Recently, over beers with some photographer friends, we got into a discussion of the proper use of a tripod and image stabilization. This got me thinking about how to get the sharpest photographs under different circumstances.
Today’s digital cameras come with image stabilization. It’s a great feature when used properly.
For DSLR cameras there are basically two forms of stabilization:
- lens stabilization as used by Canon or Nikon
- camera body, sensor stabilization as used by Olympus, Sony and others.
You will need to understand how your specific camera’s systems works. Your camera has stabilization on more than one axis simultaneously and may allow for selection of a single axis when required. Consult your camera’s owners manual for details on your camera model’s features. However, most of the time you will likely be using your camera with image stabilization turned-on for all axis.
Sharp photos while shooting handheld requires that you hold the camera steady while pressing the shutter button. No image stabilization will overcome for poor technique in how you hold the camera. This Link from Geoff Lawrence.com has photos showing the correct and incorrect ways to hold your camera.
However, just holding the camera correctly is not going to guarantee a sharp photo. You need to also be aware of the shutter speed of your camera. As I have mentioned many times to my students, don’t attempt handheld photos at shutter speeds less than 1/50 sec when using your camera’s normal lens. Normal lens? Today’s DSLR cameras are often supplied with a lens with focal length in the range of 18 mm-55 mm. When using the normal lens 1/50 sec. is a safe lower limit. When using a telephoto lens, the rule is not to use a speed of less than 1/focal length. So you if have a lens with a focal length of 70 mm-300 mm, you would want to use a speed of 1/70 sec. to 1/300 sec. depending on the focal length you have set. To simplify things for a 70 mm to 300 mm don’t use a speed less than 1/300 sec.
There will be times when you may need to turn off image stabilization to get a sharper photo.
- When using a tripod, some of the newer cameras can actually sense the presence of a tripod or have a tripod mode. More on the use of a tripod later. Consult your camera’s manual for details about use of your camera when using a tripod.
- When shooting using higher shutter speeds and/or when trying to capture fast moving objects, you may get sharper photos by turning off image stabilization. Here you will need to test what works best for your camera. Here’s an opportunity to explore the features of your camera and determine what works best for you by shooting the same photos with and without stabilization turn on. Remember I’m thinking about when you are using higher shutter speeds or photographing moving objects. With your normal lens, you will never likey turn off stabilization.
The general rules when using a tripod are a follows:
- Turn off your camera’s image stabilization. Why? Your camera’s stabilization needs movement to function properly.
- Use a remote triggering device, either an IR remote, wired remote or RF remote. Once again, you need to consult your camera’s manual for details.
- If you don’t have a remote triggering device, you can to use your camera’s time delay feature.The two second delay will allow for you to depress the shutter button and then give the camera and tripod time to stabilize before the shutter actually is triggered. My personal preference is to use a wired remote when using a tripod. Many of the close-up photos in my Flowers Photo Gallery were taken using a tripod and wired remote.
The links below will provide additional information on shutter speed and stabilization.
If you have any Questions please feel free to contact me
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