Minimize Camera Shake in Close-Up Portraits

An unstable camera is not ideal for creating sharp macro and close-up photographs with the point of focus placed perfectly where you want it. But when photographing people, you may sometimes prefer to take the camera off of the tripod and into your own hands to better engage your subject. Keep in mind that you’ll be responsible for stabilizing the camera enough to get a steady shot.

Keep your point of focus in the right area

If your camera shakes, or moves in the time between positioning the point of focus and taking the photograph, then your focal point may shift and end up in the wrong spot during the time of your exposure. Handholding a camera at very close distances can often cause this to happen.

Using a tripod is the best way to ensure that your camera doesn’t move on you before or during your shot. However, there are times when you won’t have your tripod, or your subject is easier to work with when handholding the camera (for instance, a moving subject). Here are some tips to minimize the effect camera movement has on the position of your focal point:

  • Set your focus and quickly take the shot. The longer you wait to take the shot after positioning your focal point, the more time there is for error. As soon as you achieve focus where you want it, take the shot to minimize the possibility of movement.

  • Stabilize yourself as much as possible. Press your elbows in to your body while holding the camera to create more support. By doing so you can hold the camera in one spot for longer periods. Also, let the camera lens rest in your palm rather than holding it up with your fingers. That way, your arm provides support, which is much more stable than your fingers.

    Try to sync your breathing with your shots as well. As you breathe in and out your camera moves. Don’t hold your breath for a shot, but plan to focus and take the shot in-between inhaling and exhaling.

  • Try setting your auto-focus mode to “servo” rather than “constant.” The servo auto-focus mode is designed to lock your focal point on a moving target. This should also be beneficial in situations where either your subject, or your camera is moving.

  • Use a smaller aperture setting (such as f/16). Doing so helps to provide a little more room for error by creating a greater depth of field.

Make sure your focal point appears sharp

If your camera shakes or moves during the time of your exposure, then your subject may come out blurry in the image. Again, using a tripod is the best way to eliminate camera shake, but if you’re handholding the camera then these techniques help to minimize its effect on your images:

  • Use a fast shutter speed (such as 1/250 or faster). The less time your shutter is open during the exposure, the smaller the effect of camera shake becomes.

  • Take advantage of your lens’s Image Stabilization mode. Image Stabilization (or IS) is designed to keep what the camera sees steady, even when the camera itself is shaking. Chapter 6 tells you more about this feature.

  • Stabilize yourself as much as possible. You can do so by squeezing your elbows into the body for support and resting the lens in your palm rather than in your fingers.

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