Holding a Handheld Steady
May 9, 2006
Holding a camera steady when you're shooting handheld is one of many challenges every videographer must overcome. Here are some simple tricks and techniques to make shots off the shoulder look like they were made with a tripod.
Position the camera so it balances on your shoulder well enough that it won't fall off if you loosen your grip. Stand with your feet spread side-by-side and shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, and weight equally distributed. Shoot at the widest focal length possible. Use your feet instead of the zoom lever to vary the composition.
Instead of gripping it tightly, let the lens rest in your right hand. Keep both elbows as close to your body as possible. Unless you're actively adjusting the focus or iris during the shot, keep your left hand off the lens. Instead, wrap the fingers of your left hand around your right wrist or place your left wrist tightly into any gap between your right elbow and your body to further stabilize the camera. Do not hold your breath. Continue breathing throughout the shot but take shallow breaths.
If you must pan, pre-position your feet so your toes are pointing in the direction you expect to shoot at the end of the move. This allows you to twist and catch your balance before you begin the shot instead of at the end of the pan. Operate the zoom control with your left hand while the camera's rolling. Be aware that flexing the fingers of the hand responsible for steadying the camera can cause unwanted movement.