How to Hold A Camera – The SLR

A while back I was up at Maroon Bells i Colorado, anticipating the peak of the fall colors.  The lake there at the base of the Maroon Bells has become quite an idyllic scene for photographers of all levels to aspire to, so I was not alone when I was there.  Quite the contrary, the place was loaded with literally hundreds of photographers, bot from Colorado and even from places as far away as St. Louis (from those I talked to anyway).

Pano From Maroon Lake

One of the things that struck me was that from all the expensive gear out there, I saw many many people holding their cameras for shots in a manner that suggested they knew more about the gear than about taking and making pictures.  What do I mean?  Simple. You can know all about the technical aspects of gear and learn what the maximum ISO settings are, frame rates, crop sensors, and all that techno-jargon pretty easily.  All it takes is an internet connection and some time to memorize the numbers.  But what you can’t learn online is good photography techniques.

So, how do you hold a camera?  Excellent question!  This has been covered by many in the blogosphere, and inevitably, someone will likely say refer to Joe McNally’s “The grip” video.  In this video, he talks about shooting hand held at slower shutter speeds, and introduces a grip technique for left-eyed shooters:

It’s got some great pointers in there, but many can get distracted by the “low light shooting” and the “left-eye shooters” concepts.  Rest assured, there are elements of this whole approach that are universally applicable.  Here’s some simple pointers:

1.  Keep your arms tucked in – letting your arms go outside past your core body introduces instability…never a good thing when hand-holding.

Wrong Camera Technique

Right Camera Technique

2.  Unfortunately for left-handed shooters, the camera vendors have designed cameras with the grip on the right side.  This is the part where your fingers curl around the camera body, so just make sure your right hand is curled there.  Most everyone gets this right…the part where there is a lot of variation is the left hand!

3.  Keep your left hand under the camera and resting on the lens.  Resist the urge to bring that left hand out to the side to turn the dial for zooming…you can do it with your hand on the bottom, and this way, you are providing more stability to the camera.  The other upside is that by keeping that left hand under, you are also keeping your arms tucked in!

Hands Positioned Correctly

Hands in Wrong Position

4.  Stop using the LCD/Live Preview.  I know, we all like a big screen and the bigger the better to see your shots…but so many people are migrating to using the live preview (especially when the camera has that articulating screen), and it’s introducing bad techniques.  When you use the LCD screen – what happens?  Your face goes back or your arms go out, and the camera becomes unstable.  Keep using the viewfinder for as long as the vendors keep it on the camera!  Keep your face planted up against that camera body…it helps with that whole stability thing!

LCD Used Wrong

Using the Viewfinder

A great way to test this is to take a shot using good technique and an identical shot using..well, a not-so-good technique.  Compare the results and see what produces better results!  Of course, some will likely chime in and ask “What if I don’t have an SLR?”  That’s a great point, so if that describes you – make sure you come back later this week when I talk about how to hold a point-and-shoot camera!

Or, you can hop over to YouTube and view the videos here:

http://youtu.be/R7jeBQ9OMA4

and here (for the smart phone technique):

http://youtu.be/vafU0T6hEQ0

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3 comments for “How to Hold A Camera – The SLR

  1. at

    Love this, I have found holding a camera a bit like driving a car in that it is very easy to get in some bad habits. I am especially bad at keeping my elbows tucked in my sides! Thanks for the reminder.

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