Hand­held shoot­ing has its pros and cons. Hand­held shoot­ing gives speed and mobil­i­ty: you can quick­ly move around the site, adds the effect of pres­ence, allows you to quick­ly respond to what is hap­pen­ing.

These plus­es are dilut­ed with minus­es. Pleas­ant live­ly move­ments can turn into mean­ing­less shak­ing, which only speaks of the inex­pe­ri­ence of the oper­a­tor. You can fight this shak­ing with the help of spe­cial lens­es, intra-matrix sys­tems (more­over, if you com­bine sta­bi­liza­tion in the lens and in the matrix, it will become even bet­ter), sta­bi­liza­tion, as well as steadicams. More details in our guide.

Causes of shaking and blurry photos

In cer­tain cas­es, using blur can add empha­sis and show move­ment in the frame. Source: www.unsplash.com

Blur­ring in pho­tographs may occur due to slow shut­ter speeds. The hands are always shak­ing a lit­tle, caus­ing the cam­era to move. More­over, the longer the lens, the more pro­nounced the effect will be due to the nar­row view­ing angle.

There­fore, before mov­ing on to spe­cif­ic types of sta­bi­liza­tion, let’s look at how to work with shut­ter speed cor­rect­ly.

The max­i­mum shut­ter speed in sec­onds when shoot­ing hand­held should not be longer than 1/equivalent focal length. The equiv­a­lent focal length is the focal length cal­cu­lat­ed tak­ing into account the crop fac­tor of the matrix.

This means that when shoot­ing with a 50mm lens on a matrix whose crop fac­tor is 1, the max­i­mum shut­ter speed will be 1 / (50x1) s, that is, 1/50 s. When shoot­ing on a matrix with a crop fac­tor of 1.5 and the same lens, the max­i­mum shut­ter speed will be 1 / (50x1.5), that is, 1/75.

The longer the focal length of the lens, the faster the max­i­mum shut­ter speed. This is because the focal length and crop fac­tor deter­mine the angle of view of the lens: the high­er the focal length, the nar­row­er the angle of view and the more like­ly that any cam­era shake will lead to blur.

Types of stabilization

When shoot­ing with­out any sta­bi­liza­tion, the cam­era will be very light. Any vibra­tions of the oper­a­tor’s hands will be trans­mit­ted to the cam­era. You can reduce shak­ing with­out sta­bi­liza­tion by using a heavy lens. It will make the set­up more weighty and will allow you to more com­fort­ably hold the cam­era, lean­ing your elbows against your body. But, of course, it is more reli­able to rely on more advanced meth­ods:

1. Opti­cal sta­bi­liza­tion in the lens

The opti­cal image sta­bi­liza­tion mech­a­nism is based on com­pen­sat­ing for cam­era move­ments by chang­ing the posi­tion of the lens­es in the lens. Source: jalantikus.com

If your lens has any of the abbre­vi­a­tions: VR, IS, VC, OS, OSS, OIS, then it has an opti­cal sta­bi­liz­er.

Opti­cal sta­bi­liza­tion in lens­es is pro­vid­ed by a mov­able lens unit. When the cam­era starts shak­ing, this block moves out of phase to com­pen­sate for the shak­ing.

Opti­cal sta­bi­liza­tion in the lens is able to com­pen­sate for shak­ing in 2–4 direc­tions, in oth­er words, these are tilts up-down, right-left and lin­ear shifts up-down and right-left. Opti­cal sta­bi­liz­ers do not damp­en shak­ing when the cam­era rotates around its axis.

The effec­tive­ness of opti­cal sta­bi­liz­ers is usu­al­ly 3–5 expo­sure stops. The expo­sure step is the dis­tance between the avail­able shut­ter speeds. If the sta­bi­liz­er com­pen­sates for, for exam­ple, 3 stops of expo­sure, this means that you can now get sharp pic­tures with a shut­ter speed of 3 stops faster than before. Sim­ply put: for exam­ple, before the max­i­mum val­ue of the work­ing shut­ter speed was 1/250 s, now it is 1/30 s (we add three steps to the shut­ter speed by 1/250 s).

