Photo tip Friday!

Hey, what’d you know?? I actually made this post on time this week!!!

This week’s post is about how to be still when you take a picture.  Any  rifleman can do it in their sleep, and that’s where I learned it, from my dad when I was about 10 or 11 I guess.

Let’s face it, it’s not going to give you the same results as if your camera were on a tripod but let’s be honest and say that there are times you just won’t have your tripod with you and there’s still a great shot to take.

It’s called the respiratory pause.  What you do is look through your camera and pick out what you want to take a picture of and set your focus.  For the vast majority of us using AF, that means pressing the shutter button halfway down.  Hold it there.

Now take a deep breath, let it all out and wait to inhale.  For most folks, you now have a couple seconds – or more if you’re fit and in shape where you are not moving due to breathing.  Press the shutter all the way through – concentrating on the only thing you are moving is your finger on the shutter.  For a lot of folks, when you start moving one finger, the rest follow in concert.  If you focus on it, and work at it, you can learn to get your fingers to move independently of each other and not just squeeze the whole camera…. which will make you shake some more.

If you really want to lock the camera in, hold the camera properly with your left hand supporting the lens and your right on the grip/shutter button. Tuck your elbows in to your waist and you should be pretty solid.  If you want to add some additional support and help to keep you from wiggling around, you can also find someplace to sit down and anchor yourself in well!  And if you really, really want to lock it in, you can take your image while prone – laying flat on your belly, legs straight out behind you, elbows on the ground and that’s probably about as still as you can get. 😉

All in all, with the application of some very simple techniques you can shoot at remarkably slow shutter speeds in a pinch.  I’ve managed to get good shots with exposures as low as 1/6th!  And like I’ve said once or twice – you’ll never replicate the results you can get with a tripod but if you’ve just gotta get a shot and you are tripod-less, it IS possible!!


~ by Derrick Birdsall on May 4, 2012.

14 Responses to “Photo tip Friday!”

  1. Excellent tip, Derrick! I was actually taught to breathe normally while shooting. It does take practice but yes, I’ve handheld steady down to as low as 1/15th of a second! 🙂

    I was also taught to “roll” my finger over the shutter rather than depress it. Seems to also help in keeping the camera steady.

  2. Using a higher ISO works too. Just need to learn how your camera handles the “noise” associated with the higher ISO.

    Good article!

  3. Good tip… and it works.

    Truth be told, I haven’t used a tripod in years. I have one, and no doubt there will be times I need it, but most of the stuff I do doesn’t require slow shutter speeds anyway.

  4. I have a hard time holding still. I like your tip on when to hold your breath. I think I was doing it at the wrong time. I also like milkayphoto’s idea of rolling your finger over the shutter button – I’ll give that a try to. Thanks!


  5. 1/6th handheld blows my mind, Mr. B!
    If I don’t have a tripod I’m pretty much forced to crawl around and/or look for something to set my camera down on. It’s crazy… if I try to ‘lock’ the camera in my legs start swaying (even with a wide stance). Like Elvis. On speed.

  6. Great tip, Derrick. I usually hold my breath after the inhale to steady myself, but I’m thinking (from reading this which gave me an ah-ha! moment about my yoga practice) that I might actually be more relaxed and still after an exhale. Can’t wait to give this a try. 🙂

    • Yes – you’ve got a good coupla seconds after the exhale – and unlike holding your breath on the inhale, you don’t get that “bursting” feeling, which kinda makes you wiggle around a little bit. 🙂 Let me know how it works!

      • Gave it a try tonight. Not sure how the pictures turned out but do know that you’re right about the “bursting” feeling which I didn’t notice before reading your tip. Even if the photos didn’t turn out well this time, it’s a great tip to keep practicing. Thank you! 🙂

      • It’s definitely something that takes practice. And it’s really best used as a substitute for when you probably should have had a tripod but for one reason or another did not …. but it does get easier with practice and like I mentioned to Sharon earlier, if you are really in tune with your body, you can even take the shot between heartbeats. 😉

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