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What are the advantages of photographing handheld?
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Jun 28, 2019 18:35:50   #
John Gerlach Loc: Island Park, Idaho
 
I have been ask to write about the merits of using a tripod and shooting handheld. Both have merits for sure, and both have drawbacks. I learned to shoot nature photos in the early seventies from Larry West and John Shaw in Michigan. Both were quality photographers who stressed how to shoot quality images. I paid attention, and it worked for me. I use a tripod or another solid platform whenever I can. That often is a bean bag on my car window or in the roof hatch of a safari vehicle. That means I am on a solid support 95% of the time. But, there are times when even I admit handheld shooting is better, or the only way to work the subjects. Photographing snow geese almost directly overhead at Bosque comes to mind as I have never been able to shoot a gimbal head directly up due to hitting the tripod legs. Therefore, I have compiled a list of places where handheld could be an answer, though, not always. Well, on a rocking boat, I think handheld is the only answer so your body can absorb some of the motion. If you have an example where handheld is really helpful, please pass it along. I already have many situations where a tripod is the better answer, but I want to be far to both ways of doing things.

Oh, by the way, I just posted my article on how I shoot sharp wildlife photos on my blog.

Advantages of Handheld Photography vs Tripod or Stable Support Photography
1. Don’t need to spend the money on a tripod or head
2. Don’t have to carry the weight of the gear
3. Quicker to shoot handheld than mounting your camera on a tripod
4. Easier to shoot in deep snow where the base is not stable for a tripod
5. Easier to shoot when you must shoot straight down from a viewpoint where it would be difficult to get a tripod into position without it falling over the edge.
6. Better handheld to shoot from a boat that is bouncing in the swells
7. Better for shooting birds overhead
8. Quicker to try different compositions
9. Short lenses and bright light and image stabilization make it easier to shoot sharp images handheld now
10. Easier to track moving targets handheld, especially when close and moving fast.
The light was dim here, so a tripod had to be used as the shutter speed is much too slow.
The light was dim here, so a tripod had to be used...
(Download)

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Jun 28, 2019 19:01:26   #
rjaywallace Loc: Wisconsin
 
John - Your knowledge and wildlife experience is well-known and highly respected on the UHH forum.
Was wondering what ISO you selected for your example photo and Canon or Nikon? I might have (on a Fuji camera) boosted the ISO in order to use a higher shutter speed. Cheers, Ralph

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Jun 28, 2019 20:33:39   #
quixdraw Loc: American Free States -- Montana
 
Have a couple of good tripods and a monopod. Except for my heaviest lenses, and extremely challenging conditions, I feel that technology has for the most part rendered them obsolete. Speed, mobility, flexibility without them. I remember at least twice over the last few years jumping out at a favorite Eagle spot , both times with camera mounted, tripod set so all that was necessary was to spread the legs, set the tripod down, frame and shoot. I had even practiced - both times, Eagles gone. The last half dozen times, hand held, on one occasion, even with the very large old 600 5.6 ED, same circumstances, I got quite good shots. I do use improvised support when appropriate. In the last five years, at very photogenic spots - I have seen two folks, one rather sheepishly, schlepping a tripod. I admit I do avoid wildlife mob scenes, Horicon, Bosque, etc.
I began photography in the late '50's - the technological changes over the years amazing.
A lot, of course, depends on what you photograph. I am pretty much a generalist, though I do a good bit of wildlife locally, I can't comment on specialist needs. Have no plans to get rid of the support "staff".

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Jun 28, 2019 20:36:50   #
ORpilot Loc: Prineville, Or
 
I agree with all of the above. The virtues of modern digital lets me shoot with high ISO that we never would have been able to do with film. I regularly shoot 1/1000 to 1/2000 second hand held with my Sony cameras with the 150-600mm and at an ISO no film could ever match. But I have to admit that hand holding my Sigma 150-600mm builds up muscles so sometimes I use a monopod or a tripod.
Hand held Sony a7iii 1/1250 F-8 ISO 1200 Sigma 150-600mm C with MC-11
Hand held Sony a7iii 1/1250 F-8 ISO 1200 Sigma 150...

