5 January 2012

Don't shake that booty!

I am a strong advocator of restraint when using flash for lighting; even if it is past sundown. I prefer to avoid the use of camera-flash altogether, as long as the subject is willing to stand still for those 5-10 seconds to avoid blur in the captured image. But keeping the camera steady for a speed less than 1/60th of a second (your camera will show this speed as 60 or 1/60 shutter speed) is nothing short of a herculean task considering that even in sufficient ambient light, blur begins to creep into the image below shutter speed of 60. So in this post, I will talk about some techniques that will help you discipline your body into standing still and reducing, if not completely eradicating camera shake.

The swan-elbow technique
This is a body posture that helps me steady myself while standing. Through practice I have near-perfected the posture over time. I call it the swan-elbow technique simply because it focuses on resting your elbow on your waist and in the attempt, you assume a pose resembling a meditating, relaxed swan.

Keep your feet apart such that you can stand without wobbling. The minimum distance would be that of the width of your waist. I was about to assume that you are a right-handed person and I realized - cameras are not made for left-handed people! Wow! He he..

Coming back to the topic at hand, you would be placing the camera body on the palm of your left hand and using your right hand for the shutter. Place the left elbow on your left waist. In the process, you will lean forward and your back will arch forth like the neck of a swan.

Now comes the difficult part. Learn to hold your breath. This is how snipers train. They learn to hold their breath and slow down their heart rate. A slow or soft beating heart leads to less tremors in the body and hence greatly reduces camera shake. Practice holding your breath in this pose and you will see that over a period of time, you can actually greatly reduce camera shake through this technique!

Also, keep your body comfortable - don't stress your muscles by extending your arms. Like your left arm, try to keep your right arm also close to the body. Be comfortable so that no part of your body feels pain/pressure/fatigue and leads to trembling.

The Lean Mean technique
No you don't need to slim down for this :p This technique simply hints at making apt use of solid structures to lean on them and stabilize your body to reduce camera shake. For example, instead of just standing and trying the swan-elbow technique, lean sideways on a pillar/column/wall, hold your breath and shoot - this is much simpler!

Put it down
Keep the camera on a stool or any elevated stable structure, look through the viewfinder and shoot. Though this will limit the angles that you can achieve (since the supporting object would have a flat surface), this will provide utmost stability to the camera unless you are standing on trembling ground.

So if you are not carrying a tripod around like a coolie, you can definitely work on the above techniques to get blur-free bright pictures in low-light conditions.

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