Slow Shutter Speed And Bracing Your Camera – Photography Experiments

Raise your hand if you carry a tripod with you wherever you go?

Okay, the five of you who do can ignore this post. The rest of you, here’s a chance to get more from your camera by blurring things in a good way, without a tripod.

There are many times when you want to show some blur in your photos but you failed to pack that bulky tripod. And to be honest there really isn’t much to it, except practice. Let’s jump right into what you want to do.


Here are a few examples of intentional blur while I braced the camera without a tripod.

Here’s the experiment you can run

1. Thinking it through and knowing you want to cause blur through a slow shutter speed, which shooting mode do you want to choose? There is no right answer and ideally you’ll keep your shutter speed constant. Also, what will your ISO be? (Hint: You may need to shoot in something other than full daylight.) Try for a shutter speed around 1/6 of a second for good blur.

2. If need be, review How To Hold Your Camera to give you a good base.

3. Now that your base is set up, find something to brace with. Anything. Some examples I’ve used in the past: garbage can, boat railing, telephone pole, car hood, etc…  Here’s me and a tree.

4. Before you shoot, you want to stack the odds in your favor. I’d suggest changing your frame rate over to continuous shooting so you can hold down the shutter and not cause more blur from individual presses of the shutter release.

5. Another hint: watch the focus points in your viewfinder or the back of your camera. Try to keep them covering the same object while you shoot. If you notice them wandering around, you’re moving too much and are going to cause the non-moving items in your shot to blur as well. This is not what we want for this photo.


Fire away!



This experiment does not end here, even if this section is called Done. Practice is needed and repetition will be your best tutor. Also you need to judge the speed of the moving objects in your image. Are they close and moving fast or far away and moving seemingly slow? That will influence your chosen shutter speed and how much you need to brace.

My hope is learning to brace and shoot slow shutter speeds without a tripod will open up new shooting ideas and opportunities for you. There is a time for perfectly focused and static scenes. But there is also a time to include some blur and motion to enliven your photo.

Let me know how you do! Add a link to your experiment in the comments section below.

Photography Basics – A 43 Day Adventure, and its companion 40 Photography Experiments, are series written by professional photographer Peter West Carey. The series are designed to unravel the mysteries of photography, helping you can take better pictures. Subscribe here to receive all the updates and bonus material. Your comments are always welcome.

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