Steady that Point ‘n’ Shoot

Point and Shoot cameras are notoriously difficult to keep steady in low light situations. This is mainly because they’re so light. Every slight movement of your hand also influences the movement of the camera. In comparison, larger (and heavier) camera users can find that the weight of the camera can be a steadying factor although lengthy use of a heavy camera will eventually make your hands shake more.

Here are a few tips that should help you steady your swaying forearms when taking these photographs.

1. Don’t Use the LCD Display.

Using the LCD display to compose your photographs is possibly the easiest way to shoot with a digital Point ‘n Shoot. Yes, they don’t make the viewfinders the way they used to, but low light conditions are not the best situation to test your forearm stability.

Instead, you should squash your eye against that viewfinder, and peer into that little glass lens. Doing this supports the camera, and it’s less susceptible to sway (unless you’re drunk).

2. Brace Yourself

Steady yourself by leaning against a rigid structure such as a wall or concrete post. Put your back against it, press as much of your body into it as possible. This should get you ready for your low-light hand-held point and shoot photograph.

You could also use a wall, chair or any other appropriate support to rest your camera or hands on when taking the photograph.

3. Slow and Steady…

Remember that this is not a race, the marines have a motto that they follow “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast”. This is true here too. If you’re in less of a hurry to take the photograph and move away, you’re more likely to keep the camera steady and in-position longer.

This will give you a steady, shake-free photograph, and no need to take another photograph.

4. Squeeze the ‘trigger’ Don’t Press

Since photographers use similar terminology to gun users (e.g.: I’m going outside to shoot some brilliant photographs), I’m quoting a firearms guide here. Use the same principles when squeezing your shutter release. It works; no matter whether you’re using a point and shoot, or a D-SLR.

Poor shooting is caused by the aim being disturbed before the bullet leaves the barrel of the weapon.  This is usually the result of the shooter jerking the trigger or flinching. Jerking is an effort to fire the weapon at the precise time when the slights align with the target, and flinching is a reflex caused by anticipating recoil.

Trigger squeeze is the independent rearward movement of the trigger finger without disturbance of the sight alignment until the weapon fires.  First, the slack in the trigger is taken up.  You will then hit the break point of the trigger.  Continue applying steadily increasing pressure until the weapon fires.  If the trigger is squeezed properly, you will not know exactly when the weapon will fire; thus, you will tend not to flinch or jerk.

Squeeze the shutter release, don’t press the button.

5. Breathe Correctly

Shallow, jagged breaths tend to bob your head and upper body up and down, keeping the camera moving at all times, and more likely to blur your photograph. Breathe calmly, in long, deep breaths, and squeeze the shutter release either when you’ve breathed in fully, or let out all the air in your lungs.

This way you will not be gasping for your next breath, and your chest and head will not be in motion. You may have guessed that this is a also gun user’s technique, and it works.

6. Use a Higher ISO

Is this obvious or what? Yes, but many people leave it to their cameras to decide. Some point n shoot cameras have rather shameful high ISO handling, but others are pretty good. Is your camera good for high ISO, low-light photography? Experiment; take some photographs for fun, before you absolutely ‘have to’ so that you know which settings are usable. This will leave you prepared to move to the highest usable ISO when you want / need to.

7. Use the Self-timer

This is a good trick. Set up the camera in a stable position on a wall, or table, or hey, just use your mini tripod. Then set up the camera to shoot a photograph by itself, with a timed delay.

This will eliminate photographer-induced (that’s you, matey) shake and (here’s a bonus) you get to be in the photograph too… How cool is that? 😉

Um, that’s it for now.

Do you have a tip that I’ve missed out? Help out your fellow photographers by adding to this list in the comments.