How to Deal with Camera Shake

camera-shakeI asked members of my Facebook Group to comment on camera shake (the term used when talking about blurry photos as a result of unsteady shooting).  If you’re like me, you might have noticed that as you’ve gotten a little older, camera shake has gotten a little more noticeable. There are plenty of reasons, other than age, why you might experience camera shake — or pictures that look like they’ve been caused by it.

  • Heavy lenses.  Yes, those long telephotos are not only hard to hold steady, but any slight movement is going to make a big difference at, say 200mm or more.  Normal and wide-angle lenses will show less of the effects of unsteady hands.
  • No Image Stabilization.  Well, IS and other technologies do help, but not always as much as we’d like.  Note, if your subject is also moving, IS can’t do anything about that.
  • Slow shutter speeds.  Of course, this is going to cause problems with moving subjects, but also when camera movement is present.
  • Environment.  If you’re chest-deep in the surf, or trying to hold steady in a tree, or you’re shivering from the cold, or the wind is picking up… you get the idea.
  • You’re excited, nervous, or hopped up on something!  Caffeine or an energy drink might be the culprit.  But maybe the situation or the subject has something to do with it, too.
  • Getting older.  Ok, it happens.  The older you get, the less steady you are with your hands.  It’s not always the case, but for most of us, there’s a lot of truth there.  I should know.

So, what do you do about it if you notice it in your own work?  My advice is faster shutter speeds and good camera support when necessary.  Using flash can also help, as it tends to freeze the subject in a moment lasting milliseconds.  Keep in mind with flash, you might still see the effects of camera shake (or other movement) if the shutter speed is slow and the ambient light records in the shot.

Here’s what a few of the group members had to say:

Devon Watton:  Shooting a camera and shooting a rifle are much the same in execution; proper stance, breathing, and finger pull/press all attribute to how blurry an image is. Improper technique at ANY age can cause blurry photos. I am sure there are some coffee withdrawn octogenarians trying to shoot a 5DIII with a 70-200 @ 200mm who, even with proper technique, have no chance at all of getting a sharp photo even at 1/8000 sec. That being said, supporting your camera on a bean bag or tripod obviously helps sharpen photos. Increasing ISO to boost shutter speed and using max aperture is another way to get sharper photos. I do get blurry photos occasionally, but I have attributed that to just being too quick in trying to get a shoot or haven’t paid attention to my camera settings. However, even with the best Image Stabilization and proper technique you are still getting blurry photos, then just embrace it and go for the abstract. No one will be the wiser.

JimmyD:  I’ve only found I have camera shake issues with one lens: my Canon 70-200mm L f/4 non-IS. And it doesn’t take geezer-shake with that lens to produce soft focus. I think a young brain surgeon might still have a shaky hands problem with that glass. To compensate (beyond shooting with a faster shutter) I use that lens with my camera on a tripod or monopod.

Glenn Hewitt:  I use a technique I learned from Joe McNally, placing the camera in a socket in my left shoulder. I had to train myself to shoot left eyed to do it, but at 64 years old I don’t have a problem at 1/30 of a sec. with a 200mm lens.

Paul D Moore:  I find camera shake much less of a problem now than when I first started photography. Reason: cameras are so much better now with electronic shutter releases instead of purely mechanical ones. And the design of the mirror mechanism has improved so that mirror slap is not anywhere near so noticeable either. Anyone who has ever shot with a Russian Zenith will know exactly what I mean.

Ed Daly:  I’ve given into my increased camera shake. I now increase my ISO so I can get faster shutter speeds. My thought process is that it’s better to have a noisy image then a blurry one. I also use my knee, if kneeling, lean against walls, brace the camera against my body.

Jason Jones:  I notice more of an issue with my eating habits than with my age. If I don’t get a good meal in before a shoot I tend to crash by the end of the shoot and miss a lot more shots. I think that’s more of an issue than age because I learned to hold a camera properly when I was young.  I would have to admit that I do end up going to the mono- or tripod a lot more as I get older. We’ll blame that on being able to afford bigger and heavier equipment though. I refuse to admit that I’m getting older, 39 now.

How do you deal with camera shake?

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5 Comments

Doug

I have a terrible time getting sharp images, even outside on sunny days. I have a Canon 3ti and even at 100 ISO I get noisy images. I shoot with a Canon 75-300 lens and can’t afford more expensive equipment. So when I increase the camera to 400 ISO the images are sharper but so noisy I can’t win. Camera shake with this camera just adds to the frustration.

I use a tripod for just about every shot to make sure it’s not burry.

A.D.Wheeler

No one mentioned the multi-frame technique? It allows you to shoot at 1/8-1/20th. Put your camera in high speed mode, hold as steady as you can, and fire off 5-10 shots by holding the shutter down. One or more of the frames will be at the apex of your breathing or shaking and come out tack sharp. Nothing beats practice, but in a pinch, it works!

Frank Mattia

Faster shutter speed. SS should higher that your focal length. i.e. Focal length is 400mm, SS should be 640 or higher. That will help but of course no one would hand hold a 400, I used that as a example. Better example is 200mm focal length, SS should be 250 or faster..

jon miller

You mentioned you use a tripod and still get camera shake. I’ve seen photographer put the tripod mount (fast release mount) on the camera and then on the tripod using a long lens and this is wrong.
Since you did not mention what you are shooting this is a general use technique.
If your camera has a lens mount this is where the tripod fast release mechanism goes and then on the tripod. Also make sure you are using a steady (solid tripod). For extra sturdiness put your camera bag handle or should strap around the centre pole of the tripod so it can add weight down the centre of the tripod. Use a cable release.

If your tripod is flimsy then you may want to look into a better tripod. Like @Frank Mattia stated no one usually will hold a 400mm lens (I hold a Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 super heavy lens for some shootings but I’m shooting at 1/4000 to 1/8000 @ f/2.8) and it took a lot of practice to do that…

Piyush Desai

I can not avoid camera shake on hand held Canon 5D Mk III with Sigma 150-500mm lens even at high shutter speed. Multiple shots help but are not infallible.

now I use the above combination only with tripod, and, most importantly, with remote control wireless shutter (I use Pixel Pro RW-221.) This has helped me get pretty sharp pictures of moving life.

I believe tripod plus remote wireless shutter is surefire remedy for camera shake.

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