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Proper Shooting Technique

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Canonista, Sep 18, 2011.

  1. Canonista

    Canonista Mu-43 Top Veteran

    563
    Sep 3, 2011
    L.A.
    Up until my recent purchase of an E-P3, I used a DSLR format camera 99% of the time. Thus, the only time I shot with the arms out-stretched stance was with pocket cameras like the S90. Since the low-light capabilities of p&s cameras are so poor, I generally used these viewfinder-less cameras only in bright light at high shutter speeds, so camera shake was never an issue.

    Now that I'm using my viewfinder-less m43 camera for all lighting conditions, I am forced to think once again about proper shooting technique. While I like composing with the large, live screen of my E-P3, I find that camera shake can be a problem shooting with out-stretched arms, particularly for indoor photography. The tried-and-true methods for DSLRs just don't work. How to Reduce Camera Shake – 6 Techniques

    I'd be interested to learn from other m43 shooters what techniques they use to improve stability when shooting without a viewfinder or a tripod. Does anyone use the shoe-string method? Camera Stabilizer On A Shoe String Budget | DIYPhotography.net How about a thin monopod?
     
  2. Livnius

    Livnius Super Moderator

    Jul 7, 2011
    Melbourne. Australia
    Joe
    I use a 'Black Rapid' shoulder sling type strap...when I bring the camera up I've become efficient at slinging the strap around my right elbow in 1 quick move as well. I've found it is almost like adding a 3rd contact point and improves stability quite a bit....add to that I try lean a part of my arm or upper torso against something stationary and I manage to find a fairly stable shooting position. Not perfect but certainly an improvement.

    The trick was to adjust and find just the right length of sling.
     
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  3. Gwendal

    Gwendal Mu-43 Veteran

    300
    Jun 6, 2010
    Out of the "6 techniques" in the article I find #1 works really well (elbows to the body). The little paradox with m43s is that many of the lenses are too small to be held firmly... with pancakes I often find myself using my left hand to hold the body as well. The other techniques I could think of would apply whether you have a VF or not : control your breathing etc
     
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  4. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Gordon
    I tried and tried to get used to using only the LCD, but couldn't. In the end I got a VF2. I don't use it all the time on my Pens, but I'm glad to have it. Some can get used to the LCD and some can't. Luckily with the Pens you can add an excellent viewfinder if you want.

    Gordon
     
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  5. Canonista

    Canonista Mu-43 Top Veteran

    563
    Sep 3, 2011
    L.A.
    Thanks for the reference. I'll need to check out this device. Part of my problem is the lack of appropriate lenses. I sometimes need to lean or stretch in awkward positions because I still don't have the full range, and that also contributes to camera shake (or am I trying to justify more lens purchases! :wink:).
     
  6. Canonista

    Canonista Mu-43 Top Veteran

    563
    Sep 3, 2011
    L.A.
    I've noticed that as well. It reminds me of the dilemmas one faces when selecting a tripod; too heavy and it's left behind, while too light it vibrates and shakes for it to be of any use.
     
  7. Canonista

    Canonista Mu-43 Top Veteran

    563
    Sep 3, 2011
    L.A.
    I am leaning towards a VF2 as well so that at least I have that option. I will say that the LCD screen on the E-P3 is really very good, and I also like the touch select focus and shoot option of the camera. However, that shooting style may actually be contributing to camera shake. I'll need to experiment more.
     
  8. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

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  9. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    I thought the lack of eye-level viewfinder was contributing to my extra camera shake when I first started using the original E-P1 Digital PEN, but eventually I discovered that holding the camera up against your head actually had nothing to do with the difference in stability. It all has to do with your body form, and decades of shooting with an SLR had naturally developed a stable position to hold your body for every type of shooting scenario. After years of now using Micro Four-Thirds cameras, my body has again naturally developed new stable positions to hold my Micro Four-Thirds camera and the shake is no worse than it was with my last DSLR.

    There is no inherent instability in the viewfinder-less system, it's only our own selves which have gotten used to shooting one way or the other, and have developed our technique around that type of camera.

    Just your mention of "arms outstretched" tells me that this is where your problem lies. You don't shoot a micro four-thirds camera like you see tourists in movies with their pocket cameras, one hand loosely on each side of the camera, smiling and saying, "cheese". Think of it more like shooting a handgun, which you hold with one hand underneath to steady the shot, and the other hand gently on the trigger (shutter).

