How to shoot stable handheld video on a dSLR

No tripod in sight? Never fear, here are some tips to help get stable handheld footage from your dSLR.

Lexy Savvides Principal Video Producer
Lexy is an on-air presenter and award-winning producer who covers consumer tech, including the latest smartphones, wearables and emerging trends like assistive robotics. She's won two Gold Telly Awards for her video series Beta Test. Prior to her career at CNET, she was a magazine editor, radio announcer and DJ. Lexy is based in San Francisco.
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Lexy Savvides
2 min read

Watch this: Tips to stabilize your dSLR videos without a tripod

Sometimes you just don't have access to a tripod, monopod or something sturdy to help stabilize your camera.

Here are some tips to help you get stable footage, instead of a video that looks like a deleted scene from "The Blair Witch Project".

Proper handheld technique

Use your right hand to grip the camera, while the palm of your left hand is cradling the base and lens. The weight of the camera should be distributed evenly between both hands.

Don't be tempted to carry all the weight in your right hand and use your left to hold the lens from the top. This might work for stills, but it's not good for stable dSLR video.

Dave Cheng/CNET

Does your lens have image stabilization? Sounds obvious, but you will want to turn this on by flicking the switch.

Some dSLRs and ILCs from brands like Olympus, Sony and Pentax have in-body stabilization. Find this option in the menus and turn it on, making sure that it is applied to both stills and video recording.

Increase your points of contact

Simply bringing in your elbows close to your body, resting at the top of your hips or on your waistline where it's comfortable, can make all the difference.

If you need to be as steady as possible, you can hold your breath for a short period of time to minimise any extra movement.

Use the strap

Your camera strap is a really useful tool to help keep video stable. Put the strap over your head and keep it taut around the back of your neck. Extend the camera out as far as the strap will allow with proper handheld technique and you'll be able to achieve a smooth result for panning or shooting moving subjects.

Choose your focal length wisely

Shooting with a zoom lens? Using the telephoto end can exacerbate any hand shake. Instead of shooting up close, film at a wider end of your lens like at 35mm or 50mm.

Invest in accessories

If you really don't want to invest in a tripod, there are other accessories you can buy to help get more stable handheld dSLR video.

A viewfinder or loupe is a great add-on for any dSLR. It fits over the screen and generally comes with an eyecup that rests against your face, providing yet another contact point to keep the camera stable.

Lexy Savvides/CNET

Keep it stable in software

Many editing programs such as Final Cut X and Adobe Premiere CC come with built-in options to stabilize video footage. Depending on the severity of the shake, these options can be hit or miss, but it is another option if you still have shaky footage.

In Adobe Premiere, select the appropriate clip and head to the Effects panel > Distort > Warp Stabilizer.

In Final Cut X, the stabilization feature pops up in the video inspector sidebar whenever you click on a clip in your timeline.