August 6

2 comments

How I Hold My Camera – Best Practice Tips for Outdoor Photographers

By Dan

August 6, 2019

Today’s lesson is called “How I Hold My Camera.” 

I realize this might seem like a rudimentary topic, but I’ve actually heard from more than a few photographers who are struggling with this, especially shooters who have recently switched from DSLRs to Mirrorless. I received one email from a gentleman who was having problems with cramps in his hand when he was trying to shoot.

Given that DSLRs are often twice as big and twice as heavy as mirrorless cameras like the Fujifilm X-T3. My guess is that they’re having a hard time adapting to the much smaller and lighter bodies. 

So, I’m going to play show and tell and let you know I hold my camera. If you’re having a hard time getting comfortable with the camera, then hopefully you’ll find these tips to be useful. 

Left hand

Under the lens. Always. I’ve seen people hold the camera with the left hand over the top of the lens, but that’s not the best way to hold the camera. Aside from making you look a bit amateurish, it doesn’t offer you the same level of stability and functional control. 

If I’m using both hands, then I always hold my camera with my hand cradled under the body, not holding hard, just resting it there, and this puts your fingers in the right place to operate the focus and aperture ring. This also gives you a much more steady grip if you’re using a bigger lens. 

Right hand

My right hand grabs the molded grip in an easy, natural way. Not tightly at all. It’s just there to help keep the camera steady and keep my finger on the shutter.

By not holding it very tightly, my right hand is also free to operate the other controls, like the dials on the top deck and various buttons and the focus joystick on the back. 

In fact, when the camera is up to my eye, it’s hardly holding the camera at all, it’s a surprisingly loose grip that offers me that that extra stability. 

Of course, there are some times when I’m shooting one handed. I’ll grip the body a little more tightly, but I’m not squeezing very hard at all. Most of the stability comes from just resting my fingers and thumb on the contours of the body, and this puts my finger right there above the shutter. 

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I realize that everyone’s hands are different size and shape, so it might take some practice for you to get a feel for the best, most stable one-handed grip.

However, in most situations, I’m just doing this little back and forth dance between my two hands, but neither hand is holding very tightly at all. Sure, I might have a little firmer grip with a bigger lens, or when using the battery grip, but again, I’m never squeezing  very hard. 

Natural Tripod

When I’m shooting handheld, especially when I’m using slightly slower shutter speeds, or if I need added stability, I usually try to hold my camera up to my face and suck my elbows into my chest. This creates a natural tripod between my elbows and my face. 

When I’m about to shoot, I’ll slowly let my breath out, the right when it’s at the bottom of my breathing cycling, when my body is the most still, that’s when I press the shutter. 

The Strap

Security

This is a big one with me. I always use a strap. Always. There’s never a time when my strap is not on the camera. It’s always there, and I use it for security, safety and stability. 

It ensures that I won’t ever drop the camera, and because I know it’s always there, it allows me to keep that relaxed grip on my camera, because I know I can always just let it drop safely back down. I’m so used to having it there, that it feels completely natural.

Funny story. No… It’s actually a scary story. There was one time a couple of years ago, when I was shooting right next a glacier pool. The tripod was precariously perched on this little incline right by the water, because that was the vantage point I wanted.

At one point, I accidentally kicked the tripod and it started tipping forward. Without even thinking, I just threw my hand across and snagged the strap with my forearm, and saved the whole rig from falling into the iceberg filled lake. Yikes!!!

Stability

I often shoot using the live view mode on my LCD screen. If I’m holding the camera away from my body, then I’ll use the strap to help brace the camera and give me extra stability. 

I do this a couple different ways. Pulling it tight against my neck gives me an extremely stable grip. This method is very effective for ensuring the kind of sharpness you seek in your images. I’ll often shoot down to single digit shutter speeds and still get sharp images using this method.

I can do this same thing down at my waist, just by flipping the screen up. By pulling tight on the strap, I get that extra degree of steadiness. 

If I’m shooting one handed, I’ll grab and hold the strap with my left hand. This gives me that same level of stability and it also allows me to shoot at different vantage points, like over my head, using the flip screen, or holding it down below while shooting from a low vantage point.

So, again, I can’t accentuate enough how important the strap is in my life with the camera. It offers steadiness, and it offers freedom. And if I need to get it out of the way, I just sling it around my shoulder.

Freedom

The strap offers me an incredible degree of creative freedom and liberation from always being tethered to your tripod.

I know that there are some photographers out there who never use the strap. These are usually people who almost always shoot with the tripod, and they don’t want it to get in the way. If you’re one of those people, then I can’t force you to use the strap, but I don’t see why you wouldn’t. I just think it makes life so much easier and more fun.

Think about it, this means you can never just walk around with the camera around your neck as you’re looking at the world and surveying the scene. It also means that whenever you take it out of your bag, you have to grab it and hold it with this level of desperate security, so that you won’t accidentally drop it. And really, how fun is that?

If you really don’t want to have the strap on your camera when it’s on the tripod, then you could get one of those quick release straps so you can take it off once you’ve got it securely fixed on the tripod.

I know that some people like that Black Rapid sling style strap. If it works for you, then that’s great. I just prefer the regular old-school strap. Always have. It’s a very simple design, but it’s extremely functional in the widest variety of settings. Either way, I highly recommend using the strap.

About the author

Hi, I'm Dan Bailey, a 20+ year pro outdoor and adventure photographer, and official FUJIFILM X-Photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska.


As a top rated blogger and author my goal is to help you become a better, more confident and competent photographer, so that you can have as much fun and creative enjoyment as I do.


  • Thank you Dan, great information as is your e-book. I’ve only used wrist straps but you have compelled me to strap it up! Like the look of yours, where did you get your strap from? Thank you.

  • Hi Gary, thanks for your comment. I currently use the default straps that come with the X Series cameras. They’re nice and simple, with a minimal, classic look.

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