A Photo In The Life Of

A Photo In the Life Of is a weekly photo blog written by Larry Lewis. Topics include photo opportunities, past and present, product reviews and other topics of interest to photographers and photo lovers.

Camera Shake - The Next Chapter

Camera shake drives me nuts! Yes, I'm back, or still on this kick.

OK, so you have read one, some, all of my posts. I'm always recommending using a tripod. I wrote a buyers guide post, A Layman's Guide To Tripods . I even wrote a post a few months ago that was more a rant about artificially sharpening images titled Sharp Images in the Digital Age where I shared a lot of my thoughts, right or wrong, about the importance of sharp images. I stand by both these articles.

Like most photographers, unless I'm intentionally shooting soft, or blurred images I try to shoot my images as sharp as possible. I will use a tripod, bump up the ISO to enable higher shutter speeds, stop down the exposure and try to use the 'sweet spot' aperture of my lenses. Usually one, or a combination of these techniques will do the trick. My problems arise when shooting wild life photography with my super zoom lens.

Often I will use my Sigma 150-500mm OS lens when shooting wildlife. I try to shoot at f8 with the OS turned off because I find it gives the best results, although the lens has done well wide open (higher apertures). I always use it on my tripod due to the size and weight of the lens.  

The problem arises when I trigger the exposure. The act of pressing the shutter release shakes the camera just a little bit due to the weight and size of the lens. This slight shake softens the image noticeably when zoomed in at longer focal lengths over 300mm. If you enjoy macro photography you will probably experience the same problem. A professional tripod and high grade head help a lot. Higher grade heads tend to tighten easier and more securely than lower cost heads. Also specialty heads such as gimbal heads are more rigid for less shake. But many of us don't have the budget to go out and buy these high priced accessories. So what do we do?

This slight shake can be combated by using some of the techniques I mentioned above and locking the head into position tightly, but hard tightening reduces the mobility sometimes required to change and fine tune the composition of your shot. You can also use the delayed shutter drive mode on your camera. Depending on the positioning of the camera a 2 second delay often works for me, although sometimes that is not enough time for the camera to still. I have increased the delay, but there is no guarantee your subject will stay in the frame long enough to get the shot! 

The best way to ensure the sharpest shot possible is with a tripod and a cable release or remote. Oh no, not another accessory! Don't worry, depending on the model and features you can get a cable release or remote very reasonably priced. 

A cable release or remote can be wired or wireless and allows you to trigger your camera without touching the the trigger. Since you don't touch your camera, there is less chance of camera shake. (other than the shake that occurs from the mechanical movement of the shutter, but we won't worry about that!) These accessories aren't generic, so you must purchase one designed for the make and model or your camera. You may still want to put a slight sharpening on your images in post production just to give them a little more pop, but it shouldn't be required.

Back in the film camera days I would use a cable release regularly. I don't have one for my 5D MkII but I'm going out to purchase one. I'm tired of the aggravation of anticipating good results from my birding and wild life excursions only to be disappointed with many of the results. 

All shots in this post were taken using a Sigma 150-500mm OS Zoom Lens and a tripod but no cable release. This will change!


A Photo In The Life Of is a weekly PHOTO blog on LARRYLEWISPHOTO.COM.   It is an evolution of my original blog A Photo in the life of  that began in 2006.  I hope to give a little context to my photography and maybe make a few new photography friends. To purchase a print visit Shop. If the image is not listed Contact Me for availability.

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