Photo Tip: Take a Stand

Ever notice how you ski better when your gloves and pants match your jacket? Seriously, when was the last time you saw an olympian with mismatched gear? Looking good when you do things makes you better at what you do–or at least makes you look like you know what you’re doing. It’s just a fact of life which is especially true in photography.

Mr. Barbara, my photography teacher in high school, used to drill us on many aspects of our craft. He inculcated the proper techniques for handling film in dark bags, managing chemicals to keep things running consistently as we processed our images, and the proper use of nose grease for fixing scratches on negatives. He made sure we understood what exposure means, and how to get it right–at least, he tried to make us understand, and he made a valiant effort, but come on: talking numbers in an “art” class with teenagers? Now when I teach photography, my students wonder why you would fumble around in a bag without seeing your SD card, and forget about mentioning????chemicals–sheesh, I might get lynched for that word. Mr. Barbara deserves teacher of the year for not guzzling the fix to end the misery.

The one thing I can’t get out of my mind, though, is the way Mr. Barbara held his camera. He was manic about it, and did his utmost to get us to do the same, and this is one technique that stuck with me. See, the way your hold that beautiful little machine determines in large part how sharp your pictures will be. Also, it distinguishes pros from absolute newbies at a hundred paces–believe me, it gives you a lot more street cred with other photogs if you hold your camera right. So, with a little help in the pictures above from the Cache Valley Photographers, here we go, step by step on the grip and stance guaranteed to produce the best pictures and the greatest reputation for being a good photographer.

Take a stand. First of all, get your stance right. This is placing your feet shoulder width apart, which helps you to be stable so you don’t tip over when vertigo kicks in from having your eye stuck in the camera too long. Also, plan to shoot across your body like an archer. That is, put your subject to your left and turn your head to the left to look at it. This lets you rest your left arm on your love handles, which keeps it from flopping around like a chicken wing. Pulling your arm in tight against your body keeps your arm steady eliminating the wiggle that comes from holding a heavy camera all day. See the first picture above.

Be a lefty.????You need to hold the camera in your left hand like you would hold a baby. The lens is the baby’s head, so put your palm face up and set the lens on your palm, wrapping your fingers up from underneath. With shorter lenses, the body of the camera also rests on your hand; long lenses require that you just hold the lens.????

Roll without the Punches.????Holding the camera in your left allows you to keep a light grip with your right hand. This is essential because you need to relearn how to press the shutter button. Holding your camera steady and resting the weight on the long bones of your legs is nullified if you punch your finger down on the shutter button. This movement moves the whole camera. Instead of punching the button, roll your finger across it. Press it halfway to focus, then roll your finger to finish the firing. then, don’t move your finger upward after you’ve pressed it: keep it down for the whole time the shutter is open. Personally, I set my camera to continuous shooting and take two or three pictures with every press in order to minimize my movement. I’m not rolling film in dark bags, so I don’t mind dropping a few more exposures on the card.

Apply Nose Grease.????So, you’ve got your arm tucked into your body, and your hand is cradling the lens–two awesome points of contact. Add a third by pressing your eyebrow against the viewfinder. You need to look through the viewfinder on a DSLR–you cannot hold the camera out like a camera phone and look at the screen to make the picture. Press that thing to your eye and it makes a third anchor pint to keep your camera steady. This means you’ll get nose grease on the screen. If you’re not getting nose grease on the screen, then you’ve either got dry skin, or you’re holding it as steady as you could.

Use the Right Correct Eye. Hold your index finger upright at arms length with both eyes open and line your finger up with the doorframe. Now close your left eye? Is your finger still lined up, or do you have to move it to line it up? If you close your right eye does it stay lined up? For me, it stays lined up when I close my left eye, which means I’m right eyed. This is the eye I should use for everything. That means I hold guns in my right hand, bows in my left, and press my right eye to the viewfinder. This is the only thing that matters for which eye to use in the camera, and there are some advantages either way regarding your stance, which we won’t mention–just use the correct eye.

These tips are aimed at those of using DSLR’s for which we paid too much. For everyone else, your mileage may vary, but adapt these tips to your stance and wow your neighbors by looking like a pro.


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