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Jun 28, 2019 21:12:12   #
martinfisherphoto Loc: Lake Placid Florida
 
In this photo shoot shared with the Hogg https://www.uglyhedgehog.com/t-527121-1.html I was following the Wood Ducks down a canal. I was able to slip in the water and under the cover of brush, photograph these ducks moving in and out of the sunlight. As with 95% of my ducks, water birds and Barrowing Owls I'm normally stalking the prey in a crouched position and photographing from a prone position. Stealth approach and shooting at Eye Level is enough reason for me to hand hold my shots. All of my Osprey shots shared here on the Hogg as well were done from a rocking boat and hand held for that reason as well, not to mention much easier to follow the birds in flight. 100% of my back post examples are all hand held.
Examples of the Barrowing Owls at Eye Level https://www.uglyhedgehog.com/t-523550-1.html
As your clean example implicates low ISO is a strong factor for using a tripod. I just returned from Costa Rica shooting the Quetzel in very dim, cloudy conditions in the cloud forest. I did use a tripod for the same reasoning. No reason for stealth to approach, I knew the location of a nest, I just set up out of sight and waited for bird to approach


(Download)


(Download)


(Download)


(Download)

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Jun 28, 2019 21:15:24   #
robertjerl Loc: Corona, California
 
360 degree shooting (plus that steep up or down) without having to do a very high stepping version of a sword dance around the tripod legs.
A pistol grip on the tripod collar helps a lot. I use a couple of $10-$15 dollar plain grips but they have more expensive ones with a trigger and connector cable for the shutter which allows the non gripping hand to zoom etc. And I once saw an ad for a fairly expensive one that had a programmable remote shutter built into it.

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Jun 28, 2019 21:16:50   #
quixdraw Loc: American Free States -- Montana
 
martinfisherphoto wrote:
In this photo shoot shared with the Hogg https://www.uglyhedgehog.com/t-527121-1.html I was following the Wood Ducks down a canal. I was able to slip in the water and under the cover of brush, photograph these ducks moving in and out of the sunlight. As with 95% of my ducks, water birds and Barrowing Owls I'm normally stalking the prey in a crouched position and photographing from a prone position. Stealth approach and shooting at Eye Level is enough reason for me to hand hold my shots. All of my Osprey shots shared here on the Hogg as well were done from a rocking boat and hand held for that reason as well, not to mention much easier to follow the birds in flight. 100% of my back post examples are all hand held.
Examples of the Barrowing Owls at Eye Level https://www.uglyhedgehog.com/t-523550-1.html
In this photo shoot shared with the Hogg https://w... (show quote)


I'm impressed - been after a couple of pairs of Wood Ducks the last month and a half. Very shy!

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Jun 28, 2019 21:59:49   #
John Gerlach Loc: Island Park, Idaho
 
rjaywallace wrote:
John - Your knowledge and wildlife experience is well-known and highly respected on the UHH forum.
Was wondering what ISO you selected for your example photo and Canon or Nikon? I might have (on a Fuji camera) boosted the ISO in order to use a higher shutter speed. Cheers, Ralph


I was likely at ISO 1000, but even that is challenging in dim light.

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Jun 28, 2019 22:58:40   #
E.L.. Shapiro Loc: Ottawa, Ontario Canada
 
I do not regularly photograph wildlife- just occasionally, however, even as a commercial, portrait, and event photographer I find there are many situations where hand holding the camera is advantageous. There are many scenarios where quick, nimble and precise camera positioning is essential an manipulation of a tripod or came stand woud be awkward, too time consuming, or impractical.

