I learned was similar to the first one, but sticking right against the ribcage. But, admittedly, some of these are tough when using a long lens. I shoot Olympus, and was having a tough time with a 50-200, trying to balance standing on a handrail, and getting in tight on my model’s eyes…

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  21. jean

    Great tips!!!

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  22. Bronwyn Arnold-Briggs

    Awesome ideas – what about holding the camera in “portrait” orientation? Should you turn the camera clock wise with the shutter button at the bottom (toward the ground) or anti-clock wise with the shutter button to the top (toward the sky) Is one better than the other? (doesn’t help when I’m a lefty!!)

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    • Daniel Sloan

      I’d go with the shutter button at the bottom, as it allows you to tuck your elbow against your torso for more stability.

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  23. Amanda

    Is this article suppose to say ‘how to properly hold your camera’?

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