In this video from LinkedIn Learning, instructor Joseph Linaschke walks us through how to best handhold your camera no matter what type of gear you’re carrying. For more LinkedIn Learning videos about photography, click here.

There are a lot of different ways to hold your camera, and how you hold it is largely gonna depend on the size and type of camera and lens that you’ve got in your hands.

Let’s start with some real basic ideas. This is something that you’re gonna see a lot if you just walk around shooting and observe people with cameras. You’re gonna see this, which is really the wrong way to hold your camera. Here’s the problem, when I do this, I have no stability. Even just by focusing or zooming my camera, chances are I’m gonna move it, and that’s clearly not any good. The whole idea here is to hold it steady.

So instead of getting your elbows way out here, you wanna bring them in tight. So here’s a couple things to consider. First of all, if you wanna bring them in tight, that means your hand positioning has to change from like this to like this. So instead of over, under. Now when you’re holding it under, here’s the thing about this hand. This becomes where the primary weight of your camera sits. Not in your shooting hand, but in your other hand. So I set the camera down and this is the primary platform. My elbow’s tucked in tight, and even without holding onto the camera like this, the camera is steady. So now that I’ve got the camera in place, I can take my shooting hand and bring it in and get the shot. So that’s number one, just get your elbows out from down here, get them under here. Get that hand underneath the camera. Hold onto it tight and away you go.

This video is from Photography 101 by Joseph “PhotoJoseph” Linaschke

Now the next step is how you actually push that button. Now, all DSLR and mirrorless cameras have a two-stage shutter, where you push halfway down to focus and then the rest of the way to take the picture. A lot of people will jam on that button. You don’t need to jam on it. You can just squeeze it very, very gently. If you jam on it, you might move the camera. Let me show you what I mean. I’m gonna exaggerate this a little bit. Little exaggerated, but if I was to push down on this button hard. (shutter clicking) I’m moving the camera every time I push it, and that’s not good for the picture. We don’t want the camera to move. If the camera’s moving, there’s no way that your image is gonna be sharp. So instead of jamming on it, squeeze gently. Squeeze halfway to focus, and then very gently squeeze the rest of the way to shoot.

Also, you don’t have to pull your finger off of it, fly your finger off the button when you’re done. There’s nothing saying that you have to get your hand off of there. Just very gently squeeze and release. And if you’re looking at your finger, if someone was watching you, they might not even see that finger moving, like this. (shutter clicks) The finger should barely, barely move, to make the difference between the half push and the full push. By doing that, you’re gonna keep your camera really, really nice and steady.

What about larger gear?

Okay, so this is all great for a camera of this size, but what if you get something a lot bigger with a much bigger lens? Now, if you’re shooting with a larger professional camera like this, you’ve got some other things to think about.

First of all, this camera’s huge and very heavy, and you know what, they get even bigger than this. So if you’re shooting with a camera like this and you’re doing this all day long, this arm is gonna get kinda tired. So I have some other options for you on how you might wanna hold the camera. This is one of my favorites, I call this the rifle hold. Basically, I’m gonna put my arm over like this and get that good steady position. See what I’m doing here? I’ve nestled it over, and this hand here can rest on your wrist, or just depending on your body type and body size, you might be able to tuck it under or even hold onto your shoulder. Whatever it may be, there’s some combination of wrapping your arm around like this that will probably work for you, and allows you to really nestle that in there and hold it real steady, and then, you can do an even long exposure by holding it this way.

Now, this is great if you’re standing. But what about if you wanna get down on the ground? Let’s take a look at that. On the ground, I like to go into, again, kind of a rifle hold, where I put a leg out, use that leg to stabilize my arm that’s gonna hold the camera, that’s gonna hold the brunt of the weight, and then shoot like so. (shutter click) So again, you have this idea where you have total stability cause your arm is on your leg like this. Your leg is obviously on the ground. You’ve got your other elbow into your other knee and you can keep things nice and steady like so. And finally, another good one is simply cross-legged. If you sit cross-legged, you can then put both your elbows into both of your knees and shoot as well. All great options for keeping your camera nice and steady, whether you’re standing or sitting, even if you’re using the big, heavy camera like this.

Stabilizing with two hands

And here’s the next thing to consider. This is a huge camera. This is a pretty normal DSLR-sized camera. But today’s cameras aren’t getting bigger. They’re getting smaller and lighter. So again, we have to change a little bit how we think about how we hold our camera. So, going back to the idea of the medium-sized camera, you still don’t wanna do this. This is always gonna be a bad idea. So you can still go ahead and hold it like we were looking at earlier, so holding it like so gives you the ability to hold it nice and steady and carry that camera all day long.

But that’s not everything. So, right now, because this camera is so small and lightweight, I might be really tempted to just do this, just with one hand. And you can, but it doesn’t mean that you should. See, if you’re holding the camera with just one hand, the odds of moving it are dramatically improved. We really don’t want that movement, so stabilizing the camera with two hands is a great way to go.

Also, if you’re gonna shoot vertically, if you’re shooting vertically with a camera like this, it’s easy to just go vertical and away you go, but with a camera like this one that’s just a little bit bigger, if I go vertical, I kinda tend to get that elbow back up again. So if you have any larger or kinda medium-sized camera here, one of the grips that I like for a vertical grip is instead of keeping the trigger finger up here, is to actually bring my hand around and use a middle finger to hit the shutter, allowing me to shoot like that. (shutter clicking) It gives you that stability, and also lets you bring that elbow back down again.

Your smartphone

Now finally, let’s look at one of the smallest cameras that you’re likely to shoot with, your smartphone. This is a great camera. You probably have it all the time. You shoot with it everyday, but you’re also probably shooting like this. Holding it out with one hand, trying to push that button to get the picture. And again, even with a smartphone, that one-handed hold is not a good idea.

So, of course, this is gonna depend on where the lens is on your camera, but think about something like this. Stabilize it by making your hand into the shape of an L and just nestling that camera in there, and now I can easily fire that shot and keep it nice and steady. Also, on a lot of smartphones, you can trigger the shutter by pushing one of the other buttons, like the volume button on the iPhone to get the picture, so then, even if you’re doing a selfie, you can use the rear facing camera and then use your thumb to get that shot. So a lot of different options on how to hold the camera.

No matter what you choose, the key here is to make sure that you’re holding the camera as steady as possible. Don’t let it move, don’t let it bounce, don’t let it sway from side to side. Just get that camera locked in place and your shots are sure to be sharp.

Lead photo by Blake Hunter on Unsplash