Ten tips on how to hold your DSLR camera

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So, why is holding your DSLR camera correctly important?

Many photographers spend thousands of dollars on fast lenses or the latest cameras, and then dedicate themselves to mastering fancy settings and speeds, yet they never take a few minutes to think about the way they are holding their camera and how that affects their images. Holding your camera incorrectly could be what is making a brilliant shot just a little off.

Holding your camera wrong can mean you find it harder to frame your subjects. It could mean back troubles if you have a huge lens and kit. It could mean sneers from fellow photographer, or even that you drop the camera and damage it.

However, the biggest probably with photographers who have never learned to hold the camera properly is that they continually take slightly disappointing shots without realizing why!  All their settings were checked and perfect and yet the image still didn’t come out as crisps and well framed as they saw it through the viewfinder.

It is the common cause of bad framing, crooked horizons, people cut off at the end of the row or just that little bit of unwanted blur all because when you hold the camera awkardly,  the camera may move slightly when you press the shutter down to take the shot.

The basic way to hold a camera

The most important aspect of holding your DSLR is your point of contacts. You need to have solid point of contact with your camera and with the ground (or in some situation what you are leaning against to get the shot).

10 Tips on How to hold your DSLR

Camera to eyebrow contact

Your camera should rest steady against your eyebrow when you look through the viewfinder and when you click the shutter. So lift the camera up to your eye and consciously rest the viewfinder against your right eyebrow. A lot of photographers also make contact with the camera under the viewfinder with their cheek.

how to hold your camera, fingers

how to hold your camera- fingers

Holding your camera correctly with your fingers

The camera body is designed to be gripped with your hand on the right side- with three fingers on the front, your thumb on the back and your index finger hovering over the shutter, ready to calmly click. You should be able to press the shutter button without ever having to reposition your grip.

Where to place your left hand on your DLSR

Your right hand is gripping the right side of the camera with the index finger over the shutter while your left hand should be under the lens touching enough just to help balance but not hold weight (that should be done with your right).  Your thumb and index finger should normally be near the body of the camera but  with a light enough touch to be able to move forward in a single smooth move to pull focus manually.

If you have a long lens, you can spread your left fingers lightly under the lens with the thumb to the side.

You should be able to twist the barrel of the lens to zoom or focus with the left  hand, leaving your right hand gripping the camera body firmly.

Tuck your elbows to remain steady

how to hold your camera- landscape

how to hold your camera- landscape

This is very important for steady photography. Ideally your elbows are tucked into your body to keep your camera steady. They should never be flapping out to the side, no matter how tricky the angle. The further out your elbows are, the more unstable you will be.

Make your legs like a tripod

Okay, so most of us only have two legs not three but use the concept of balancing evenly between legs with your torso at the centre- upright, stable and steady.

The worst thing you can do is have your legs together because your torso will inevitable sway. By placing your legs a bit wider than hip width you’ll have the most control.

Often that steadiest pose will be with one leg forward and one leg back, and the body in the middle. Bend both legs slighting the same amount or not at all. Just make sure they are equal in height and the amount of weight they are carrying is even. Move too much weight into the front or back leg and you are sure to have a wonky horizon in your image.

Control your breathing

Breathe in while you’ll view and breathe out when you take a shot. Also try to breathe calmly and from the chest so that you lower torso is still.

Holding the Camera-  Landscape (horizontal) position

This is the usual way you take pictures,  and the pose is pretty standard no matter the camera and person. The most important aspect of holding a camera in landscape is that the elbows are tucked in tightly against the body.  This may feel awkward at first, but it will pay off when shooting in low-light or when you need to use a slow shutter speed without a tripod.

Holding the Camera – Portrait (vertical) positions

It’s a good idea to know not just how to hold the camera correctly in portrait position but to transition quickly between landscape and portrait.

how to hold your camera, portait, turning your camera , vertical

how to hold your camera- portrait style

First thing first, turn the camera anti-clockwise without changing the grip. Your three fingers will now be on top and your index finger should still be near the shutter, but hanging to the left rather than over the top. You can also utilise your right cheek to make solid contact with the camera and keep it steady as well as your eyebrow.

Depending on your size and the size of the camera it will be more awkward to tuck your elbows into your body when you turn the camera 90 degrees.  You’ll probably find you can keep the left one tucked but the right one will move up as you twist the camera.

With your left arm tucked into the side or front torso, and your right fingers gripping the camera from above, you will need to use your left hand to hold some of the weight from underneath the camera. Your fingers will be in front and under the lens and your thumb behind. This makes smooth focus pulling trickier than in landscape shots. You’ll have to practice holding the camera from above if you need to pull focus.

One technique popular with professional street photographers is to lean up one side, usually the left side, next to a wall or pole or something solid to keep them extra steady while they drop their hand from the bottom of the camera and pull focus while gripping just from above.

Crouching and kneeling for low or angled shots

how to hold your camera- squatting

how to hold your camera- squatting

Use any steady objects around such as a ledge or bench if you can and if it frames the picture as you like.

If nothing is available or if you want to angle the camera up or down, use your elbows against your bent leg, preferable the meaty thigh which will be steadier than the knee.

The more contact you can make with the ground the steadier you will be so if you can, put your lower leg against the ground as you lean on the other leg. .

A good positions for shooting a camera from a kneeling positions  is the same one as a squatting sports rifle shooter.

Lying down for low and angled shots

Luckily there a few classic shots where photographers need to lie down but if you are getting creative these shots can come up. Prop yourself up with your elbows to make a tripod- two arms and a torso and use those elbows to stay still. Make sure your camera is making the right contact points on your face and your hand grip is correct and comfortable.

Whatever shot you are trying to take remember where your fingers go, the contact points on your face and think of you body as a tripod that you have to set up to be still and even as you click that shutter.

I hope this article has helped you understand not just HOW to hold your DSLR but WHY it is so important. If you have any tips or comments please reply below, I would love to hear from you!

Cheers,

Ben

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3 Comments

  1. I found this article very helpful. However as I wear glasses I cannot rest the camera against my right eyebrow. Is there a way to get around this? Thank you.

  2. Pingback: Let’s Talk Tech: Photos and Privacy – Musings of an Average Feminist

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