I take at least 95% of my photos with a tripod. Over time I just got so used to be able to use any exposure I need, just by having one. The resulting photos are so much better, and since I’m also forced to set up the tripod, I tend to get better composition in the end. But there are of course instances where this is not possible. There are more and more places where one can no longer use a tripod. Or you don’t have one available. Maybe it’s because the airline lost your luggage (like happened to me) or something similar.
So how does one get a nice photo in those occasions, where you just have to shoot handheld. Today I will share with you few tips for that. Also, if you have a steel grip, and you can hold a few second shot handheld without problems, this is not for you :)
Taking photos without a tripod
- Place the camera on something – If you can, put your camera on something, a bench, wall, pillar, anything with a flat top. Then push your camera down so it stays firmly in place when you are taking the photo.
- Brace yourself against something – If you can not place the camera on anything, try bracing yourself against something. Lean on a railing, pillar, sit on a bench, on the floor. The less your body is moving, the more stable will you be able to hold the camera.
- Hold your camera close to your body – Your body is always moving, holding the camera away form the body will transfer much more movement to it. Hold it close to you, so minimizing this movements.
- Use a timer – Pressing the shutter button will move your camera. Even on a tripod this can cause movement. Set your camera to a two second timer, so it takes the shot automatically. The less movement the better.
- Underexpose your photo – If you shoot in a RAW format, you can easily underexpose all you photos by 1 to 3 stops (depending on your camera) and still get a good photo. You just overexpose it later in post-processing. Each stop down splits in half the time needed to take the photo, so one stop down is 1/2 the time, two stops is 1/4 of the time needed and 3 stops is 1/8 of the time needed. So for instance, if you need a 1s exposure taken handheld, just by underexposing by 3 stops, you shorten this to 1/8th of a second.
- Set minimum exposure time – On some cameras you can set up the ISO speed settings. This is an option where you can set the longest exposure time the camera uses in automatic modes. So if you see that you just can’t hold a 1/25s or 1/50s steady enough, you can set you camera to always use a shutter speed shorter than 1/125 or 1/250 and similar. You of course limit this by the max ISO you set in the camera. If you set this up, you can be sure that you camera stays in faster shutter speeds, so you have better chance of sharp photos.
- Take multiple shots with the same settings – Don’t take just one photo, take multiple photos with the same settings. You can put your camera into burst mode, and just hold the shutter down. If you take multiple photos, there is a bigger chance one of them will be good. If you take only one, you just have to be lucky.
- Forget about bracketing – Bracketing exposures in pointless when shooting handheld anyway. I know photographers that do it, but I personally never been able to get a really good result by doing so. Even in very bright situations. The shots never align anyway. Rather, take multiple same exposures, or underexpose the shot. By using RAW you will get enough information most of the time anyway.
This one is one of the very few photos I took without a tripod. Here I pout the camera on wall, and hold it down to keep steady.