Sniper techniques for tricky low light
photography without a tripod
Written by Jim T May (http://trick-photography.org)
When shooting in low light conditions, a tripod is absolutely essential. It can be very tricky to
get clear and sharp photos because of the camera shake from your hands. The problem is that
tripods are heavy and clunky. They take up so much space that you only carry them around if
you are certain you'll be using it.
But photography is supposed to be spontaneous! Sometimes you just don't have a tripod with
you when you need to shoot in low light conditions. This is when you'll need to get creative and
start thinking more like a sniper. Yes, a sniper, as in an elite marksman who shoots target using
a high-precision rifle from long range.
When you think about it, a sniper needs to be extremely steady with their rifle. They need to be
able to hit a very small target from a very large distance away; a slight shake will throw off their
aim completely. They have only one shot because firing their rifle will give off their position.
The stakes are rarely as high in the photography world, but surely we can learn something from
Being prepared is key
A sniper is always aware of his situation. He knows his mark, his environment, his equipment,
and his own capabilities. This applies to the photographer. Without a tripod, you'll need to
consider how to capture your subject, while thinking about how to utilize the available light
that you have. You might even take another look at your equipment to see if you can fashion a
Brace against something
The classic sniper position is prone, and using a sandbag or bipod to steady the rifle. This way
the sniper does not have to constantly carry the full weight of the rifle while making minute
adjustments to their aim. Likewise you can find some object lying around to help keep your
camera stationary before you release the shutter. You can hug a street lamp or lean against a
wall if you need to hold the camera with your hands.
Trigger on exhale
After all that preparation, it would be a shame to mess up the shot with camera shake when we
depress the shutter release button. We often introduce a small jerky motion either to the
camera when we press the button with our finger. So it is recommended to remotely activate
the shutter. But if that is not available there are extra things we can do.
Snipers use breathing techniques to minimize barrel motion when squeezing the trigger. In fact,
some go even further and shoot between heartbeats for better accuracy. The lesson here is
that if you want steady hands, then you'll need to relax and get your heartbeat down. You'll
have problems taking long shutter speed photos if you're excited or tensed up. Breathe
normally and lightly depress the shutter release near the end of the exhale. Do this and you'll
be able to reduce camera shake to a minimum. The key is to stabilize the camera as much as
possible without Try it and you'll be surprised with the results!
Jim blogs about trick photography and special effects techniques, that people use to create stunning
photographs. You can sign up at his Trick Photography site to receive a free report on the top 10 trick
photography ideas for travel photos. Please feel free to share this document with your family and
friends if you think it’ll interest them, thanks!