Sunday, December 13, 2009

When there’s not enough light

I hate carrying around a tripod. Even the little ones like the Gorillapod (Joby GP3 Gorillapod SLR-Zoom Flexible Tripod for Digital SLR Cameras). But these days it seems like I always want to take pictures when there’s not enough light. Low light means slow shutter speeds, where even a little bit of camera shake can turn your picture into a bunch of wavy lines. What can you do to reduce camera shake when you can’t (or don’t want) to use a tripod?

  1. Hold your camera steadily. Keep your elbows close to your side. If you have a DSLR camera, support your camera lens with your other hand.
  2. Brace yourself. Find something to lean against. Lean your elbows on a convenient surface. Or sit, and lean your elbows on your knees.
  3. Brace your camera. Lean the camera against a pole or wall.
  4. Hold your breath when you click the shutter.

Recently, I walked around the Naples (Long Beach, California) canals to see the Christmas lights. I brought along my camera with my fastest (and lightest) lens, just to see what I could capture. Using the tips above, I was able to get several clear shots of the lights and decorations. (I also got a lot of fuzzy shots, especially of the reflections in the water.)

What did I learn?

  • My camera is slow. It’s old. I can’t wait until next year when I’ve saved enough for the next generation of digital camera.
  • Even so, remembering these tips helps. About a third of my pictures turned out in focus, even though most of the shots were taken at a shutter speed of less than 1/20.


  1. nice slideshow!

    i like to bump up my iso in low level situations too.

  2. Good point, I forgot to add that. I had mine set at 400, which is about as high as I can go without unacceptable levels of graininess. (Another reason to look forward to a new camera.)