How to Enjoy Photography When Your Hands Shake

Blurry Branches by flakeparadigm

Imagine if every time you picked up a camera, it started shaking.  It didn’t shake at any other time, just when you touch it – because your hands shake, severely.

That’s pretty much Paul’s circumstances.

Paul emailed me recently asking for suggestions on what kind of camera he could get to help with his condition.  I asked Paul just how bad were the tremors in his hands.  His reply:

How bad are the tremors? Well, if I am sitting in my living room chair and I reach for a glass of water on a table right next to the chair, if I don’t use both hands, the water will spill. That’s about the only way I can tell you.

I think that modern technology can only compensate for so much “camera shake.” If the tremors are very pronounced, like Paul’s tremors, that means you either need to use a tripod or to get the shutter speed as high as possible so that the picture taking process is over before the image sensor records much of the shaking motion.

Tripod

With a tripod, you could even use a remote, so that you are completely hands-off with your camera.  The downside of a tripod is that it’s bulky.  You can’t always carry a tripod around with you.  Granted, there are times when you will probably be carrying around a tripod and other photographers would not; however, that’s the nature of making it work for you.  You still need a solution to use a camera at other times when you cannot practically use a tripod.

Shutter Speed and High ISO

I think this may be one situation where finding a camera that handles high ISO settings with good noise reduction. This setup will allow you to boost ISO beyond what others may typically set it for a given scene. As a result, you will be able to record the image with a higher shutter speed. The Canon Rebel T1i and Nikon D5000 are solid performers as entry-level DSLRs with higher ISO settings available.

Image Stabilization

Another piece of technology to consider is image stabilization. All the manufacturers have some flavor of image stabilization. Canon and Nikon use image stabilized lenses. Sony and Pentax use image stabilization in the body of the camera. Again though, this will only compensate for so much “camera shake.” However, this is a component that you should consider along with all the other potential solutions.

Monopod

Another possibility is to shoot with a monopod. While it will not get your hands completely off of the camera, a monopod is not nearly as cumbersome as a tripod and it provides significantly more stability than hand-holding your camera. I am a big fan of the  Manfrotto 679B monopod.

Using the Tremors

The final option that I have to offer is to choose moments to embrace the tremors.  There are possibilities to make art through the use of camera shake.  Not every photographic opportunity will be appropriate embracing camera shake; however, experimenting with this option may provide previously unseen opportunities.

Your Thoughts?

These are my suggestions for coping with a tough problem.  I would appreciate, as would Paul, any other proposed solutions or aids that you may have for photographers with tremors in their hands.  If you are a photographer in a similar situation as Paul, please chime in on how you deal with shaking hands.

 

Comments

  1. says

    I don’t have tremors but I am not as steady as I used to be. I find that if I can jam the camera eyepiece into my face, I can steady it quite a bit. That pretty much means a SLR. The newer the model, the better the high ISO shooting will be. It may be that you just need to find something to lean on also if you don’t want to use a tripod. Good Luck

  2. Alan B Steele says

    Try using weight to stabilize the camera. In the ‘old days’ it used to be said that a heavy camera was a steady camera. You will probably have to bolt some thing to the base of the body – like a motor drive for eg. to get this to work.

  3. Linda Hanley says

    Possibly a “chainpod” would be helpful. You can make one with a small cable or cord & an eye bolt to fit the tripod screw mount. Adjust the lenth for your height so you can stand on one end & pull up with the camera on the other, it will add stability without the bulk of a monopod. It can be used where a tripod or monopod is not allowed.
    If bulk isn’t a problem, a gunstock mount might help since you hold it against your body for stability & should reduce shake.

  4. Norm says

    This is a wonderful thread – very comforting to those who have similar difficulties to surmount.

    I would add the following suggestions:

    If you carry a mini-tripod capable of supporting your camera, or a camera clamp, you can brace the camera against any available object.

    There are many phtographers who feel that a tripod should be used in every possible situation – the results will be much better for anything except subjects where you have to pan with the action – and even then, a good pan head can do the trick even for those whose hands shake a bit.

    If you have a ball head, and find it difficult to adjust the camera because once released, the ball lets the camera “flop around” in every direction, then select a geared head, which lets you control the movement of the camera very precisely, and lock it in place – the Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head is an excellent example of this – check it out here:
    http://www.manfrotto.com/Jahia/site/manfrotto/cache/off/pid/2344?livid=80|81&idx=85

    If you have a tripod with a ball head, or a pan head that is just not working for you, take a look to see if the head is interchangable – if it is, and the tripod legs are appropriate for your needs, you can change just the head, and save a bundle.

    Norm.

  5. Peter says

    Many years ago when people used 35mm film SLR’s (remember those) I had a friend with a similar problem. I don’t know who supplied it, but he had a neck brace with cantilevered arms so the camera could be swung up to eye level. He used to enter our photography club competitions with pictures that were pin sharp even at slower shutter speeds. Maybe this device is still available ??