Handheld Shooting Tips

Shooting handheld video can be a challenge for most video enthusiasts. No matter how hard you try you just can't get the images as steady as you'd like them to be. Steady video is one of the most important skills that you must have in order to produce high quality videos. If your camcorder isn't steady, your video clips will turn your engaged audience into disinterested viewers in no time. Shooting handheld is just about the most difficult way to capture videos. No matter how steady you think you are, the smallest motion can make the camcorder unstable. Even without the necessary skills handheld video can look great...for the first few minutes. Eventually you get tired and the video quality slowly starts to decline. Your shot will begin to move up and down as you breathe. Your tired legs will have you swaying back and forth like a pendulum. Next thing you know it looks like you were doing side to side jumping jacks while you were filming your video.


So, how do you combat the demon that rears its ugly head while shooting handheld videos? That's easy. Just keep reading and we'll give you all the tips and tricks to turn those jumpy bumpy shots into smooth streamlined things of beauty.

Handheld Shooting Techniques

•    Image Stabilization

The first and most obvious tip for shooting handheld video is the built in image stabilization feature. If your camcorder has image stabilization...TURN IT ON. Image stabilization will help to level out some of the slight movements your camcorder makes and minimize shaking. If you have a device that does not have image stabilization and you plan on doing a lot of handheld shots we recommend you pick one up one that does as soon as possible.

•    Good Posture Is Actually Good For Something

Remember how your mother told you to stand up straight? Well, I guess Mom was right. The right posture will actually assist you while shooting handheld video. Think of yourself as "VideoMan The Human Tripod". Be sure to keep your back straight, keep your legs shoulder width apart, and bend your knees slightly. If you are going to be filming for an extended period of time support your weight by leaning against a wall, tree, or a pillar. This will help to relax your upper body and reduce unwanted muscle shake.

•    Sit Down and Chillax

OK, standing for a long time can be extremely tiring. Some of us have bad backs and can't stand for any extended period of time whatsoever. This can make shooting handheld video an exhausting affair. If you think it will be easier on you sit down in a chair or sit on the ground with your legs crossed. Place the camcorder in your lap and tilt the LCD screen up so you can see the shot. This is a great way to create a stable surface for your shots and minimize camcorder shake.

•    No Zooming

Zooming emphasizes movement. So try not to zoom when shooting handheld videos. As you zoom closer to your subject any movement will be amplified. If you absolutely have to have a close shot get as close to your subject as possible and zoom out as far as your device will allow prior to shooting. Once your adjustments have been made starting filming. This will provide you with a steady close up that you can use for your production.

•    Moving Shots

Yes we recognize that at times you'll want to move your camcorder while shooting handheld video. If you're going to do it, make sure you do it right. If you have to move, make sure all of your movements are slow and smooth. Some shots just require movement. Here are a few tips on how you can make them happen in a handheld shooting environment:

•Dolly Shots - Position one foot a few inches in front of you and one foot behind you. Lean back over your rear foot. Start filming. Lean in until your entire body is over the front foot.

•Pan Shots - Position your feet where you will end the shot then twist your body to where you will begin the shot. Start shooting and unwind your body as you move through the shot until your body returns to a position directly over where your feet are pointing.

•    Hold It Close

You love your camcorder don't you? Well why are you holding it so far away from you? Hold it close like a treasured keepsake or a loved one. It may sound like I'm going a bit overboard but you need to heed this advice. Holding the camcorder close will reduce shake and enhance the quality of your handheld shots. There are two ways you can hold your device close and show it you love it. You can hold the camcorder with one hand on top and one hand on the bottom and tuck your elbows into your sides, or you can hold the camcorder in one hand, tuck your elbows into your sides, and place one arm across your stomach and grab the elbow of the other arm. Either of these shots will decrease camcorder movement. try them both and choose the one that is more comfortable for you.

•    Whoa That's Heavy!

A lot of professional camcorders are large and can be quite a load. This can make it even more difficult to obtain a steady handheld shot as your arms begin to succumb to the weight of your device. We've got a tip that won't make your device weigh less but it sure will feel like it does. A great way to counter the weight of a large camcorder and get steady handheld shots is by cradling it on your hip while supporting it with your arm (like a toddler resting on your hip with its legs around your waist).


So there you have it. All the information you need to create great handheld shots. These handheld shooting tips are tried and true techniques which have been used by many video enthusiasts for several years. If you want the end product to look professional try them out and see the difference for yourself. The work you put in to get the right shot may be a lot of extra work but the end result will be unforgettable.