July 03, 2005

Low Shutter Speeds, without Tripod

There are times when you need to take a shot at low shutter speeds without a tripod. By hit and trial I have found that I manage stable shots upto shutter speed of 15 (or 1/15th of a second). At shutter speeds lower than that, I invariably get some jitter.
Here is a way to deal with the problem:

Place the strap around your neck, extend it till it is taut (see figure above). Place arms as close to body as possible. To get additional stability, use the timer mechanism.

In such a situation, the camera movement is restricted by your arms as well as by the strap. By curtailing the camera's degrees of freedom, I am now able to take stable shots at shutter speeds as low as 4 (or 1/4th of a second). Needless to say, this works best with cameras that have an external LCD display.

Try it out and let me know what is the lowest shutter speed you manage.

PS: Light Sensitive updated once again.

PPS: In response to Chandra's comments, I would suggest you keep a stopgap tripod arrangement in your camera case. All you require are two sufficiently long pieces of nylon string. These can be tied to the strap hook of your camera. Once they are fixed on the camera, place the string under your feet such that the whole arrangement is taut. You should have a configuration as shown below:

While this won't give you the stability of a tripod, it will go a long way in eliminating jitter. Best of all, this stopgap arrangement is so light and small that you can carry it in your camera case.

Chandra, hope this helps you in your quest for jitter-free photographs! :-)


At 9:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey dhar,
apart from your language, the picture u made was quite illustrative.
what s/w u use for making such kin' of pics ?


At 9:26 PM, Blogger Dhar said...

The software I used for making the image: Microsoft Visio. I personally am a big fan of Visio. Sometimes I find it hard to beleive it is from Microsoft. :)

One more thing I forgot to mention in the Post:

Ensure your feet are slightly parted (approximate distance between your feet ~ your shoulder width) and that your knees are wee bit bent. This posture gives you excellent stability.


At 8:08 AM, Blogger Ravages said...

I have unsteady shaking hands, and this kinda restricts me when I shoot. SOmetimes, I prefer not to have the flash on, and have very low exposure leevls. The image ends up being jittery. What do I do?

At 8:22 AM, Blogger Dhar said...


What I seriously suggest:

1. If you use a digital camera, dont use the LCD display. That way you hold the camera away from the body and induce a lot of jitter. Bring camera close to eye, keep arms close to body. This position gives youa great amount of stablity.

2. Use the timer. You wont believe how much jitter gets induced due to the action of pressing the shutter. Use the 2 second timer that most cameras have. This unfortunately is not ideal for those quick shots of moving objects.

3. Use higher ISO settings (ISO 200, 300, 400). While this will induce more noise in the picture, it will allow you to shoot at a higher shutter speeds. Click a few snaps and after that you decide if the trade off is worth it.

4. Get a tripod. If a tripod is out of question, use the strap-technique outlined here. Another thing you can do is get a length of nylon string and pass it through the strap holder. Place this nylon string under your foot such that the string is taut. This way you curtain the degrees of freedom further. (If this is not clear, do let me know. I will upload a diagram of what I mean.)

Will mail you if I think of anything further.


At 3:51 PM, Anonymous S Anand said...

Positively brilliant! Among the best lifehacks I've seen, Dhar. Will try it out.

At 5:18 PM, Blogger Ravages said...

Thanks man. Super idea, that of the makeshift tripod.
BTW - I hardly use the LCD display. mostly the viewfinder.


At 7:37 PM, Blogger Arun Anantharaman said...

Great tip. I don't experiment much with photography, but I have always had this problem when I have to take snaps at night. My HP R707 takes eternity in the night setting.

What I had done so far is to place the camera on someone else's shoulder to take the snap!! :-)

Hopefully, with this technique, I won't have to trouble someone else now!!

At 9:49 PM, Blogger Dhar said...

Gentlemen, glad you liked the makeshift arragement.

> S Anand said...
> Positively brilliant!

You, sir, have made my day! :)


At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just too cool. Cant wait to try both hacks out.

At 11:18 AM, Anonymous chand said...

Great tips D! Will try them out sometime. Btw, do you have any tips to click the full moon or the setting sun? How much ever I try, I can't get a clear outline of the moon. Always a smudgy white mass :(

At 10:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think im going to try a combination of both the strap around the neck and the strap around the feet. I figure this way I will be stabilized on all axes.

At 11:14 PM, Blogger David Bowman said...

a great blog.
I really like your photos.


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