8 unbelievable ways to beat camera shake

Although tripods and monopods are the usual tools of choice for supporting a camera and keeping it still, they’re not the only solution. In their latest guest blog post the photo management and Canon Project1709 experts at Photoventure take a look at a few ideas that can help with capturing shake-free images.

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1. Beanbag
A beanbag can be incredibly useful to photographers because it can be moulded into shape to hold a subject or support a camera.
It’s rare that you’ll find a dry stone wall that is the perfect shape to rest a camera or lens on, for example, but if you pop a beanbag on top it can make a snug support.
Your camera is protected from the rough edges of the stone and bag levels out the uneven surface to make a stable platform for shooting.
A beanbag is also useful when you’re shooting from low level and the camera needs propping up a little so the lens is held above any short grass and is directed towards the target.
Many photographers also use a beanbag on top of their camera or lens when using long telephoto optics to help deaden any vibrations resulting from touching the camera or lifting the mirror.
Bean bags can be made very easily and cheaply from a couple of pieces of fabric and a few dry lentils or beans.
If you include a zip or a strip of Velcro you can empty the bag when you’re travelling to make it lighter and fill it at your destination.
2. Bag on tripod

Even very solid tripods sometimes need a little extra help with keeping a camera steady when there’s a strong wind whistling around the legs and it’s a good idea to add some extra weight.
Some tripods have a hook at the end of the centre column or at the shoulders, which can be used for hanging a weight.
This could be our old friend the beanbag, or a camera-bag can be called into service. Whatever you use, try to hang the weight so that it just reaches the ground.

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3. String
An old trick for keeping a camera steady when there’s no tripod or monopod to hand is to screw a bolt into the camera’s tripod bush and attach a piece of string to it.
The string needs to reach down to the ground with a little to spare to allow you to step on it and pull the camera upwards to the string is taut.
This method can’t help with side-to-side movement, but it takes out up-and-down shaking to create sharper images.
4. Lean on a tree
Trees and posts can come in handy when you find yourself without any form of support for your camera.
Rather than using these to hold the camera up, press the camera against them to hold it still.
This tends to work best when shooting in portrait format as the camera bottom, which has a larger surface area than its side, is pressed onto the tree/post.
In some cases a large blob of Blu Tack or something similar can come in handy.
Don’t use it to hold the camera in place — that would be very risky. Use it to help absorb some of the shake that you impart to the camera.

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5. Self-timer
A remote release, either cable or wireless is an essential piece of photographic kit, but there’s always the odd occasion when you don’t have one to hand.
If you find yourself in this predicament, activate the self-timer as this will trip the shutter after you have let go of the camera and any vibration has died down.
In most cases the 2-second delay option will be sufficient.
If possible, combine the self-timer with mirror lock-up or exposure delay mode to avoid the risk of vibration from the mirror movement creating blur.
6. Spread the weight
Even when you’re using a good tripod it can be hard to get a shake-free image when shooting on a wet beach.
The legs just keep sinking in deeper and deeper into the sand.
If you’re lucky, you’ll find that pushing the legs deep into the sand creates a solid base for shooting, but it means that your tripod is covered in sand that needs to be cleaned out of the joints and sometimes it doesn’t work.
Some tripod manufacturers produce snowshoes that are designed to spread the weight of the tripod and prevent the legs sinking to the snow, but they work just as well on sand.
If a set is available for your tripod, it’s worth considering buying some.
Alternatively, you can create your own tripod shoes using flat stones, old plates or even roof tiles; there are plenty of options available.

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7. Take hold

How you hold the camera can make a huge difference to how stable it is and how much shake there is likely to be.
It’s best to support the lens from underneath, for example, and tucking your elbows in towards you body is better than sticking them out wide.
Some photographers find holding their right shoulder or arm with their left hand to turn their left arm into a rest for a long lens works well.
If there’s a convenient wall or fence you can use this to prop-up your arm which then cushions the lens.
Also try going down on your right knee with your left elbow resting on your (raised) left knee while you hold the camera or lens with your left hand.
This creates a kind of human monopod with the weight of the camera being carried by your lower left leg and arm and it can be a pretty stable platform.
When shooting from low angles and lying on the ground, spread your elbows apart and rest them firmly on the ground while you hold the camera.
This creates a strong triangle shape that keeps the camera steady.
Where you stand can be as important as how you hold the camera.
If possible stay out of strong winds by finding shelter behind a tree, wall or rock.

8. Deep breath

Even if you’re using a fast shutter speed, try to hold the camera steady before you take a shot.
Rather than pressing the shutter release down in a sharp jabbing motion, squeeze the camera to press the button home.
It can also be helpful to take a breath and hold it as you squeeze the shutter release to minimise any body movements.

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