One might not ordinarily relate fast handheld camera camera operation to a portrait studio but there are many occasions where I do just that and remove the camera for the tripod or camera stand. I am very precise about camera position in terms of facial analysis, especially where the exact camera angle and position can affect the aesthetics. If the subject is somewhat animated, the camera needs to follow the exact position of the mask of the face and oftentimes that can be a matter of a mere few inches. If a tripod or camera stand had to be adjusted for all of the nuances, many spontaneous expression and poses would be missed. Photographing active babies or children is another area where handheld camera operation can be an asset. Of course, there are other situations where having the came on a sturdy tripod or studio stand is a better alternative.

In the interior and exterior architectural work, a firm tripod is the usual support system but again there can be a situation where a tripod cannot be placed low or high enough or where confined space cannot properly accommodate the desired angle or field of view or composition. Sometimes I end up shooting from a ledge, a stepladder, a window of someone else's property, a cherry picker or some other awkward place where I can just bring myself and a camera.

Photojournalistic coverage of weddings, events, sports, press, etc. all require good hand holding technique even with heavy long lenses. Monopods are certainly handy.

I don't wanna sound like an old sorehead but I sometimes suspect that many of the younger photographers never learned to hold and support the camera properly. I know that sounds kinda strange but there are so many issues and complaint right here on this forum about issues with unwanted blur due to camera movement and shake, supporting the heavy camera, etc.

Thigs like gimbels, currently designed L- Brackets and all kinds of specialized devices to enable rapidly flipping cameras quickly into horizontal or vertical orientation are relatively new. Back in the good old (or bad) days photographers handheld all kinds of heavy gear- even 4x5 press camera and bulky medium format gear and all we had were simple side mounted handles or straps and pistol grips. There were a few gunstock mounts for some long lenses. Atop your tripod, you could choose from a tilt head or a ball head. In the olden days, most cameras only had ONE shutter release button, one focus control ring or lever, and you had to advance the film via a knob, crank, or lever, and there were no built-in anti-shake features, yet photographers managed the ergonomics. User manuals had basic hand holding technique. Photography magazines had many articles on camera support management. Nowadays we have lots of sophisticated accessories and hardware but many folks have never mastered the very basic methodologies of holding a camera properly.

Folks had to learn how to quickly and efficiently operate their tripod gear and manage to handhold. balance, buffer and operate a handheld camera. Oftentimes we have to improvise support using stationary objects, beanbags, the frame or a motor vehicle or whatever is at our disposal. There are certain postures, stances and body mechanics to help steady and support handheld equipment.

This "criticism" does not apply to folks who have any kind of disability, injury or illness that prevents them from managing the weight, bulk or configuration of their equipment. Whatever is required to assist folks to carry on with there photography should be applied. I have volunteered my services to design systems for disabled veterans and other folks with neuromuscular disorders to enable safe and effective camera handling.

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Jun 29, 2019 01:39:02   #
JD750 Loc: SoCal
 
Re the title question. My simple answer: Mobility.

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Jun 29, 2019 06:00:48   #
John Gerlach Loc: Island Park, Idaho
 
Thanks for your thoughts all! I hope I get more too. People photography is clearly a place for shooting handheld. I don't do that a lot, but I have done two weddings for friends who otherwise could not afford a wedding photographer and I certainly shot handheld for most of it, but I also used flash a lot. I still like the solid camera support whenever it works, but then remember as a pro selling photos to calendars and magazines decades ago, I started with the really speedy Kodachrome 25 - that is ISO 25! Imagine shooting with such a slow film, but that was the standard back in the mid-seventies. Eventually Fuji 50 came along, and there was Kodachrome 64 too (for the high speed option).

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Jun 29, 2019 06:17:48   #
picsman Loc: Scotland
 
Difficult access, eg a hide where there is no room for a tripod (happened to me once due to fixed seating close to the window)
Panning unpredictable directions.
Shooting at high angles.

