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06-12-2009, 03:16 PM   #1
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How to hold a DSLR so it doesn't weigh you down

I'm looking for advice on technique, and maybe some tools that are helpful.
I'm using manual focus lenses, and sometimes I have to focus continuously, so I end up holding the camera up mostly by my right hand.
A monopod makes it really easy, but I don't want to carry one everywhere.
I've tried a chest support system, but I don't really like it (pushes down on my gut).
Some of the hand straps out there look nice, but I'm not sure how much of the weight they really take.
To top it all off, I'm using a Canon 10D right now, so it's both heavier and more leveraged than, say, a Pentax DLSR.

What's likely to make the biggest difference here?
(a) getting an autofocus lens, so I can use both hands properly
(b) some gadget (more portable than a monopod) that help support the weight
(c) changing cameras
(d) improve technique somehow
(e) other?


Last edited by tilling; 06-12-2009 at 03:18 PM. Reason: Spelling. I have a repyootashun to uphold.
06-12-2009, 03:18 PM   #2
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Hello and welcome to the forums.

I am puzzled by one thing. If you're using the right hand to hold the camera and the left hand to focus... how do you hold your left hand on the barrel? Don't you support the lens from underneath with your hand, while rotating the focusing ring?
06-12-2009, 03:22 PM   #3
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It's not a very big lens, so the center of gravity is still in the camera.

Am I doing the focusing wrong? I tend to focus with two fingers, usually from the side. In any case, my left hand doesn't seem to support much of the weight as I do.
06-12-2009, 03:25 PM   #4
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Exactly your left hand should be under the lens and sort of cradling it to balance holding the setup and getting a steady shot.

Holding the camera


Last edited by Peter Zack; 06-12-2009 at 04:16 PM.
06-12-2009, 03:50 PM   #5
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Fatigue - just wondering if it's from the kit strap. After a 10 hour or so trawls, this weakling was pleased to take the gear off the shoulders and neck. For the cam and lens; find a wide, 'nippled' OpTech strap works well while walking and carrying along.
(Peter, try as i might - can't get to your link)
06-12-2009, 04:02 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by bluespearbone Quote
Fatigue - just wondering if it's from the kit strap. After a 10 hour or so trawls, this weakling was pleased to take the gear off the shoulders and neck. For the cam and lens; find a wide, 'nippled' OpTech strap works well while walking and carrying along.
(Peter, try as i might - can't get to your link)
Do you mean this one?
06-12-2009, 04:12 PM   #7
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Adding to Peter's post:

Try using the heel of your left hand to hold up the camera body while cradling/focusing with the lens - works great...
06-12-2009, 04:19 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by tilling Quote
Do you mean this one?
That would clearly aid if that is how you prefer to move around with the kit, just wondering if a lot of the time it spent with it hanging from neck/shoulders and irritating/fatiguiging to the arm/elbow/wrist.

This is the item i was trying to describe.
OP/TECH PRO CAMERA STRAP RED PCS13B Wokingham Photographic the Accessory Specialist

06-12-2009, 04:22 PM   #9
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Watch this video on youtube from Joe McNally: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDsx3-FWfwk
06-12-2009, 04:34 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Venturi Quote
Watch this video on youtube from Joe McNally: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDsx3-FWfwk
Nice video. I'll have to try shooting left-eyed.
06-12-2009, 04:38 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by tilling Quote
I'm looking for advice on technique, and maybe some tools that are helpful.
I'm using manual focus lenses, and sometimes I have to focus continuously, so I end up holding the camera up mostly by my right hand.
A monopod makes it really easy, but I don't want to carry one everywhere.
I've tried a chest support system, but I don't really like it (pushes down on my gut).
Some of the hand straps out there look nice, but I'm not sure how much of the weight they really take.
To top it all off, I'm using a Canon 10D right now, so it's both heavier and more leveraged than, say, a Pentax DLSR.

