PHOTOGRAPHY TUTORIALS & TIPS
Free Photography Tutorials, Beginners to Advanced

Holding the Camera

Holding the camera properly

Holding the camera properly is the best way to avoid or minimize the effects of camera shake. A good firm grip with the right hand and support from underneath means that, when you press the shutter release, movement of the camera will be minimized. This will enable you to shoot sharper pictures at slower shutter speeds.

The picture on the right shows a good grip, the heel of the left hand supports the camera from underneath. When the shutter is pressed with the right hand, the camera tends to move downward, the left hand in this position will minimize the effect of this.

Some older cameras had shutter buttons that pushed in towards the body instead of downwards, but they seem to have largely disappeared nowadays, presumably because the position did not feel as comfortable as the downward movement.

Cameras were designed to be used with the right eye, although it is possible to use them with the left. The advantage of using the right eye (which feels more comfortable to most of us anyway), is that the left eye is not blocked by the camera body and you can, if you want, keep it open to see what is going on outside of your field of view. The natural tendency is to shut your left eye, the better to concentrate on your picture, but with a little practice, you can get used to keeping it open. Having the left eye open enables you to see what is about to move into your frame, a useful thing when taking action shots. Also you can see what happens at the time when the exposure is being made and the mirror is blocking your view in the viewfinder. Did the person you are photographing blink? Better check and take another shot.

Here are some examples of how to (and how not to) hold the camera.

How not to hold the camera Fingertip grip
This is the way a lot of people hold their camera. But, as you can see, there is no real support under the camera, so camera shake is more likely. Also when you want to adjust the zoom, you have to reposition your hand. Recently there have been a flood of cameras with no viewfinder, you have to look at the screen to compose your picture. As a result some people find it more 'natural' to view in this way. But now you are holding the camera in a very unstable way.
fingertip grip on a phone camera good grip under the lens
Ultra compacts and camera phones have made matters even worse. Now you have to hold the camera with your finger tips, away from your face. Even I find it extremely difficult to hold such a camera still. The only way is to find some support for your elbows as in the picture below. When you use a telephoto lens, the need for support form underneath becomes more urgent. Not only because the weight distribution is now tipping the camera forward but also because the narrower angle of view will accentuate any camera shake.
holding the camera properly for a vertical shot using elbows for support
The 'good' way of holding the camera recommended in this article translates very well to the portrait view as well. A lot of people take all their pictures in landscape format simply because it feels uncomfortable to hold the camera in the upright position. Holding it this way feels very comfortable. Wherever possible I would recommend using any extra support available. Especially when shooting in low light or with a dreaded camera phone.
unsteady grip on the camera unsteady grip on the lens

Holding the camera by the body only (left) means that when you move your hand to adjust the zoom, the tendency is to do it 'over arm' with your finger tips, as in the picture on the left.

This gives no extra support to the camera at all.

She is, in effect, holding the camera with one hand.

Whereas an under arm grip cradles the camera in the palm of your hand, taking all the weight.

Holding the camera in the right way might seem a little uncomfortable at first but in a very short time it will seem the most natural thing in the world.

You will notice that there are no camera straps evident in any of these pictures. I personally am not a fan of the camera strap and prefer not to use them. I find they get in the way especially when I turn the camera on its side, which I do an awful lot. A large percentage of my pictures are shot in upright format and the strap can often fall in front of the lens. That said, I am an extremely careful person and I never, ever drop things. If there is even the slightest chance that you might drop your camera, use a strap. Modern cameras do not bounce.

Even when there is plenty of light and the shutter speed is quite fast, you can see the difference between a well held camera and an unstable 'grab shot'. The difference may be subtle but it will be there to see. People often think that the sharper results from a well held camera are due to a more expensive camera or lens. Better equipment does give you better results but only when you know how to use it properly.

Other tutorials in this section

Begin at the Beginning

A good place to start for complete beginners, the first few things you need to know.

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Selection

A short piece of advice on showing your pictures to others.

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Holding the Camera

How to hold the camera properly and why. Also illustrations of how not to hold the camera.

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Camera Shake

What is it? What does it look like? What causes it? How to avoid it.

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