Common Mistakes

Camera shake

Written by Gail Bjork

In order to take sharper, blur-free photos, learn these techniques to hold a digital camera correctly and steadily.

Holding cameraIf your digital camera makes even a slight movement when taking a picture, the chance of blurred photo increases. This is caused by camera shake.

One of the most common causes of camera shake is failure to use the shutter-release button correctly. It is a two step process: first lock focus and exposure by pressing the shutter button halfway. When focus is locked, press the shutter down fully.

The second most common cause of camera shake happens in low-light when the aperture is wide-open and shutter speed is slow. The best way to prevent camera shake in these conditions is to use a tripod or other flat, level support. When using a tripod, use a remote or the self-timer to trigger the shutter button without touching the camera.

If you don’t have a tripod, hold the camera with both hands and steady it by leaning and bracing yourself against a wall, tree or pole, car roof, anything. Or brace your elbows against your body while holding the camera firmly.

Another way to minimize camera shake is to use the viewfinder, if your camera has one, instead of the LCD when composing shots. Bracing the camera against your face helps steady the camera.

Camera shake and telephoto shots

Digital cameras are more prone to camera shake when taking hand-held shots and zooming in on a subject. To help prevent blur, shutter speed should be set faster than the focal length. For example, a lens set at 200mm (35mm equivalent) requires a shutter speed of at least 1/200 second.

If your camera has Image Stabilization, turning it on can help reduce camera shake.

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.

6 Comments

  • Professionals use gyro stabilizers to get shots that are not in the best environments. Whether low light or very turbulent, a gyro will keep you locked on to your target to get the exposures you need.

    The movie Das Boot was filmed using a gyro, since the submarine was too tight for a steadicam. Cameron Davidson and numerous other highly regarded professionals swear by them!

  • You hit the nail right on the head, Johan. It’s best to experiment and hone your technique. Few compact digital cameras today even have viewfinders. The ones they do have are very small but can useful in a pinch. Through the years, Image Stabilization has improved and is now available on most cameras. The size and resolution of LCDs have improved too. Still, for some shots, using the viewfinder is the best route to take such as tracking a moving subject while zooming in on it, or using a large, heavy lens. btw, I looked at your gallery. Very lovely photos!

  • Another way to minimize camera shake is to use the viewfinder, if your camera has one, instead of the LCD when composing shots. Bracing the camera against your face helps steady the camera.

    Hello – I’m not so sure about this. On my camera, using the LCD eliminates the vibration from the mirror as it ups and downs (it’s like using MLU) so images are actually sharper as the shake reduction works better … best advice is experiment I’d say.