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Stop that shaking
Camera shake is probably the main cause of blurry photos, due to movement or when too slow a shutter speed is used. There are three ways of minimising or eliminating camera shake altogether — use a proper support for your set-up, develop a proper handholding technique, or invest in a system with image stabilisation built into the camera body or lenses.
Let's look at the first option of getting the right support.
Choosing the right support
There are several options for camera supports, which are mainly:
- Clamps & other accessories
A tripod is probably the most popular choice for photographers. It creates a steady, level platform for a camera and using a tripod almost guarantees that photos will be sharp. A tripod is great for taking close-ups, panning and landscapes. It also serves the purpose of reducing weight of your equipment, especially if you have to hold your camera and lens for extended periods of time.
Stability should be on the top of your list when buying a tripod. It should be lightweight enough to carry, yet strong enough to support your digital camera. With a dSLR system, the weight of your heaviest lens has to be factored in — that's why it's common for nature photographers with heavy 500mm/600mm lenses to lug around a big but sturdy tripod. The dilemma of tripods lies herein — the heavier the tripod, the more sturdy it is, but it's also that much harder and bulkier to move around.
Holding your camera properly
More often than not, a well-developed habit of handholding your dSLR would eliminate many of the problems from camera shake. This is especially essential when using longer telephoto lenses.
Bear in mind the old rule-of-thumb for handholding — the shutter speed should be at least the reciprocal of the focal length of the lens mounted. For example, you can generally shoot at 1/50 sec with a 50mm lens mounted, or at 1/200 sec with a 200mm lenses. Remember to factor in the FLM of your camera, since the sensor concentrates its recording capability on the smaller area, thus amplifying any handshake (i.e. use a shutter speed of 1/320 sec when using a 200mm lens mounted on an EOS 450D).
While dSLRs may be a little heavier than more compact cameras, their size and shape do make holding the camera steady much easier.
The best way to hold a dSLR is to have the right hand firmly on the grip with the index finger used for the shutter button. The left hand cradles the base of the camera and lens (on the shorter lenses) or the lens alone (on the longer lenses). This will provide a good solid base to shoot from.
Much as we'd like to always have a tripod handy, oftentimes you'll find yourself in the situation where you have to shoot in low-light situations or with a telephoto lens without one. Unless you can find yourself a convenient and stable resting place for your camera, you'll be forced to hold your camera as still as possible and hope for the best.
Image stabilisation is built for exactly these situations. The most common form of optical image stabilisation is incorporated into a lens. In these cases, an extra floating lens, or group of floating lenses, are incorporated into the lens body and counteract any shaking up to a certain degree. Usually image stabilised lenses give the user an extra two to three stops of hand-holdability. Canon denotes their lenses with image stabilisation with the IS tag, while Nikon affixes the VR tag to their image stabilisation lenses.
Some manufacturers, such as Panasonic and Olympus, have incorporated image stabilisation technology into their imaging sensors instead, whereby the sensor moves to compensate for any shaking of the hand. This means that, in most cases, all compatible lenses will automatically be stabilised.