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Do You Need a Shoulder Rig for Your DSLR Video?

By Anthony Thurston on September 11th 2013

Shoulder Rigs are one of those pieces of equipment that are very polarizing in a specific field, there are people that swear up and down that they are great and then there are people that prefer other things instead. I sort of fall in the middle, and I wanted to talk a little bit about it.

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Pro Shoulder Rig Arguments

There are several reasons that you WOULD want a shoulder rig for your DSLR video. The first of which is perception, which I talked about in another recent video related post I did. People assume you are taking stills when they see a DSLR, as such they treat you like you are taking stills. If you have your camera in this shoulder rig is it very obvious that video is your purpose and not stills.

Other arguments include added stability when shooting things like b-roll or run and gun shooting where you need to be quick and mobile. In the long run though the benefits of a shoulder rig will vary greatly depending on your style of shooting. If you need to be mobile and prefer not to have your camera locked down on a tripod or monopod then a shoulder rig is a great alternative.

Anti Shoulder Rig Argument

Shoulder rigs are big, bulky, really expensive, and serve no benefit to your shooting that you cannot get with other gear that you likely already have or can get for cheaper. For example a monopod allows you to be fairly mobile and get smoother shots than with a big and bulky shoulder rig.

The biggest negative here for me is the two fold, that is the price vs usability. Lets take a second here and really think about what a shoulder rig is doing. It is trying to make your DSLR more like a camcorder or other camera system that lives on your shoulder. It is meant to stabilize your shot like one of those cameras, its meant to make your rig look more like one of those cameras. But the key thing for me here is that you can dress it up all you want, but you DSLR will never function like one of those over the shoulder TV style cameras. In my mind my money is better spent elsewhere, on other stabilizers and other systems which improve my video in other ways.

Final Thoughts and Review on a Shoulder rig

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That is not to say that shoulder rigs are wrong for everyone, obviously some people swear by them. I simply do not see the benefit to a shoulder rig over other stabilization methods that can be had for much cheaper and used in more ways.

That said I understand that some of you may still be interested in a shoulder rig. To that end I have included a great review video on an affordable DSLR shoulder rig system that comes highly recommended by Caleb Pike from DSLRvideoshooter.com. Check it out below.

What are your thoughts on shoulder rigs? Do you fall into the pro category or the against category? Let us know in the comment below with your thoughts. 

Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

3 Comments

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  1. Brian Robinson

    DSLR Shoulder Rig is an important equipment when performing Videography, though not as compulsory when shooting stills but it does improve the quality of the photos.

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  2. Nick

    Yeah, what is better? You talk a lot about “better methods” but only say one sentence about monopods. Is that really the only better option?

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  3. Phil

    What can be a good alternative to a shoulder rig? A tripod of course, but i mean gear with which you can move around an get more stability? For example a Dolly which is a easy to handle. Have you any recommendations?

    Greetings from Germany!

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