Camera shake is a common problem for photographers and is the number one cause of soft images. You may think you are keeping your camera still when you take an image at a slow shutter speed – you may even be using a tripod – but in some conditions and at slower speeds, even the slightest movement can causes blurriness in an image.
If you’re in low light, your exposure time will be longer, so the effects of camera shake will be more pronounced. Below are a few simple techniques you can use to minimise the risks of camera-shake and ensure your photos are as sharp as possible.
4 ways to stop camera shake
01 Use your camera’s Shutter priority mode
The Shutter priority shooting mode in your camera’s exposure mode options allows you to take precise control over the shutter speeds at which you shoot. Every camera is different, but on most DSLRs and many mirrorless cameras, you can set this mode by simply rotating a dial on your camera’s top plate.
Then set your shutter speed via the shutter speed dial or in your camera’s menu system. Shutter priority mode will maintain a constant shutter speed based on what you’ve set, and it will automatically adjust the aperture of your lens to maintain the correct exposure as you increase or decrease the shutter speed.
02 Try image stabilization
Camera manufacturers employ a variety of optical stabilizing systems. Typically these are either built into lenses or camera bodies.
Turning on the image stabilisation feature on a traditional standard lens, for instance, will often give you a four-stop increase in exposure time before you begin to notice the effects of camera shake.
What does this mean in practical terms? Let’s say you were in average light shooting at a shutter speed of 1/60sec. As the light fails, with your image stabilization switched on you would be able to shoot with a shutter speed as low as 1/8sec.
However, you will still need to ensure that the camera is steady to ensure the sharpest results.
03 Increase your ISO
Some cameras now offer sensitivity ranges up into the millions! While that may be impractical for anyone other than photojournalists or sports photographers, the sensitivity settings on cameras have improved dramatically in recent years.
Manufacturers have extended the native ISO range while keeping noise to a minimum. On most cameras you can now shoot comfortably and noise-free up into the tens of thousands on your ISO scale.
One of the best ways, then, to maintain a fast shutter speed in challenging light is to increase your ISO speed. Most cameras have an Auto ISO function, which automatically increases your sensitivity within a set range of your choosing as light levels decrease.
Some cameras also have an ISO Bracketing feature, which allows you to take several frames of the same scene – one at the recommended ISO, one at a higher sensitivity value and one lower.
Remember: while image quality has improved at higher sensitivities, underexposure will exacerbate any noise issues. So make your you use your camera’s histogram to ensure the exposure is accurate.
04 Aperture alert
It’s common to find yourself setting a shutter speed that’s too fast for your lens’s maximum aperture, especially if you are shooting in low-light conditions. Many cameras have an aperture alert setting that tries to warn you of this risk of underexposure.
You’ll notice this on DSLRs when the aperture display begins flashing on the top plate and in the viewfinder. Your camera isn’t about to self-destruct! Simply dial in new exposure settings until it stops flashing.