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  • Writer's pictureMark Heathcote

You are holding your camera wrong

Updated: Jan 3, 2019

(or How to Correctly Hold a Camera for Vertical Shots)

Several years ago during a portfolio review of my street photography (with David Gibson from in-public collective) it was pointed out to me that all my photographs were horizontal and I should take more vertical shots.

I thought about this for several days trying to work out why this was. I concluded that I was being influenced by the horizontal format of laptop screens. Since most people see my work online, they mostly have a horizontal screen.

It is like waving your arms around announcing that you are taking photographs

The other influence, being a street photographer, was the idea of staying discreet. Reaching my arm

Taken while not looking like a chimp scratching
Taken while not looking like a chimp scratching

over my head to take a vertical shot went against my instincts since it is like waving your arms around announcing that you are taking photographs. Clearly we don't want to draw attention to ourselves.

Of course, these days it is probably as common to view images on a vertical smart phone screen. Regardless, it was holding back my photography, so something had to change.

I learned how to shoot vertical. Without being seen.

My epiphany moment was during a session at the Leica Academy in London. I saw the camera being held vertically, with one hand, but supported from underneath with the elbow tucked in. I decided to try this and found that it felt very awkward. I persevered and found very quickly that it felt natural AND FAST.

You can handhold at lower shutter speeds

Once you get used to holding your vertical camera underneath you will actually find that not only does no-one realise you are using a camera but it is actually much faster to get the shot, you can handhold at lower shutter speeds AND it is much more comfortable to hold in position as you work a scene, resulting in more frames.

I can't recommend this technique enough. Do it. It will change your photography and you will look like you know what you are doing rather than looking like a chimp scratching.


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