2. Matrix sta­bi­liza­tion

If you’re shoot­ing a mov­ing sub­ject and your shut­ter speed isn’t fast enough, cam­era sta­bi­liza­tion won’t help you avoid blur­ry areas in your pho­to. Source: zen.yandex.ru

This option is suit­able for those who want to shoot not only with native lens­es that have opti­cal sta­bi­liza­tion in them.

The essence of the work of matrix sta­bi­liza­tion is in the mech­a­nism that moves the matrix in antiphase to the result­ing oscil­la­tions. Matrix sta­bi­liza­tion damp­ens vibra­tions in five direc­tions: up-down tilts, right-left tilts, up-down lin­ear shifts, right-left lin­ear shifts and rota­tion. This dis­tin­guish­es matrix sta­bi­liza­tion from opti­cal sta­bi­liza­tion, the lat­ter can­not cope with the vibra­tions that arise from turns.

With such sta­bi­liza­tion, it will become more con­ve­nient to shoot even with old man­u­al lens­es. Just be pre­pared to lose two sta­bi­liza­tion axes, leav­ing you with only three (tilt and roll). For the remain­ing axes (lin­ear shifts) to work, the cam­era needs dis­tance infor­ma­tion that such lens­es do not pro­vide.

The best effect can be achieved by com­bin­ing matrix and opti­cal sta­bi­liza­tion. In this way, you will increase the num­ber of expo­sure steps that the sta­bi­liza­tion sys­tems in the cam­era and lens com­pen­sate for.

In SLR cam­eras, the sta­bi­liz­er in the lens will help you imme­di­ate­ly see a sta­bi­lized pic­ture in the viewfind­er — with­out image shak­ing, it is much more con­ve­nient to com­pose shots.

3. Elec­tron­ic sta­bi­liza­tion

When dig­i­tal sta­bi­liza­tion is enabled, a part of the matrix is ​​allo­cat­ed for its oper­a­tion, and the image is tak­en with a crop. Source: www.unsplash.com

The cheap­est type of sta­bi­liza­tion, which is often used in inex­pen­sive cam­eras and smart­phones. For elec­tron­ic sta­bi­liza­tion, no addi­tion­al mech­a­nisms are used, only algo­rithms, such as those in video post-pro­duc­tion pro­grams.

Elec­tron­ic sta­bi­liza­tion crops the image at the edges, nar­row­ing the view­ing angle. This method must be used care­ful­ly, as there is a risk that the edges of the image will begin to float.

4. Sta­bi­liza­tion by weight­ing the set­up

Cam­era cages are very con­ve­nient and even nec­es­sary for long video shoot­ing. Source: lightphotos.ru

A light­weight cam­era with a lens with­out opti­cal sta­bi­liza­tion can be weight­ed to reduce the effect of shak­ing. To do this, the cam­era can be placed in a spe­cial cage, a han­dle and an on-cam­era mon­i­tor can be con­nect­ed to it.

This weight­ing of the set­up will also allow you to more com­fort­ably hold the cam­era with your arms close to your body to fur­ther reduce shak­ing.

5. Sta­bi­liza­tion with elec­tron­ic steadicams

Steadicam freed the cam­era from a tight touch on the oper­a­tor’s eye for fram­ing. This allows for a greater range of motion, and by using a large exter­nal on-cam­era ref­er­ence mon­i­tor, focus can be adjust­ed more pre­cise­ly and fine­ly. Source: lightphotos.ru

Elec­tron­ic steadicam will allow smooth cam­era move­ments. Thanks to a sys­tem of gyro­scopes and elec­tric motors, steadicams com­pen­sate for the shak­ing that occurs when shoot­ing on the go. The degree of sta­bi­liza­tion depends on the num­ber of steadicam axes. The more of them, the high­er the lev­el of sta­bi­liza­tion. It is also worth pay­ing atten­tion to the dura­tion of the device with­out recharg­ing the bat­tery.

