What can you do about vibration and camera shake?

Nice picture... shame about the blur. There are times when you expect to see some blur in a photo: panning shots, long exposures, and even in some short exposure photos when the subject is moving really fast (think the wheels on a Formula 1 car). But most of the time, we're looking for sharp photos without any evidence of fuzziness. In this photography fundamentals session, we're looking at vibration and camera shake, and how best to avoid it. Unfortunately, it's easy for the photography deities to conspire against us so that we end up with not-quite-sharp images. Often it's because our subjects move—about which there's little that you can do, especially if you're photographing children or animals—but frequently it's down to camera shake rather than motion blur. We might get the wobbles, we might need to use a slightly longer exposure to ensure that there's enough light on the subject and that means we can't hold the camera quite as still as it needs to be, or we might be using a lens that has a high magnification factor, in which case the slightest movement can show up as camera shake.

If you're not sure if a photo is exhibiting signs of camera shake or if you've just screwed up your focus, take a look at the nature of the blur. A plain old badly focused image will probably have at least one area in focus, but it won't be the right area. The blur will likely be quite smooth, too. A camera shaken photo, on the other hand, will be blurry all over, and the blur is probably sharp and jagged. You might have a double-exposure-like effect, with everything appearing twice in the frame. However it manifests itself, it isn't ideal.

Don't try shoot hand-held at 1/10 second. It's not a great result.

Camera and lens manufacturers have made it easier for us to capture tack-sharp photos with the introduction of stablisation technology. You'll often hear manufacturers claiming that their vibration reduction or image stabilisation mechanisms can offer however many stops advantage, or let you shoot with a slower aperture or shutter speed than you could manage only hand-held without noticing any camera shake. Still, there's nothing like going back to basics and doing everything that you can to produce a blur-free photo.

First of all, you can take the technical approach and reconsider your exposure. If you can, use a faster shutter speed and compensate for it using a faster aperture and a faster ISO. If you're concerned about noise, remember that a smidge of noise is better than a blurry photo.

Second, brace yourself. If you're hand-holding your camera, keep your elbows in, against your chest. Don't stand there trying to stop traffic with your arms out at 90° to your body. If I had a penny for every person I'd told to keep their elbows in, I'd be a few pounds to the better by now. If you're using a long lens, make sure that you have one hand on the camera and the other supporting the lens. The combination of a long lens' weight and its magnification factor makes it a camera shake party.

Without a tripod to hand, I propped my camera on a wall

Third, breathe right. Seriously. Inhaling or exhaling at the wrong moment can cause camera shake. Try not to inhale or exhale at the same time as you depress the shutter button. And while you're at it, depress the shutter button gently.

Four, use a stabilisation device. It doesn't matter if it's a tripod, a monopod, a brick wall, or a string tripod: get your camera stable. And trust me, the length of time for which you're capable of holding your camera steady is much shorter than you think it is.

Strobe, phone, or point-and-shoot

Five, use a remote shutter release. We've already noted that breathing at the wrong moment and an over-zealous trigger-finger can lead to camera shake. If you're in a very sensitive situation, for example you're using a macro lens, using a remote shutter release eliminates your need to touch the camera and with it the inherent threat from your lungs and muscles.

That should help to keep your photos sharp.

Time-lapse << Photography Fundamentals >> White balance

Sleek and smooth: it's Triggertrap Mobile 2.0

It's sleek, it's smooth, it's the new Triggertrap Mobile 2.0 that allows you to trigger your dSLR in 14 ways using your smartphone and a dongle. Want to record a timelapse—that is a sunset timelapse that makes use of bulb-ramping, or timewarped timelapse that has varied intervals between shots, or an HDR timelapse? Or trigger your camera using sound or vibration? How about create a distance-lapse? Maybe record star-trails? Fancy having a go at long-exposure HDR? And do it all wirelessly? Triggertrap has you covered. There's even a wireless flash adapter you can hook it up to for high-speed photography. Triggertrap-Mobile-20-iOS-Bang-Sensor

The new version is available for both iOS and Android devices and has a simplified design that's not just a pretty screen: switching between triggering modes is now easier. There were a few bugs in the old version that should now be squashed and Android users will be happy to hear that the app can now run in the background, even when the phone is locked, allowing you to timelapse away until your heart is content without fatally draining your battery.

The Triggertrap team is rather proud of version 2.0: 'We saw the opportunity to combine what we learned from the first generation app with the tips we received from our diehard fans to make Triggertrap what we always envisioned it could be,' said CEO and Triggertrap inventor Haje Jan Kamps. 'It certainly helps that our fans wear the pants around here and aren’t shy about letting us know what could be improved, and as a result, Triggertrap Mobile 2.0 is the best triggering solution you’ll find anywhere.'

If you don't already use Triggertrap, you can download the app for free from Apple's App Store or Google Play. It works with your device's internal camera or can be hooked up to supported dSLRs or flashguns using hardware available from the Triggertrap shop.

And if you'd rather watch a video, Triggertrap's made you one of those, too!

Triggertrap Mobile's free! Whee!

Just for the holidays, the Triggertrap Mobile premium application is going to be available for free for both Android and iOS.

There's always been a free version of Triggertrap Mobile, offering a selection of the premium application's camera triggering options, but now anyone with an Android or Apple phone has access to all of Triggertrap's capabilities. These include multiple time-lapse features; sensor controls to trigger your camera using sound, motion, vibration, or metal; facial recognition; and star trail and HDR modes.

To make the most of Triggertrap with your SLR, rather than with your smartphone camera alone, you will need a dongle. This can be purchased for $24.99 from the Triggertrap store. But with the new wireless function, you won't necessarily need a cable. And don't forget to download the app from the App Store, or Google Play.

That's just made one Christmas present a bit cheaper!

Triggertrap goes wireless

When Team Triggertrap headed to Photokina in September with their universal camera triggering device and app, one of the questions most frequently asked of them was 'Will there be a cable-free option for the app soon?' Being able to use your mobile phone to remotely control your camera is awesome, but having to use a connection cable can be a bit of a bind.

Without trying to give away too much, Matt and Haje would smile and nod and say that it was something that they were thinking about. They've been thinking about it very hard, in fact, and developing, and testing, and testing some more, and finally some updating. From today you can update your Triggertrap Mobile app, either Android or iOS, so that it can trigger your dSLR or EVIL camera wirelessly.

And it's all down to Wi-Fi.

Your mobile acts at the master device whilst the Triggertrap dongle interfaces with your camera as the slave. If you'd like to control several slave devices from one master, that's possible, too.

Of course, this is all hunky-dory if you happen to be shooting somewhere with a Wi-Fi network, but what if you're in the middle of Nowheresville without one? You can create a personal hotspot using your master device's data network, assuming of course that you have one of those. Ta-dah! You can go forth and wirelessly create time-lapses and distance lapses, or trigger your camera using sound, vibration, or the correct number of faces in the scene.

The update is available for free for existing Triggertrap Premium app users and included in new downloads (Android is here; iOS is here). Don't forget, you will still need the dongle, though. (And yes, I'm still inclined to snigger every time that I hear the word 'dongle'. I don't expect that to change any time soon.)