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- Carry and hold that DSLR like a pro
- Stabilizing the camera: from hands to water glasses to tripods
- Using aperture, shutter speed, and ISO
- What the buttons do
- Manually controlling your autofocus
- Working with flash
- Thinking creatively
- Buying new gear
Skill Level Beginner
Whenever you're shooting, you want to hold your camera as steady as possible. So that means if you can set it down on something. It's always going to be more solid than if you're holding it. No matter how you hold the camera. So let's talk about a few different ways that we can stabilize the camera. Using both purchased items, and just everyday items around us. So basically things ranging from very expensive to very free. Let's start off with the plain old tabletop. You can always just set your camera down on the table, and look at that. Perfectly solid. So if this happens to work for you, if this is putting the camera where you want it. This is a great place to set it down. Then when you take a picture.
(audio playing) Even a night long exposure like that half second there, it's going to be totally solid. But of course this doesn't always work, sometimes you need to get it up a little bit higher. A perfect example of this might be at a dinner table. Let's say you're out a restaurant with friends and you want to get a nice photo of the table. But the light's a little bit low and you don't want to use the flash. Setting the camera down like this probably isn't going to work. But what might work, is getting it just up a little bit higher. A really common item that you'll find at any dinner table, is a water glass. You can set the camera down on it, just simply by resting it on there or even completely balancing it on there, if that works.
But just setting it on and holding it in place, is going to give you a really nice, solid, stable platform to shoot from. (audio playing) And that's going to give you that shot that you want, where the camera's completely rock solid. But you can still do that long exposure. Just don't make the mistake that I made once in a London restaurant. Where I picked up a water glass that had just been filled, and turned it upside down to use it as a stabilizing platform. Doesn't work. Don't get the table wet, so watch out for full glasses. Now there's a couple other things that we can do. Maybe you want to get a little bit higher, you don't have a glass around, but you have something like a pillow or a rolled up jacket. You can set that down and rest the camera on there. But there's two problems right away.
First of all, the camera's not exactly perfectly level, so we, you know, we're trying to get that right and you may not be able to get it in place. And also you notice that when I push the button, the camera's pretty unstable there. So I've succeeded in getting it up high, but as long as I'm touching it, it's not exactly stable or level. So two problems here. Let's hit these one at a time. First of all, as far as leveling the camera goes. Don't worry about getting it perfectly level on whatever you're using to stabilize it. Remember that you can always rotate the image in your computer software later on. So if it's a little bit crooked, you can straighten it out later, so that's fine.
What's more important is that the camera is solid. But now the second problem. I can't push the button while it's sitting here on this pillow because that's just going to move the camera. And I've defeated the entire purpose of setting it down on something. So here's a tip. Put the camera into the self timer mode. So on this camera I'm going to go ahead and slip this over to the self timer mode. It's been set to a 5 second self timer. A lot of modern DSLRs will allow you to switch it from maybe 2, or 5 or 10 or even 20 seconds long. In this case, it doesn't have to be more than just a few seconds. I don't need to get into the picture. I just need the camera to stop moving.
So now it's in self timer mode. I'll go ahead and push the button, it stabilizes. (audio playing) And we get our photo. So now, the camera's been stabilized by the pillow, if it's at a bit of an angle, that's okay we can fix that in the computer. Now let's take a look at a couple of other solutions. Over here I have something called a Gorilla pod. This is a really convenient little tripod like device that as you can see is quite small and very easy to fit in your camera bag or your backpack or whatever you might have. What this does is first of all allows me to move it out like so. So it's like a basic normal tripod and I can bend it however I want to get the shot perfectly level.
But what makes this really interesting is that these legs will wrap around and hold on to just about anything. So for example, let's say that this surface here is the only thing I can find to wrap my camera around. No problem. Let's just put this on here. Wrap the legs around like so. And just like that I've got my camera perfectly locked into place. The gorilla pod is fantastic, and these come in a variety of sizes, depending on the weight of the camera that you're going to put onto it. Now, let's look at something a little bit more heavy-duty. On here I have a little contraption I've put together. This is a brace from a company called Calumet.
And this clamp will clamp onto just about anything. Any kind of a pole, or stick, or device that will fit through here. This will clamp on to. So imagine even a handrail you could slap this onto over a bridge or something like that. On top of that, I've added a Manfrotto ball head that allows me to have total flexibility of where I position the camera. So let me show you how this works. Here I have a pole. And again, this could be just about anything. I simply attach this on to here. Spin this around to lock it in place. And now, this is completely rock solid. Now, this is a lot smaller and lighter weight than carrying around a massive tripod.
Of course, it's not quite as flexible as a tripod. But it will do the job in a lot of situations where a tripod wouldn't even fit. So, this is something that I really quite recommend if you want to have that really, really stabilized shot, this is a great little package to carry around with you. Now sometimes you do need the big guns, you do need the tripod. Let's take a look at a tripod I have over here. This is a pretty average size tripod. They get bigger and they get smaller. But don't buy something too small. If it's really lightweight and flimsy, it's not going to be that stable. And since the whole point of a tripod is to keep the camera as solid as you can. You don't want a really flimsy one.
Now any tripod is going to move a little bit. Even this one if you watch it when I tap the camera it shakes a little bit. But then it stabilizes very, very quickly within about a second or so. Kind of like on the pillow but the pillow takes a lot longer to stabilize. You don't have all the flexibility that you have with the tripod. So anyway with the tripod remember it's not a solid rock it still does move a little bit. So what that means, is if you are going to do a long exposure, instead of pushing the button on the camera with your hand. You may want to use that self timer like we did earlier, or use a cable release. Plug that in, and then you can control the camera without actually having touch it.
The other cool thing about a tripod like this, is almost all of these will have a quick release head on them. That allows you to quickly remove the camera, so you can shoot by hand. Notice that there's a plate that's attached to the bottom of the camera. And then when you want to attach it back on to the tripod, it just slaps into place and you're good to go. So no matter what type of device you're using. You want to stabilize that camera if you're shooting anything longer than, I'd say maybe a 30th of a second or slower. You want to have that really good stabilized shot. Whether you're just setting it on the table, using a water glass or a pillow or more advanced device, or even a full on tripod, just get that camera solid. You'll be surprise that how much of a difference that can make in the sharpness of your photos.
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