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Jun 29, 2019 06:53:03   #
Delderby Loc: Derby UK
 
John Gerlach wrote:
I have been ask to write about the merits of using a tripod and shooting handheld. Both have merits for sure, and both have drawbacks. I learned to shoot nature photos in the early seventies from Larry West and John Shaw in Michigan. Both were quality photographers who stressed how to shoot quality images. I paid attention, and it worked for me. I use a tripod or another solid platform whenever I can. That often is a bean bag on my car window or in the roof hatch of a safari vehicle. That means I am on a solid support 95% of the time. But, there are times when even I admit handheld shooting is better, or the only way to work the subjects. Photographing snow geese almost directly overhead at Bosque comes to mind as I have never been able to shoot a gimbal head directly up due to hitting the tripod legs. Therefore, I have compiled a list of places where handheld could be an answer, though, not always. Well, on a rocking boat, I think handheld is the only answer so your body can absorb some of the motion. If you have an example where handheld is really helpful, please pass it along. I already have many situations where a tripod is the better answer, but I want to be far to both ways of doing things.

Oh, by the way, I just posted my article on how I shoot sharp wildlife photos on my blog.

Advantages of Handheld Photography vs Tripod or Stable Support Photography
1. Don’t need to spend the money on a tripod or head
2. Don’t have to carry the weight of the gear
3. Quicker to shoot handheld than mounting your camera on a tripod
4. Easier to shoot in deep snow where the base is not stable for a tripod
5. Easier to shoot when you must shoot straight down from a viewpoint where it would be difficult to get a tripod into position without it falling over the edge.
6. Better handheld to shoot from a boat that is bouncing in the swells
7. Better for shooting birds overhead
8. Quicker to try different compositions
9. Short lenses and bright light and image stabilization make it easier to shoot sharp images handheld now
10. Easier to track moving targets handheld, especially when close and moving fast.
I have been ask to write about the merits of using... (show quote)


Hi John - great shot - I see it was taken at 1/332 and 5.6 - and that you consider that ss too slow for hand held. What would you consider the slowest ss for hand holding that shot successfully? Thanks. Del

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Jun 29, 2019 07:14:49   #
dhk
 
Hand held with stabilization both landscape and skimmer June 2019







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Jun 29, 2019 07:40:04   #
StevenG Loc: Long Island, NY
 
John Gerlach wrote:
I have been ask to write about the merits of using a tripod and shooting handheld. Both have merits for sure, and both have drawbacks. I learned to shoot nature photos in the early seventies from Larry West and John Shaw in Michigan. Both were quality photographers who stressed how to shoot quality images. I paid attention, and it worked for me. I use a tripod or another solid platform whenever I can. That often is a bean bag on my car window or in the roof hatch of a safari vehicle. That means I am on a solid support 95% of the time. But, there are times when even I admit handheld shooting is better, or the only way to work the subjects. Photographing snow geese almost directly overhead at Bosque comes to mind as I have never been able to shoot a gimbal head directly up due to hitting the tripod legs. Therefore, I have compiled a list of places where handheld could be an answer, though, not always. Well, on a rocking boat, I think handheld is the only answer so your body can absorb some of the motion. If you have an example where handheld is really helpful, please pass it along. I already have many situations where a tripod is the better answer, but I want to be far to both ways of doing things.

Oh, by the way, I just posted my article on how I shoot sharp wildlife photos on my blog.

Advantages of Handheld Photography vs Tripod or Stable Support Photography
1. Don’t need to spend the money on a tripod or head
2. Don’t have to carry the weight of the gear
3. Quicker to shoot handheld than mounting your camera on a tripod
4. Easier to shoot in deep snow where the base is not stable for a tripod
5. Easier to shoot when you must shoot straight down from a viewpoint where it would be difficult to get a tripod into position without it falling over the edge.
6. Better handheld to shoot from a boat that is bouncing in the swells
7. Better for shooting birds overhead
8. Quicker to try different compositions
9. Short lenses and bright light and image stabilization make it easier to shoot sharp images handheld now
10. Easier to track moving targets handheld, especially when close and moving fast.
I have been ask to write about the merits of using... (show quote)


Travel/vacation photography. No time for tripod.

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