We all know that using a tripod is the established way to capture steady shots, but let’s face it, shooting from a tripod can get quite restricting and not everyone might carry their tripod around or have the time to set one up. Because of this, you have to be versatile enough to conduct a shoot while going handheld. But how, you may ask? Read on for 10 tips that will help you shoot smooth, steady video when you don’t have a support system to rely on.

Use Image Stabilization Whenever Possible

Whenever shooting handheld videos, the first thing to check for is whether your camera has an Optical or Electronic Image Stabilization feature. If your camera supports that feature, make sure you switch that on. While Image Stabilization cannot correct major shakes you make, it will help to level out and cover up some of the slight camera movements and it adds that little bit of extra stability for you to get smooth-looking handheld footage.

Practice Good Posture

Having the right posture will assist you greatly as your body is essentially playing the role of the tripod. The most important thing to remember is to adopt a wide stance by keeping your legs shoulder width apart, and bend your knees a little while filming as this provides great stability. This is because standing with your legs and feet too close together will make you unstable, which will then lead to your body to sway and wobble, causing camera shake. Take note that every move you make will show up as motion on your footage, so be careful not to rock or shift your weight from foot to foot.

Keep Your Camera Close To Your Body

Holding the camera close to your body’s center of gravity will reduce shake and enhance the quality of your handheld shots. So, tuck your elbows into your sides and hold the camera with one hand on the body and one on the lens. Then, if you want to make camera movements, do not move your arms, but instead move your feet and torso. Always keep your arms in the same position. Think of your arms as the stationary grips of a shoulder rig, where they cannot move and if you want to change the position of your shot, you are going to have to physically change your body position.

Breathe Steadily

It is important to remember to just breathe steadily and smoothly throughout the shoot, and not try and hold your breath from the start of the shoot till the shoot is over. Some people make the mistake of holding their breaths for far too long, only to find themselves gasping when coming up for air, and it is this resulting gasp that will cause much more camera movements that can ruin the footage as compared to if you were breathing normally in the first place.

Increase The Number Of Contact Points

Whenever you hold a camera, your two hands are the two contact points between your body and the camera, and increasing the number of contact points plays a huge role in reducing the amount of camera shake in your footage. Enter: the camera strap. By using the strap, the number of contact points will then increase from two to three, and your camera movements will now be a lot steadier. To use the strap properly, put it around your neck and then hold it out as far as it will go. You’ll want the strap to be as tight as possible, with as much tension as it can maintain.

Use The Wide End Of Your Camera Lens

Whenever possible, use the wide end of your camera lens instead of the longer end. This is because the longer the focal length of your lens, your footage will end up shaky, as even breathing will cause noticeable camera shake. Therefore, use the wider end and move closer to your subject, as the wider scope will reduce the noticeability of the camera shakes.

Stop All Adjustments When Filming Starts

Any time you move your hands around the camera body or lens to adjust the zoom, focus or any other functions, it is inevitably going to shake. For this reason, it is best to have your camera functions perfectly adjusted to your liking before you start filming. If you absolutely have to get a close up shot, physically move towards your subject instead of zooming in and out from the camera lens.

Moving Shots

When shooting handheld videos, not all moments are static and can be shot from a single position. Sometimes, you will have to move around to get the best angles. In such cases, imagine that you are stuck in slow motion and make every step you take slow, smooth, light and intentional. Here are a few tips on how you can create moving shots in a handheld shooting environment.

  • Dolly shots – Position one foot a few inches in front of you and the other behind you. Lean back over your back foot and start filming. Then, “dolly” in until your entire body is over the front foot.

  • Pan shots – Position your feet pointing directly at where you want the shot to end, then twist your upper body to where you want to begin the shot. Then, start shooting and unwind your upper body as you move through the shot until your body returns to the position directly over where your feet are pointing.


Example of Dolly and Pan Shots

Anchor Yourself To Other Objects When Necessary

Just because you don’t have your tripod with you, it doesn’t mean you can’t make use of your surroundings and look for something to put your camera on or support yourself against. Really, anything can serve as a support for your camera or your body, you just have to look for them. For example, look for a bench or a fence to rest your elbows on as you hold the camera in your hands, or lean against a wall or a lamppost that can support your body weight. Having an extra support will really help to relax your upper body, reduce unwanted muscle shake and stabilize the shot.

Practice Makes Perfect

As with many other things in life, handheld videography is not something anyone can perfect on their first try, and you’ll only improve your technique if you devote time to practicing it on a regular basis. Experiment holding the camera in different positions to see what you are most comfortable with, and then practice holding that position for long periods of time. Also, practice walking while holding the camera and making moves like tilts and pans, in order to perfect a video shooting style that portrays all camera movements seamlessly.

So there you have it, 10 top tips you need to create great handheld videos. So, get out there and start shooting handheld, and keep practicing every change you get. The work you put in to get the right shot may be a lot of extra work as compared to using a tripod, but the end results will be unforgettable.

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