Ok, ok … so who doesn’t know how to hold a digital SLR camera? It’s simple, right? Just firmly grab both sides of the camera … hold it out at arm’s length … look through the LCD live viewfinder, and take your shot! That sounds logical, especially seeing that’s how you would hold your point & shoot or compact camera. Well unfortunately, that’s not how it’s done. When graduating to a digital SLR from a point & shoot or compact, it’s easy to get this wrong and it’s one of the most common mistakes DSLR beginners make. Learning how to hold a digital SLR will go a long way to taking great pictures.
The Importance of Proper Grip
Why is it important to hold your new digital SLR correctly? Here are a few reasons:
- A digital SLR camera is generally heavier than a compact/point & shoot camera. Add to that the fact that your new camera now has the ability to take photos with longer shutter speeds, it becomes important that the DSLR is held firmly so as to minimize camera shake and subsequent blur in the photograph. Yes, pretty well all DSLR cameras now have image stabilization either in the lens or in the camera, but it’s up to you, the photographer, to give the camera a fighting chance. Don’t get lazy and let the camera do all the work or you will soon find the camera letting you down!
- When you have the correct grip on the camera, it becomes more comfortable to hold thus allowing you to focus more on composition.
- The correct grip gives you the ability to quickly and easily access all the controls of the camera. Your index finger on your right hand will be able to access the shutter button along with the controls on the top of the camera. Your thumb will have access to the controls on the back of the camera. And your left hand will control the focal length and lens focus along with any controls on the front of the camera.
A Steady Camera Equals Better Photos
The main and most important goal in achieving the proper grip is to maintain as much as possible a steady camera while allowing you, the photographer, to focus on composition while at the same time giving you immediate access to all of the camera’s controls. So, how is this done? Follow these tips and procedures on how to hold a digital SLR:
- Hold the right side of the camera with your right hand and your forefinger touching the shutter button.
- Take your left hand, and with your palm facing up to the sky, place it under the camera and grasp the underside of the camera so that the back part of your palm is supporting the left side of the camera from underneath and your fingers are supporting the lens with your thumb on the left side of the lens and your fingers on the right side of the lens. This allows you to change the focal length of the lens and to manually focus the lens if required. If the lens is long, you may not be supporting the camera body at all, only the lens.
- Both elbows should be tucked in close to your body.
- Bring the camera’s viewfinder to your eye to the point where the top of the viewfinder is pressing against your eyebrow.
- And don’t forget your feet! They should be at least a shoulder’s width apart.
Here are some other important tips:
- DO NOT use the LCD live view finder to take a photo! ….. Ok, I’ll be fair. Only use it when the situation calls for it which would be if you need to hold the camera higher than eye level, or when you need to hold it very low to the ground – lower than you can reasonably squat and still get your eye to the viewfinder, or you have to hold it off to one side. In these situations, it’s best to have an articulating LCD screen otherwise the screen becomes difficult to see when viewed from an angle. Why not use the LCD live view finder? When you force yourself to use the optical viewfinder, you force yourself to become better at composing your photographs since the viewfinder itself focuses your eye through a narrow opening. Also, using the LCD screen forces you to hold the camera away from your body thus increasing the likelihood of camera shake. In other words, it’s less stable.
- Never have your left palm facing to the right when holding or focusing the lens. In other words, never have the thumb of your left hand UNDER the lens. Next to holding it with one hand, this is the most unstable way to hold the camera and the lens.
- When you have to hold the camera vertically (in portrait position), you have a choice of either turning the camera counter-clockwise so that your right hand is at the top or turning it the other way (clockwise) so that your right hand is at the bottom. It is better to hold it so that your right hand is at the bottom because this automatically forces you to have your right elbow against your body for better stability. But I, for one, prefer to have my right hand at the top in the vertical orientation only because it is way more comfortable for me and my bad wrist. So choose whichever way is comfortable for you.
One last quick tip: Before taking the shot, breathe in and hold it. Then snap the shutter button.
If you follow these techniques and tips on how to hold a digital SLR, you will definitely go a long way to “getting a grip” on your digital SLR and to improving your photography.
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