What's likely to make the biggest difference here?
(a) getting an autofocus lens, so I can use both hands properly
(b) some gadget (more portable than a monopod) that help support the weight
(c) changing cameras
(d) improve technique somehow
(e) other?
Peter Zacks photo is basically correct.


Feet a feet or two appart. Perhaps one foot a little in front of the other.

Left hand under camera and lens. If the lens (focus ring) is big enough, the whole hand goes below the focus ring, otherwise rest the camera in the palm and use the fingers to focus (in the old days we set the apperture with the same hand).

Keep both arms and camera as close to the body as possible. All of both arms all the way to the elbow should rest against your body.

Use the viewfinder and your face as a extra support by keeping the camera as close to the face as possible.

Take a breath, breath out a little bit, press the trigger gently.

It's very much like firing a riffle, that is if you want to hit something.

With training you can shoot sharp below the 1/60th that was the usual new beginners rule for what you should use hand held at the most. 1/15 is possible, 1/30 quite safe (we are now talking wide angles and normal lenses, perhaps short portrait lenses). With SR it should be even possible to go down to 1/8 maybe 1/4th.

If you go down on one knee there is again some rules on how to do it as well as possible.

QuoteOriginally posted by Peter Zack Quote
Exactly your left hand should be under the lens and sort of cradling it to balance holding the setup and getting a steady shot.

Like this way
Yeah, that woman is basically doing it right, but I would keep arms even closer to the body.


Looks to me as if a lot of people don't learn to do this properly in these easy digital days, and gets away with it thanks to SR and high ISO. But they would still benefit from learning it in the right way. Go get an old photo teaching book from the 2nd hand book store! It will all be there.
06-12-2009, 04:38 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Langille Quote
Adding to Peter's post:

Try using the heel of your left hand to hold up the camera body while cradling/focusing with the lens - works great...
I tried that, but it's hard on my left wrist--too bendy. I did wonder about putting a bean bag in between so I could use a more natural wrist angle.
06-12-2009, 05:13 PM   #13
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Listen to the Douglas.

Basics, basics, basics. Doesn't take a gadget to hold a camera properly.
06-12-2009, 07:52 PM   #14
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The old Pentax Manuals always had a page demonstrating how to hold the camera.

Go to Pentax-Manuals.com - Manual Focus Camera Manuals, download the KX manual for free and read page 14 of the manual; page 16 of the pdf.

The password is always "Pentax"

The Youtube video is very helpful. I shoot left-eye anyway, but the body position, left elbow supported mext to the body and strap twist get an extra stop handheld and do reduce fatigue. Changing your habits is just a matter of thinking and practice. Eventually these new techniques become second-nature.
06-12-2009, 08:27 PM   #15
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My teaching method

I teach photography locally, and these are how I try to have my students hold their cameras:
  • The left hand, palm up, supports the whole camera.
  • The right hand on the grip steadies the camera, holding it firmly against your forehead, finger on the trigger.
  • The left hand fingers are used to
    • Control the focus ring on a manual focus lens
    • Control the focal length on a zoom lens
    • Both with a pre-A lens on an A or later Pentax SLR
  • The left elbow sits where it naturally finds itself with your arm hanging loose
  • The feet are a bit more than shoulder width apart
  • Now that you have the camera up there,
    • Close your eyes
    • Get the most comfortable position and adjust slightly to centre your eye in the viewfinder
    • LAST, look where the lens is pointed. That is your angle of the body to the subject. Remember it and use it.
  • If possible, lean on something - a fence post, car (engine off), whatever.
  • If you can sit on the ground, do so, and add the knees to the support system.
That's it. It works for me. Those of you who are used to long firearms will notice distinct similarities in posture. The objective is to hold things as steadily as humanly possible.

Back when I was not subjected to shake inducing medicines, I could hold a 135mm lens at 1/30. Now I'm lucky not to drop the whole thing. When your age reads the same from both sides of the table, things start to wear out.

For those of you who cannot visualize the age, it is not 11, nor is it 101. Try combinations of 6 and 9. Take the lower.
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