Marksmen use a handful of fundamental principles to take aim, fire and hit their target. Many of these same principles can also be applied by other kinds of shooters – photographers.
When marksmen fail to abide by those principles, they may miss the bulls-eye. When photographers fail to follow them, they may end up with a blurry photo.
Photographers need to hold the camera still in order to prevent blur as a result of camera shake.
The general rule of thumb is to use the reciprocal of your focal length as a minimum shutter speed. For instance, if you are using a 200mm lens, your minimum shutter speed should be 1/200 of a second. (Note that image stabilization systems and “crop factors” can change this generality a bit.)
Your mileage may vary from this rule of thumb; but, here’s four principles to help you make the best of your shutter speed for less blur in your photos.
1. Grip and Hold
Your position and hold of the camera must be firm and enough to support the camera. In most cases, you want to support the camera with two hands. The right hand goes on the camera grip. The left hand cups the bottom of the camera where the lens and camera join. Tuck your elbows in and use your body as a brace.
With handguns, marksmen us a push/pull technique. The right hand pushes the gun forward, while the left hand pulls the gun back, thus creating a more steady hold. This technique can be somewhat replicated by pulling the camera slightly into your face and using the portion of your forehead above your eye as a third contact point.
Your stance should be stable. If standing up, stay upright. Don’t bend your back.
Marksmen are taught to stand in a variety of positions; however, one of the prevailing positions nowadays is a boxer’s stance, or a 45-degree stance. This creates stability.
Right-handers stand with their left foot forward with the toes pointing toward their target. The right foot is back and pointing in the same general direction, but a little more open to the stance. The knees are not locked, but slightly bent.
Going low? Kneel instead of squatting. Kneeling gives you a solid foundation, as opposed to a rather wobbly stance when squatting. A couple of kneeling variations are leaving one foot on the ground and resting the elbow on the upright knee. With two knees on the ground, consider sitting back with your butt on your heels. There are several variations of the kneeling stance; however, the key is to remember to find a solid base and shoot from there.
3. Shutter Release
Use the pad of your index finger to rest on the shutter. Apply enough pressure to activate the shutter, but don’t get carried away. If you squeeze the camera with your right hand too hard while you press the shutter, then you can actually twist the camera a bit and create some blur in your image.
4. Breath Control
You don’t need to hold your breath, but you do need to control your breathing. If the moment permits, you should release the shutter at a resting point in your breathing cycle. During inhaling and exhaling, your body experiences more natural movement than the moments in between. Take the shot after exhaling, when the body is at its most natural still point.
Focus on being stable, smooth and still. Craft your own position for what works for you in order to produce the most keepers in low light or when shutter speed otherwise requires.
Do you have other practical tips for staying stable? Feel free to share them in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.