How To Hold A Camera

Don’t take this badly. We all know how hold to a camera, but there is no absolutely standard grip, and everyone has his or her little variations.  But there are all variations on common – and commonsense-principles.  The examples here cover different lenses and the switch between horizontal and vertical.  The fewer controls that you need to operate by hand, such as focus or zoom, the more the grip you can devote to steadying the camera.


Elbows tucked in the chest, camera held firmly back to forehead.  Wide firm grip around camera with right hand, all fingers supporting except for the fore finger, which stays flexible.  Heel or right hand carries most of weight, under center of camera, wrist vertical.  With autofocus on, only the rear, zoom ring needs adjustment, and the thumb, second, and third fingers take care of this.  The left forefinger helps support the front of the lens and the little finger pushes on the fingers of the right hand for extra support.

Extra strap support

A slightly steadier variation on the basic  grip.  Push outwards and downwards on the strap with the right wrist to tension it.  This works only if you have the strap short.

Twisted strap support

Another  variation.  This works for slow speed, but is a real mess to extricate your hand from afterwards.  Twist the loose part of the strap around your wrist by rotating your hand as shown, until your hand is jammed up against the camera grip.

Vertical shooting with a secondary release

Some SLRs  have second shutter release on te corner for vertical shooting.  It’s not just a convenience, but allows a properly stable grip with elbow in, and both forearms vertical.  All of the right hand except for the forefinger grips the side of the camera body with as wide  grip as possible. The heel of the left hand supports the bottom edge of the camera, while the forefinger and the little finger add to the  grip, with the thumb, second, and third fingers on the zoom ring.

Vertical shooting with standard release, overhand

With the secondary shutter release, there are two options.  This is the first, with the shutter release on top, calling for an overhand position. There’s no alternative but for the right elbow to stick out, which does not add to stability.  It places more on the job of supporting the camera on the left hand, with the heel of the hand taking the weight.  The left eye stays clear and, as is normal, stays open.

Vertical shooting with standard release, under

The  second  vertical option with a single shutter release is with the release underneath.   This  keeps  the  elbows in,  which is good, but tends to comfort the right hand.  One solution to this contortion  is not to attempt to use the  heel of the  right hand,  but instead  use  the fingers  to  press against  the  heel of the  left hand,  transferring  some  weight  onto that.  The  right  wrist  stays  on  the chest.

Manual focus

Non-autofocus lenses are quaint these days, but still available, and even with the regular lens you may prefer to focus by hand and eye.  It means that your thumb and one or two fingers need to be free to work the focusing ring, so the heel of the left hand alone carries the weight.  This is aided by an extra strong grip with the right hand.

Long lens, autofocus, front grip

Long lenses vary considerably in shape and size, and this largely determines how you can hold them.  This is fairly compact 300 mm lens with a modest maximum aperture, hence a small diameter elements.  Long lenses prefer tripods, or at least monopods, but if you want to use one quickly, with the greater flexibility, then hand-held is the only way.  The right hand takes the usual firm wide grip, while autofocus frees up the left hand. If the lens hood is large, It’s a good idea to spread the load by gripping it.  Here the forearm takes the weight, although one problem is that the elbow is unsupported.  Pulling the camera back firmly to the forehead is important.

Long lens, autofocus, overhand front grip

This is a variation on 4-5, and my preferred grip.  Given that the elbow in the previous method is itself unsupported, you might as well take a firmer natural grip of the front of the lens, as here.

Long lens, mid-barrel grip

More conventional in that the left hand takes the weight in the middle of the barrel, with a vertical forearm tucked in as much as possible to the body.  Somewhat awkward, but an alternative if you are using manual focus, or a zoom control.

One Response to “ How To Hold A Camera ”

  1. Lauren Mitchel says:

    This is great! Thanks, now I can hold a camera steady and firm!

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