Understanding Camera Shake

DSLR Mirror Vibration from Camera Technica on Vimeo.

Here is a video that “proves” our hand shakes when we hold a camera. And it has lasers to prove it.

Lasers prove you can’t hold a camera still (video)

Most beginner photographers know it’s called Camera Shake, and that it’s been around since cameras existed. The very fact of pressing the shutter release button introduces a slight shake or movement of the camera and this can in turn result in blurred photos.

If you are new to photography, you may be wondering what this all means to you in practical terms?

Does this mean we all need to use a tripod from now on?

Does this mean we need to lock the mirror up (on our DSLR) AND use a tripod?

Does this mean we need to use a remote shutter release?

Does this means we need to use a remote controller?

The answer is always, it depends. We don’t need to use any of the above… as long as we use a shutter speed that is faster than our “shake.” See, if the camera snaps the picture faster than we move, then as far as the camera is concerned, there’s been no movement on our part. Shake as much as you want, the picture will not be blurred. If you shake too much, your picture can come out skewed, but not blurred.

Traditionally, photographers have used the rule of thumb that to prevent camera shake, you need to use a shutter speed that is the reciprocal of the focal length. It simply means that if you use a 50mm lens on your DSLR, using a shutter speed of 1/50 sec. or faster will ensure that your pictures will not be blurred due to camera shake. If you use a 135mm lens, ensure your shutter speed is 1/135 sec. or faster, and so on.

Today’s cameras have one feature that further helps to reduce the effect of camera shake: it’s called image stabilization. By countering the slight movements of our hands, the image stabilizer (either built into the lens or part of the sensor mechanism) helps us take pictures with an even slower shutter speed than the above rule of thumb advises.

What about the mirror lock-up? When do we need to use it, if any? When we are using slow shutter speeds, maybe even in the seconds. For example when we are taking a lapdscape shot where nothing much is moving. When you lock the mirror up on a DSLR, you also block the viewfinder and so cannot see anything anymore. (Unless you use Live View.) You lock the mirror up because you intend to make a long exposure and the vibrations from the mirror traveling up and striking the body could introduce unwanted shake in your long exposure photo. If your shutter speed is fast enough (as per the rule of thumb), you don’t care about the vibrations.

OK, let’s go back to those questions above.

When do we need to use a tripod? Anytime your shutter speed will be slower than you can safely handhold as per the rule of thumb. But you don’t need a tripod, per se. You can brace yourself against a wall, place your camera on a flat surface, use a flash (light is much faster than any of our shake), bump the ISO higher (especially if you own one of the newer DSLR with incredible low noise high ISO capability). Or, use a Gorillapod.

When do we need to lock the mirror up (on our DSLR)? Don’t know if there are any photographers who still do that, even in landscape work. Might explain why many DSLRs do not provide this feature anymore. Besides, with if more and more DSLRs go mirrorless, this may become a moot point.

When do we need to use a remote shutter release or a remote controller? I love remote controllers. When I take close up shots or extreme telephoto shots, any slight movement is magnified. But it’s more for the convenience. Otherwise, I simply use the self-timer (2 sec. or 10 sec.).

For most photographers still chasing the ultimate low light point-and-shoot camera, the recommendation is to simply use a bounce flash indoors to simulate daylight. Learn to use it properly and you will see your indoors photography improve dramatically. And you won’t need to worry about tripod, image stabilization, noise, ISO, etc.

source cameratechnica