Make Your Photos Super Sharp Part 2 – Support Your Camera

OK now. Here's part two of my series on taking super sharp pictures – with more tips on keeping your camera steady.

You can support your camera on a tree, a lamp post or something of this kind.

But what's next?

What if you want more flexibility. If you want to position your camera more carefully.

What if you want more portability?

Then you must think about camera supports. You're going to have to carry something with you.

It all depends if you just want some extra help when hand holding is difficult or if you're interested in really long exposures of seconds, minutes or even hours.

Let's look at some extra help first.

Before we go further it's important to consider a couple of points.

There's no point in choosing a camera support which is too heavy, cumbersome, unwieldy or inflexible to take with you.

It's too late when you get to the top of the mountain to know that you've left your support behind.

And, there's always going to be a trade off: The most stable and flexible camera supports tend to be heavier and often more expensive.

So let's see what you can do.

If you go into a well equipped photo store or online dealer you'll find all sorts of gadgets and gizmos to help you keep your camera steady.

You'll find clamps with screws on that you can use if there's some suitable wood around, devices with suckers that will stick on your car window, mini tripods with fixed legs and some with flexible legs that you can wind round a post, beanbags which are literally bags full of beans or pulses or polystyrene granules which will mold to your camera and provide a steady base.

I have some of these and they can be useful – I use my beanbag quite a bit for example.

However none of these will cover all your options and you can not carry them all around with you even if you can afford them.

They all have specialized uses and you'll need to plan carefully which to take with you.

So what are your universal options if you want some extra help?

Well, there's one fact where you go and it's this:

You'll be standing on something, on the mountain, the street, the wadi bed, the bottom of the canyon, the floor in your house even and here's where you can look for help.

I usually rely on three options.

First of all it's a do it yourself option (though there are commercial versions available)

You need a piece of strong cord or wire – picture hanging material works well.

It should be about as long as you are tall.

One end should be fixed to a screw which you can screw into the tripod bush of your camera.

Then it's simple: you let the wire dangle onto the ground and tread on it, pull the string taut as you hold the camera in place.

This will give you enough support to use a lower shutter speed or stop down a bit.

As always, if you can, take a few shots – some will be steadier than others.

Put your camera on the ground:

This technique is for taking pictures of ceilings in cathedrals and grand houses.

This is how I do it:

First I decide on how to focus – autofocus often works well if there's nothing like a hanging lamp in the way ..

Then I make sure that the self timer is activated.

Then if I'm using a sophisticated DSLR I make sure that mirror lockup is on.

Then I'll set my camera to aperture priority if I can. An aperture of f8 – f16 works well.

Often I'll use a wide angle setting on my lens but this depends on how high the roof is and how much I want to include in my picture.

The final step is to put the camera carefully on the ground with the lens facing up. Position it as carefully as you can, and press the shutter release gently.

Then step out of the way and also be careful to stop anyone treading on your camera!

The self timer will blink or buzz and after a while the camera will take the picture. Typically the exposure can be a second or more.

Now, this is a hit or miss technique and you'll probably need some computer work after you get the composition right but it will keep your camera steady.

Ok, now I'm sorry. This will probably mean spending some money.

Buy a monopod.

A monopod is a collapsing pole that you can use to support your camera. It helps to have a simple ball and socket head on top so that you can position your camera vertically and horizontally.

There are many monopods on the market.

I have one made by Cullman which collapses to 15in / 38cm and I can put it in my bag.

A monopod like this is small and light enough to take to the top of the mountain.

Of course, the time may come when you want more help for longer exposures – then it's time to buy a tripod.

That's for next time.