Opname: Documentary Production - Handheld Techniques


by Julie Babcock | September 9th, 2010

There is no doubt that a tripod lends itself to steady camera shots, as well as smooth pans and tilts. However, when you’re shooting a “run and gun” documentary, a tripod can become too cumbersome to lug around. Sometimes, a tripod isn’t needed when attempting a more stylistic handheld approach. Either way, without a tripod, your camera work is more likely to suffer from the shakes. To reduce the amount of excessive movement in your video try practicing the following handheld camera techniques.

- Keep your elbows bent and tucked near your body. Use one hand to hold the camera, and the other hand to support your camera hand, or to give additional support to the camera.

- Keep a wide stance and don’t lock your knees. By keeping your knees slightly bent you’re allowing your body to act as a shock absorber, and the wide stance will give you better balance.

- Keep your lens wide and don’t zoom in. Wider shots will make your video look less shaky, but if you zoom in you significantly increase the chances of a shaky shot. If you must get closer, physically move the camera closer.

- If you need additional support, try using the hood of a car or a park bench. Essentially, anything around you can be used to help in stabilizing your camera.

Handheld camera techniques can help create a more subjective feel to your documentary if executed properly. The secret to great handheld video is practice, practice, practice. And within no time, you’ll be able to leave that bulky tripod at home.

You don’t need loads of money to make a professional-looking film – you need to get down and dirty! 

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