    Just keep on it, and you'll find it'll become natural and comfortable for you. Think about supporting your elbows more. For instance, hold your arms in close for low-down shots and your elbow can naturally brace against your hip. This is no less stable than bracing your elbow against your chest with an eye-level viewfinder, in fact even more stable since you are now allowing gravity to steady your arm from the low angle instead of tensing your muscles to hold the camera up to your eye. I can't give you a scenario for every type of shot you do, but your body will naturally find a stable way of holding the camera with experience.
     
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  10. Canonista

    Canonista Mu-43 Top Veteran

    563
    Sep 3, 2011
    L.A.
    Thanks for the advice Ned. It did take me a while to develop a stable shooting style using SLRs, so you're right about finding and developing a stable posture for the m43 cameras. Since I've only had my E-P3 for about 2 weeks, it still feels strange to be shooting this way, but I'll try some of your suggested techniques, and defer the VF2 purchase (I need to be saving for lenses).
     
  11. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    SoCal
    I used to shoot professionally as a news photog and have developed (IMO) pretty good low light camera techniques. Overall, I don't think she is giving good advice especially for the µ4/3 cameras.

    1) In low light raising ISO, (as high as acceptably possible), careful metering off the most important element of the primary subject (essentially spot metering - one needs to understand how a meter measures and how your settings will affect the remaining image). Elevating the ISO and careful metering will go a long way to maximize the highest usable shutter speed. Even one stop difference in shutter speed goes a long way in minimizing camera shake.

    2) Her #1 Elbows In, is correct. Always, always tuck in your elbows. Now only tuck but dig in so that you upper arms are flexed and tight (not straining the muscles but comfortably tight). Grip the the camera tightly, if you have an Eye Level Viewfinder use it and press the camera tightly against the nose and forehead. You have now created a closed triangle between camera/head, upper arms/chest and lower arms. Two of the three intersecting points of this triangle are braced against another element (head and chest). Shooting between breaths is useful for very slow shutter speeds and as squeezing the shutter release, (as opposed to thumping/punching the button). Get a feel to where the release point is for the shutter and depress the button near that point so all you need is a slight "squeeze" to release the shutter.

    Look at her feet, they are together. Never shoot with your feet together. Spread them out abound hip wide so your are comfortable yet stable.

    3) Her #2 Raise Your Left Shoulder, yeah ... kinda hard to have a sideways stance without raising your left elbow. Due to the small µ4/3 cameras and lenses I doubt if this stance will be use very much.

    4) Her #3 Create a Tripod, well yeah that position probably works pretty good but by the time you tuck your leg under and set up on your knee the shot's gone ... then moving to another position you have to unweave yourself again. I used to shoot a lot of sports on my knees, I would never use her techniques because you won't be able to quickly reposition oneself when the tight end is in mid-air looking for a soft place to land.

    5) Her #4 Lay Down, not very practical unless you're in a war zone (where practicality doesn't come to play). With tilt LCD's and pivoting 90 degree EVF's her lay down technique really isn't necessary.

    6) Her #5 Machine Gun Hold ... in my decades of photography, of shooting every working day with often tens of other photogs, I cannot remember ever seeing this technique. If you do use this technique please please please make sure to apply extra deodorant. I have used my arm as a cradle when resting my lens on a wall, car et cetera. Again with small cameras and equally small lenses ... just doesn't work. (FYI, I've never seen anybody hold a machine gun this way either.)

    7) Her #6, Cradle It, while the camera-lens look stable, the entire body seems delicately balanced on the balls of her feet. Just doesn't look comfy ... being comfy helps to reduce camera-shake. Albeit, tucked elbows is not comfy, after practice it will become second nature. 99.9% of my shots using both dSLR's and m4/3 cameras is with tucked elbows.

    8) When possible, brace yourself against something solid, a wall, post, whatever is available ... use it. Monopods are very compact, easily transported and useful for self-defense and low shutter speeds.

    9) When shooting low, one knee or two knees or butt, I use technique #1.

    10) Some quasi random thoughts (just because ten is better than nine):
    The best technique for taking photos, all photos, is with a tripod. But that obviously isn't very practical.

    Remember that one never truly stops action, but rather limits the movement to the length of time dialed into the shutter. An object will travel across the sensor less at 1/1000th of a second than it will at 1/30th of a second. An moving object photographed at 1/8000th of a second will appear "more" stopped than the moving object photographed at 1 second. Due to lack of a mirror-slap, some find it easier to handhold a µ4/3 camera at low shutter speeds than a dSLR. While the m4/3 cameras and lenses are significantly smaller in size and less in weight, I still found that I was easily capable of holding the camera similarly as a dSLR (elbows tucked, left hand flat with palm up, thumb and forefinger grasping lens, right hand tightly gripping camera body).

