5 tips to get steady handheld shots without a gimbal or monopod

Mar 1, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

5 tips to get steady handheld shots without a gimbal or monopod

Mar 1, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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It’s nice that we have all kinds of camera support & stabilisation systems today. As well as the more traditional tripod, we’ve got monopods, sliders, gimbals and all sorts of things. Sometimes, though, you just want to pack super light with the camera & lens, or perhaps you’re caught off guard and need to shoot some nice smooth clips. In this video, Rob Nelson from Rob & Jonas offers up 5 tips (they say 4, but there’s kind of a bonus one in there) to get great handheld footage.

YouTube video

1. Brace against your camera strap

Using your camera strap to brace it against your neck not only gives you another point of contact, but it physically limits the extent at which you can hold your camera. This means the camera’s not going to be wobbling forward and backward unless your whole body is. Because you can push your hands against it, it also helps to make them less shaky, too, resulting in smooth clean footage.

2. Add motion

Combining the first technique with some motion will further help to hide any camera shake that may remain. Giving your whole body some motion loses a lot of that shake you often get by trying to hold your hand still. Using these techniques in combination with shooting at a high frame rate to slow the motion down can also help to even things out. And any final bit of shake is easily fixed by a little use of the Warp Stabiliser.

3. Lock your elbows & balance the camera

The bracing of the elbows is quite common. It’s used a lot for stills shooters to help get steadier handheld images. For video, we often attempt to do the same, but there’s a trick to it. With stills we hold onto the camera as we normally would, with our right hand around the grip and left hand under the lens. We only need it to be steady for a small amount of time. Small enough for the shutter to fire.

With video, it’s a little different. As we don’t need to hit the shutter, we don’t need to hold the camera’s grip. The same goes for keeping our fingers close to the focus or zoom rings. So here we want to try to balance the camera on our fingers. The weight of the camera will counter any shakes in our loose fingers, rather than a hard grip causing the camera to amplify them.

4. Use the objects that are around you

Bracing the camera against solid objects around you can also help to get much steadier shots. This is something I do with stills, too, when I need to get a slower shutter without a tripod. A fence post, a tree, the top of a car, all kinds of things can be used to help keep the camera steady. They can even be used as pivot points to help you get a smoother handheld pan.

5. Sit down on the ground

This technique works particularly well with long lenses. Your knees will shake much less than your hands do. So, sitting down and resting your camera on your knees will allow you to easily get those low perspective steady clips.

As Rob says, these techniques are no substitute for a tripod, but sometimes you can’t take a tripod, or don’t have the time to set one up, or you simply haven’t brought one with you.

Hopefully, these tips will help you to get more stable handheld footage without one. And these techniques can also be used to help get good stills with a slower shutter, too.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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