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

NPhoto - - Feature -


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Not sharp

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