We have select­ed sev­er­al steadicams of dif­fer­ent price cat­e­gories:

— pro­fes­sion­al steadicam Zhiyun Crane 3S PRO pro­vides a load capac­i­ty of up to 6.5 kg, oper­at­ing time with installed bat­ter­ies — 12 hours;
— opti­mal in terms of price and qual­i­ty — Sirui EX Exact Cam­era Sta­bi­liz­er with a max­i­mum load of 3.5 kg and an oper­at­ing time of 10 hours;
— Hohem iSteady­Mul­ti — bud­get steadicam, which is suit­able for shoot­ing with light cam­eras or smart­phones. Its load capac­i­ty is 500 grams, and the oper­at­ing time is 8 hours.

How to stabilize properly

Although the sta­bi­liz­er has unde­ni­able advan­tages, you still need to be able to use it. Here are a few tips on how to get the best qual­i­ty pho­tos and videos for you:

1. When shoot­ing with a sta­bi­liz­er, it is bet­ter not to use lens­es with a focal length of more than 50 mm if you plan to move with the cam­era. As we wrote above, lens­es with a high focal length have a small­er angle of view. Because of this, the shak­ing on them is much more notice­able. If you can’t avoid shoot­ing with a lens with a large focal length, it’s bet­ter to use a tri­pod.

2. Despite the fact that the sta­bi­liz­er allows you to shoot with high­er shut­ter speeds, you should not abuse them. First, remem­ber that in order to clear­ly con­vey a mov­ing object, you need to shoot it with a fast shut­ter speed. The sta­bi­liz­er com­pen­sates for the vibra­tions of the cam­era in the hands, and not the move­ment of the sub­ject. Sec­ond­ly, you should not shoot at the lim­it of the sta­bi­liz­er’s capa­bil­i­ties. Even the most effi­cient mech­a­nisms will give a lot of lubri­ca­tion. There­fore, with­out the need for long expo­sures, it is bet­ter not to shoot. Or take a series of pic­tures. Sure­ly some of them will turn out sharp.

Land­scapes are often turned into a panora­ma by tak­ing sev­er­al shots and com­bin­ing them into one. It is impor­tant that the hor­i­zon­tal or ver­ti­cal lines are straight, and you also need to make sure that the cam­era is set to rotate. Source: pexels.com

3. The sta­bi­liz­er is not a replace­ment for a tri­pod! Real­ly slow shut­ter speeds can only be used when the cam­era is secure­ly mount­ed on a tri­pod. Just don’t for­get to dis­able the gim­bal when shoot­ing from a tri­pod, as not all mech­a­nisms behave cor­rect­ly at shut­ter speeds longer than a few sec­onds.

4. Video shak­ing can be reduced by shoot­ing at 50–60 fps instead of 24–30 fps. In post-pro­duc­tion, you can slow down the video by half to reduce the effect of shak­ing. This method is only suit­able for edit­ing slow motion video, real-time shak­ing will be just as notice­able.

5. When shoot­ing hand­held, the oper­a­tors are always mov­ing, even when mak­ing a sta­t­ic video. It makes no sense to stand still in order to shoot with per­fect even­ness, since you can use a tri­pod for this. By mak­ing smooth move­ments of the eight, you can reduce the effect of shak­ing. In addi­tion, do not for­get that there should always be three points of sup­port between the oper­a­tor and the cam­era: you can rest the cam­era against the stom­ach, press your elbows clos­er to the body, and also sup­port the cam­era from below by the lens or by the han­dles attached to it, if you decide weight the set­up, as we advised above.


Sta­bi­liza­tion per­fect­ly insures when shoot­ing pho­tos and videos in dif­fi­cult con­di­tions, allow­ing you not to lose momen­tum and get clear pic­tures. The main thing is to decide which type of sta­bi­liza­tion is best for your tech­nique and goals. But still, sta­bi­liza­tion does not work mag­ic, so you should increase the shut­ter speed mod­er­ate­ly and not give up on a tri­pod.


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