Handhold the Camera for Subjects that Move - dummies

By Thomas Clark

You can take perfectly sharp macro and close-up photographs while handholding your camera, but doing so requires technique. The speed of your exposure in comparison to the level of camera shake needs to be considered to achieve flawless results. With a fast enough shutter speed, you can freeze motion completely, and the faster your camera is moving, the faster your shutter needs to be.

Photographers often handhold their cameras when dealing with subjects in motion. The best way to guarantee a fast exposure time that enables you to minimize subject movement and the effect of a shaky camera is to shoot in well-lit environments.

Rather than trying to photograph in a shady spot, move to an area where there is bright sunlight shining on the scene. Avoid dimly lit rooms; low light can cause you to have to slow down your shutter speed.

One way to ensure you have a well-lit scene is to use a flash, which enables you to control exactly how much light is produced during an exposure and what direction the light comes from. There are macro-specific flashes and flash mounts for your lens, camera, or tripod, or you can place the flash on a stand of its own and position it wherever you want it.

Whether you’re shooting in a well-lit area with a fast shutter speed or working to maximize light, stabilize your camera to the best of your ability. Here are some ways to do so:

  • Use your body as a tripod. The most stable position for the human body in aiming a camera is the prone position — lying with your stomach on the ground and using your elbows (pressed on the ground in front of you) to prop your hands up. In this position, the ground supports your arms much like a tripod’s legs would.

    If you need to shoot from a slightly higher position you can sit cross-legged and place your elbows on your inner thighs for support. This is slightly less stable than the prone position but better than nothing.

    And if you need to get a higher position than that, stand up and press your left arm tight against your torso. Then bend your elbow and bring the camera in to your face. Keep your hands in tight to your core; the farther your limbs extend outward, the less stable you are.

  • Work with a monopod. It works in a similar way to a tripod, but has only one leg. You can move more freely with a monopod, but it’s less stable than a tripod. You can adjust the height of a monopod to suit your needs and it might just give you that extra bit of stability that helps to produce sharp images of moving subjects.

  • Use your surrounding environment to your advantage. Maybe you can brace your camera on a nearby stump while getting the shot. Lean against a tree or telephone pole for support, or position your camera on a table or a bench. Take whatever means necessary (as long as it’s safe) to steady your camera during an exposure.

  • Take advantage of the image stabilization feature on your macro lens. If your lens is equipped with an image stabilization feature, the time to use it is when you’re shooting handheld macro and close-up photography. To activate it, locate the switch on the side of your lens and click it to the “on” position.


100mm, 1/400, f/9, 4000

For this photograph, the camera was handheld while photographing the bee in action. The photographer was able to capture it in sharp focus by keeping his limbs in close to my body and by utilizing a fast shutter speed in combination with the image stabilization feature on the macro lens.