How to hold your camera

It may not seem that important, but how you hold your camera, how you position your body, and even how you stand can all have an effect on the sharpness of your images.

These things also affect the way you can access all of the camera controls easily, so it pays to check that you’re getting the basics right – otherwise you could end up having to break bad habits, which is often much more difficult.

There are some general rules for the best way to hold your camera, but everyone is slightly different, so use this as a guide. If it doesn’t feel comfortable, try slightly varying the position of your hands, arms or feet, until you find the most comfortable position. 

1. Hands

Assuming you're using a camera with a defined grip, the bottom three fingers of your right hand should be positioned around this. You need to have a reasonably solid grip, but don’t grip it too tightly as this can quickly become uncomfortable and also cause camera shake. 

You should also make sure that you can easily reach the main controls on the camera with your index finger and thumb, without having to shift your grip on the camera. Then position your left hand underneath the body of the camera and lens. This hand should take most of the weight of the camera, and also allow you to operate the zoom – assuming you are using a zoom lens – without having to move your hand.

2. Arms

The main thing to watch with your arms is to try to keep them reasonably close to your body, rather than out to the sides. This is quite easy with the camera in the horizontal orientation, but you should also try it with the camera in the upright position. 

This often takes a little more getting used to, so try practicing this.

3. Feet

Try to make sure that your feet are about a shoulders’ width apart. You may find it more comfortable and steadier to have one foot slightly in front of the other, rather than completely parallel.

Other things to try

Use these shooting techniques to reduce camera shake

Don’t be tempted to take a deep breath before you fire the shutter, or hold your breath, because both of these can create tension in your muscles. Simply breathe normally, and for the best results try to fire the shutter just after you’ve exhaled. But most of all try to stay relaxed, and squeeze the shutter smoothly, rather than stabbing at it harshly.

What is camera shake?

How can you tell if an image is blurred due to shake, or due to other reasons?

Camera shake occurs when the camera moves during the time that you’re taking a shot. It will make the image look blurred, and in severe cases you’ll notice a streaky appearance in the image. 

It can be difficult to spot the difference between camera shake and other causes of blur such as poor focusing or subject movement. But generally, if the whole image is blurred by a similar amount it will be due to camera shake, while the presence of some sharp areas in the image will point to focusing errors or subject movement.

Four methods you can use to avoid camera shake

1. Kneeling

As well as giving you a slightly lower viewpoint, kneeling down to take a shot can also help you to combat camera shake. 

When you’re in position, you can rest your left elbow on your knee to help stabilise the camera, which is particularly useful when using longer focal lengths.

2. Lying down

The extremely low angle created by lying on the floor won’t suit every type of image, but if it does, this position gives a really stable platform. 

It can allow you to shoot at much slower shutter speeds than normal, while still avoiding camera shake.

3. Bracing the camera

If you need to use a slow shutter speed without a tripod, and you can’t kneel or lie down, look for an object around you to brace the camera against. 

In an urban environment you’ll find lamp posts, walls or other street furniture, while in the country you can use trees, rocks or fences.

4. Use a tripod

Even though there are other ways to get sharp shots at slow shutter speeds, a tripod is still the best and most reliable way of ensuring sharp pictures.