Five Tips for Steady Cameras

Few things are as difficult to watch or as nauseating to experience as shaky camera work. Home videos of vacations and family events are notorious for this and that is why they get taped but never watched. The difference between steady and shaky footage has nothing to do with the camcorder and everything to do with the videographer. The following list of five essential skills will improve any video if applied during the shoot.

One: Hold the Camera with Both Hands

Some people think it is cool to operate cameras with just one hand. I believe the manufacturers are doing you a favor by freeing up a hand not so you can use it to eat a candy bar, but so you can use it to steady the camera. Two hands are always better than one. It sounds obvious and simple yet every time I go to record a public event I always see folks holding the camcorder with just one hand. Stop acting like an amateur and hold the camera with both hands. Your audience will thank you, maybe not verbally, but will appreciate your effort.

Two: The Correct Stance

People are lazy, especially during long shoots. If you have the job as videographer you had better not be leaning your weight on just one leg. Stand with your feet approximately shoulder length apart with your body weight balanced between both legs. This stance is proven to improve stability in all physical activity and it definitely applies in this case as well.

Three: Electronic Stabilization

Once again, the manufacturers are trying to help you out. If you are shooting without the use of a tripod then turn the electronic stabilizer on, but be sure to turn it off when you put the camera back on the tripod. This technology has improved greatly in the last few years and makes a huge difference in the final shot.

Four: Avoid Zooming, Get Closer

The wide angle is doubtlessly the most stable setting. Zooming make the camera much more reactive to the slightest movement. While holding the camera in your hands this includes up and down as well as side to side. Many zooms are digital now and I frown upon its use. Only use optical zoom! Digital zoom only enlarges existing shots which start to pixelate and the quality plunges. If you can get closer without zooming, this will keep the angle wide and will stabilize your shot.

Five: Just Use a Tripod

The professional’s best friend is the tripod. There is no shame in using one. Tricky movements should be attempted with a counterbalance system like a Glidecam. Most shooting, however, can be accomplished with the use of a tripod. Use it. It may be a little bulky to carry around but that is the difference between the amateur and the professional. Don’t be lazy. Take a tripod and use it as much as possible.