When shooting in low light conditions, a tripod is absolutely essential. It can be very tricky to get clear and sharp photos because of the camera shake from your hands. The problem is that tripods are heavy and clunky. They take up so much space that you only carry them around if you are certain you’ll be using it.
But photography is supposed to be spontaneous! Sometimes you just don’t have a tripod with you when you need to shoot in low light conditions. This is when you’ll need to get creative and start thinking more like a sniper. Yes, a sniper, as in an elite marksman who shoots target using a high-precision rifle from long range.
When you think about it, a sniper needs to be extremely steady with their rifle. They need to be able to hit a very small target from a very large distance away; a slight shake will throw off their aim completely. They have only one shot because firing their rifle will give off their position. The stakes are rarely as high in the photography world, but surely we can learn something from them.
Being prepared is key
A sniper is always aware of his situation. He knows his mark, his environment, his equipment, and his own capabilities. This applies to the photographer. Without a tripod, you’ll need to consider how to capture your subject, while thinking about how to utilize the available light that you have. You might even take another look at your equipment to see if you can fashion a makeshift tripod.
Brace against something
The classic sniper position is prone, and using a sandbag or bipod to steady the rifle. This way the sniper does not have to constantly carry the full weight of the rifle while making minute adjustments to their aim. Likewise you can find some object lying around to help keep your camera stationary before you release the shutter. You can hug a street lamp or lean against a wall if you need to hold the camera with your hands.
Trigger on exhale
After all that preparation, it would be a shame to mess up the shot with camera shake when we depress the shutter release button. We often introduce a small jerky motion either to the camera when we press the button with our finger. So it is recommended to remotely activate the shutter. But if that is not available there are extra things we can do.
Snipers use breathing techniques to minimize barrel motion when squeezing the trigger. In fact, some go even further and shoot between heartbeats for better accuracy. The lesson here is that if you want steady hands, then you’ll need to relax and get your heartbeat down. You’ll have problems taking long shutter speed photos if you’re excited or tensed up. Breathe normally and lightly depress the shutter release near the end of the exhale.
Do this and you’ll be able to reduce camera shake to a minimum. The key is to stabilize the camera as much as possible without Try it and you’ll be suprised with the results!