Easy Photo Tip: Don’t Be The Camera, Be The Tripod

When you see a crowd of people snapping photos, can you spot the professional photographer?

You might guess that the pro is the one whose shoulders are crisscrossed with wide camera straps that are supporting expensive camera bodies and long, exotic lenses. Could be a pro, but there’s a more reliable clue.

The pro is the one who has his elbows tucked into his ribs while shooting so as to turn his (or her) body into a virtual tripod.

The human body is capable of a fantastic range of graceful motion, but it’s not very good at standing absolutely still. The typical inexperienced amateur photographer makes matters worse by extending his arms away from his body so that they can sway like a pendulum while holding the weight of the camera out in front. Sadly, this bad habit is encouraged by cameras that do not have eye-level viewfinders.

Instead, keep those appendages plastered to your torso for sharper pictures. Tuck in your elbows and keep your arms close. Pretend that it’s cold and you’re trying to keep your chest warm. Pressing your elbows inward creates a naturally steady camera support.

The image above was shot with the new Leica M-P and a 50mm f1.4 Summilux. The depth-of-field at f/1.4 is delightfully shallow. The benefit is the ability to de-emphasize parts of the scene by throwing them out of focus. The downside is that precise focusing is imperative, and it’s absolutely necessary to stand still. Develop good camera posture and watch the sharpness improve.

—Jon Sienkiewicz