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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

Achieving Image Stabilisation Without a Tripod

2021-11-02

As far as camera equipment goes, tripods are some of the most valued examples around. A tripod solves the issue that comes with longer exposures, where even the slightest movement can result in a blurry image. Yet, it’s not always possible to use a tripod (e.g. strong winds, uneven terrain, insufficient space). Also, quality tripods are heavy due to their design, which makes transporting them difficult. 

There are some common technical workarounds to make image stabilisation possible without a tripod. Some photographers shoot in burst mode to get around the camera shake that comes with pressing/releasing the shutter button. For cameras without a high-speed drive mode, using the self-timer feature is another clever way to achieve the same effect – just without the excess pictures. 

 

Here are some other solutions: 

Manipulate the camera strap

Increasing the tension on the camera strap can help to stabilise your camera, and the simplest way to achieve this is to shorten it. This can be done with the strap either looped around your neck, body or upper arm. If you happen to be shooting from a low angle, standing on your strap while pulling it tight works too. 

 

Tucking arms inwards 

Using this tip along with the camera strap hack allows for an even steadier shot. Keeping your arms tucked in also helps a great deal; a good cue to keep in mind is "elbow to hips". 

 

Bracing against a flat surface

Your body can also act as a makeshift tripod. Bracing yourself against a firm wall works well, as well as sitting/laying down. Both can help a great deal when you're shooting handheld. 

 

Groundling the camera

A simple box can be all you need to stabilise your camera. In fact, any flat surface can serve as a potential base for your camera. Another popular way of doing this is to use a small bean bag or a bag containing uncooked rice as a cradle. The form-fitting nature of the bags allows them to be used on various surfaces, all while keeping the camera supported. 

While these tricks are things that every photographer should have up their sleeves, they work best when used to complement modern image stabilisation technology. Advancements in the field now allow us to take advantage of features such as In-Body Stabilizer (In-Body IS) and In-Lens Image Stabilizer (Optical IS). And having the right equipment allows photographers to push the boundaries of their craft.  

 

The Canon EOS R5 and R6 lead the way with their five-axis In-Body IS, allowing them to deliver up to eight stops of stabilisation when paired with compatible lenses. For example, pairing the RF35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM with the EOS R5/R6 allows photographers to achieve steady handheld shots at a four-second shutter speed. 

Meanwhile, Optical IS broadens the playing field. The corrective optics improves the stability and speed of Auto-Focus (useful in low-light situations). In the case of selected RF lenses, both the camera and lens share data to further reduce camera-shake blur and deliver sharp images.

Combining In-Body IS and Optical IS creates a particularly effective combo for achieving otherwise impossible shots. Another benefit is that you won’t have to rely on higher ISO settings for clearer images. With both In-Body IS and Optical IS, you can shoot with longer exposures without worrying about image blur. 

 

It is clear how In-Body IS and Optical IS support more robust and fuss-free photo-taking, particularly when used together (e.g. EOS R6 with RF24-105mm f/4-7.1 IS STM). Most importantly, it gives photographers a greater amount of flexibility when it comes to approaching a technically challenging shoot. Combined with the list of tips laid out here, achieving sharp shots in challenging conditions can become much easier. 

 

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