Keep It Steady With a Photographer’s Best Methods for Stabilization

Learning how to stabilize your camera is one of the key components of great photography. A stable camera opens up all new possibilities for longer shutter speeds and shooting in darker situations. Here are 6 ways to stabilize your camera, in order of their general effectiveness.

Manfrotto 3-way tripod head

Manfrotto 3-way tripod head

6 ways to stabilize your camera for better photos

1. Tripod

There is no substitute for a good, sturdy tripod. Three legs keep your camera firmly planted and steady on all sorts of surfaces, which is great for landscape photography. Many quality tripods also come with a bubble level, which takes some of the work out of getting your shot lined up just right.

Buy the best tripod you can afford—ideally something with 3-way movement that is heavy, sturdy and easy to adjust. Having a quick release plate attached to your camera increase the likelihood you actually use the tripod as well.

2. Monopod

If you don’t have the money, space or ability to carry a tripod, a monopod is another pretty good solution. As the name suggests, a monopod has only one leg so you must support it to keep it from falling over. Monopods are lightweight, great for travel and easy to maneuver in tight spaces.

They do have limitations, however. Because it only eliminates one plane of movement (up and down) you still have to hold the camera pretty steady for slower shutter speeds.

Check out this post about photography on a budget for a list of the essential equipment to help you take amazing photos, even when you’re pinching pennies.

Gorillapod - Camera Stabilizer

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons member Martin Dinse

3. Gorrilapod or mini-tripod

The Gorillapod is an awesome invention. It’s super lightweight, easy to travel with and sticks to just about anything that it can wrap it’s legs around. The main issues with using a Gorillapod or a mini-tripod are the height and the weight capacity. Because they are small, you have to set them on top of something else to get any higher than a few inches off the ground. Also, their size doesn’t allow for heavy camera bodies or lenses without toppling over. But, for the right situation, either of these could be a good option.

4. Found object

Sometimes I’m in a situation where I didn’t think to bring a tripod, and I need to get a stable shot. In this case, I’m looking for anything that I can set my camera on that will give me a level shot.

In nature, I would look for a rock or a pile of rocks that I can move to give me a level surface. At home, I might look for a chair or a ladder that has a flat top and is at a good height. Or out in the city I would look for a wall or a bench—anything that keeps the camera stable.

Of course, this is typically not the best option because you can’t control the height or direction of the found object, so you take what you can get. If there is nothing around, sometimes holding the camera against a wall or street sign is enough stabilization to get the shot you need.

5. Image Stabilization

Having a camera or lens with an image stabilizing feature is a wonderful thing to give you a little extra leverage with slower shutter speeds. Of course, it won’t make up for not having a tripod but it is better than nothing at all.

6. Your body

Just the way you choose to hold your camera can have a lot to do with how stable it is. Planting your feet firmly and holding the camera close to your head or body is much better than holding the camera at a distance to take photos using the LCD screen. There is much less chance of your head or torso moving than your arms while you are trying to stay still.

Give each of these methods a try at different shutter speeds to see what works for you. See how quick of a shutter you need to get a sharp image at different focal lengths.

What kind of tripod do you use? Would you recommend it?

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