    Good Luck and Good Shooting,
    Gary

    PS- Practice helps.
    G

    PPS- Before you get an EVF. Try a test, shoot a fixed object with low shutter speed using the LCD then reshoot the object with the camera pressing against your nose (ala EVF) ... see what you get. The proof is in the pudding.
    G
     
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  12. My initial tendency was to hold the camera further away from me than was necessary. Tucking the elbows in and holding the camera closer sorted things out, along with the usual techniques such as proper stance and breathing
     
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  13. Canonista

    Canonista Mu-43 Top Veteran

    563
    Sep 3, 2011
    L.A.
    Thanks Gary. As I read your and others' posts here, it dawned on me that one of the reasons for why it may be easier to get that dreaded blurry shot using live view on an LED screen has to do with the ability to compose shots without the discipline that comes with framing the shot through a viewfinder.

    When shooting with a SLR/DSLR, there is a limit to the available shooting positions because the camera must always be placed against the face. It's the same every time, and this forces one to adopt the various positions and methods for attaining stability that experienced photographers develop over time. When I shoot with my DSLRs, those shooting positions come reflexively after many years of trial-and-error.

    I think viewfinder-less cameras such as the m43 format, and in particular the newer cameras with OLEO LED displays that provide a clear, wide viewing angle, and contain screen-activated shutters, make it so much easier to get sloppy with out-of-position shots. That can lead to poor shooting positions, and also breed bad habits.

    As an extreme example, I'm reminded of the one-handed, arms out-stretched shots that I was forced to take using my S90 on a short trip this summer because we had two dogs on leashes, and I had to always hold onto one of them. I couldn't have taken the shots holding a DSLR, so it was convenient, but it did nothing to help me attain a high keeper rate. Here's one of few that did come out ok where I'm holding the leash.

    i-6k7fCLt-M.

    I think as with every skill, mastery requires discipline, and I will have to work at avoiding the habit of sloppily composing on an LED screen. Stick to defined shooting positions and learn to achieve a high level of stability.
     
  14. Canonista

    Canonista Mu-43 Top Veteran

    563
    Sep 3, 2011
    L.A.
    I have that same tendency, but then again, I seem to be doing the same when reading books of late, or when using my iPad. I think it may have something to do with age. :biggrin: I need to plan a trip to my optometrist for some bifocals.
     
  15. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    SoCal
    Costco has pretty good deals on glasses.
     
  16. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    SoCal
    Da Nada. As someone so eloquently stated before ... "practice".

    Gary

    PS- That looks like Monterey. Are you in the Golden State?
    G
     
  17. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    This position is awkward when shooting with just a body and lens like pictured, as both you and the blogger had noticed. However, when using a flash bracket this (not exact, but similar position) becomes an extremely stable and comfortable position. Especially with large lenses, this position (with flash bracket) will take all the weight off and allow you to hold these large lenses for long periods of time.

    I guess the flash bracket is like the stock on your machine gun. You wouldn't hold a handgun in this position, now would you? With the flash bracket, the bracket rests on your left shoulder or bicep, still allowing free movement of your hand to adjust zoom and focus of the lens. Notice in the blogger's photo that her left hand is nestled inside her right elbow making lens adjustments impossible, and thereby making this entire position next to useless. With a bracket however, this position is the #1 position which I use all the time while standing, and which has allowed me to take shots at slow shutter speeds that make other people puzzled at how I can hold a camera so still. Most people don't know why I always mounted a flash bracket even when I don't need it... well, this was my secret: the bracket was actually for support. ;)

    Being able to shoot like this is probably the thing I miss the most about moving away from DSLRs. ;)
     
  18. Canonista

    Canonista Mu-43 Top Veteran

    563
    Sep 3, 2011
    L.A.
    Right you are. I'm also in SoCal but have done a few trips up north of late. It's been the typical gloomy summer weather there. Must go back in the Fall.
     
  19. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    SoCal
    Remember Samuel Clemens, "The coldest winter I've ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."

    I'm heading to San Francisco for the weekend to catch some soccer. My stepson plays soccer for SFSU and my youngest daughter swims for SDSU ... so I'm all over this place. Since August I've made three trips to SF moving Steven in. San Diego is only two hours away so I don't even count those trips.

    1103439587_Zzy2Y-L.
    Steven

    268136339_ubTAj-O.
    Amy

    G
     
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  20. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    SoCal
    Don't use flash bracket(s) and the people I shoot with don't use flash brackets ... so there's my ignorance.

    G