Beat the shakes
Your own movement is one of the most common causes of blurred photos, so here’s how to prevent camera shake or the jitters spoiling your shots
TAKE CARE WITH YOUR TRIPOD
Using a tripod is the perfect solution for getting pin-sharp results when using long shutter speeds, but not all tripods are created equal. You can’t expect a cheaper, lightweight model to offer the same stability as a heavy-duty alternative. But there are some basic techniques that you can use to get the sharpest results possible, whatever type of tripod you have.
The first thing is to use the thickest leg sections first to achieve the height that you want, and also to avoid raising the centre column, if possible. Many tripods also have a hook on the bottom of the centre column, which you can add a weight to (such as your camera bag) to help stabilize the tripod. Once you’ve got the tripod set up you can help keep things steady by using a remote release, or your Nikon’s self-timer mode, to fire the shutter without the risk of jogging the camera, as even the lightest touch can result in soft shots.
GET A GRIP
If you haven’t got a solid, stable hold of your camera you’ll struggle to get sharp results. Obviously, your right hand needs to be comfortably holding the grip of the camera, so that your index finger can press the shutter release smoothly. Then, position your left-hand underneath the camera or lens, to support its weight.
You should also try to stand in a relaxed pose with your feet a comfortable distance apart and your elbows close to your body. Don’t try to hold your breath when firing the shutter – this can lead to trembling – but time it so that you take your shot as you exhale.
SET A SHUTTER SPEED THAT AVOIDS SHAKE
To avoid camera shake you need to choose a shutter speed appropriate for the focal length of the lens you’re using, as longer focal length lenses will magnify any movement more than shorter ones – just think how much the scene moves around in the viewfinder, and how hard it is to keep the camera still, when you zoom right in on something. It’s not an exact science, as some people are better at holding the camera steady than others, but as a general rule of thumb you should try to use a shutter speed of 1/effective focal length or faster. For a 50mm lens on an FX-format (full-frame) Nikon this would be 1/50 sec, while on a DX-format Nikon it would be 1/75 sec (since the effective focal length of a 50mm lens on a DX-format Nikon is 75mm). Since there’s no such shutter speed as 1/75, you should err on the side of caution and go for the next fastest shutter speed – so 1/80 sec in this example.
USE VIBRATION REDUCTION
These systems, which for Nikons are built into the lens, allow you to use slower shutter speeds than normal when hand-holding the camera, and still get sharp results. Most systems allow you to use shutter speeds around 3 to 4 stops slower than normal, so for example 1/30 or 1/15 sec instead of 1/200 sec with a 200mm lens. However, you do need to remember that these systems can’t help prevent blur if the subject is moving.
GET SOME SUPPORT
If you find yourself in a situation where you want to use slow shutter speeds but don’t have a tripod, you can still get sharp results by using your surroundings to help you keep the camera steady. Simply brace yourself against a tree, fence or other solid object. This will allow you to use slower shutter speeds and still achieve sharp results – although, as with using Vibration Reduction, it won’t help with moving subjects.