Holding an SLR

Why would you possibly need lessons or advice?

How to Hold a Camera for Stability

When holding a DSLR camera for the first time, you may think it is as straight forward as any camera. If you are used to simple point and shoot camera you would be wrong to think this. Modern DSLR's are so much bigger and bulkier. Especially if you have a Canon 1 series or an added optional battery pack. Therefore, there is a bit more to think about.

Digital SLR Photography Tips: Holding the camera

When set to manual, and using slower shutter speeds, the camera (and you) are more likely to sway a little. This is due to the weight, which can cause mostly irreparable camera shake in your shots. Thinking about using a DSLR with an added battery pack and heavy lens such as the Canon EF 70-200L? Your arms will become pretty weak after a few hours shooting.

So learning how to hold the camera more energy efficiently will help in the long run. Of course a tripod is ultimately the best but if you're like me, you won't want to carry one everywhere with you.

Holding an SLR Fig.1

Close Up of Man Holding DSLR

As you can see from the image above, most digital SLR's are designed perfectly to fit in the right hand. Hopefully you are right handed. The thumb is positioned so as to be able to easily reach:

  • The rear dial
  • Exposure lock button at the top
  • Focus point selector next to it

Of course each cameras layout is different. Although saying that, all are normally designed fit in your hands both ergonomically, practically and comfortably. In this next image, you can see the top of the camera.

Holding an SLR Fig.2

Top View of a Man Holding a DSLR

With the addition of a large grip down the right hand side of most cameras (you may or may not remember that early SLR's in the 80's had no such grip) your index finger is left free to operate more buttons and dials. There is obviously the shutter button and normally a dial next to it for speedy aperture or shutter speed changes.

Also on the top are other buttons that will allow you to change settings such as the white balance or the focus and metering settings. So with the right hand doing all this work, what is left for your left hand?

Well, it plays a fairly important part as in apart from operating the mode dial on the top left of the camera, it is used to "cup" and steady main bulk of the camera. When holding an SLR, the base should fit into the palm of your hand, with the bottom of the lens resting on your left thumb and forefinger allowing you to use the zoom or focussing rings.

If you don't hold it this way, and allow your left hand to "float" freely as you focus and zoom, the movement is more likely to move the camera, again causing camera shake.


Low Viewpoint Portrait of Baby

This has proven over the years to be the most efficient way of holding an SLR but with practice you can play a little.

I have been known, when photographing children, to break these rules often. Sometimes it is not practical to hold the camera in this way, for example to get this photo of Jess just as she started crawling.  I wasn't in a position to hurl myself on the floor so, with I set the camera to auto focus and 5 frames per second.

Then I bent over holding the camera vertically just above the floor and kept firing away whilst walking backwards as she crawled along. My left hand was free to click my fingers and get her attention into the camera.

So you can break these rules and have a play, but generally these are the best suggestions when holding an SLR. One final thought is that when standing up and shooting, using the above tips, try resting your elbows into your body. This will give you extra support and pull the camera gently into your face to steady it more.

So to summarize holding an SLR

  1. 1
    Hold the camera in both hands as stated
  2. 2
    Lean against something, a wall or fence, for stability
  3. 3
    Pull your elbows into your body
  4. 4
    Pull the camera gently to your face
  5. 5
    "Squeeze" the shutter, don't stab at it

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