Tripods are essential to maximize image sharpness and for long exposures. However, they are not always convenient or even allowed. So, to get maximize stability while shooting hand-held here is my technique:
- Assume a stable posture, usually not leaning in any direction.
- Support the camera’s weight with the left hand.
- Grip firmly with the right but let the index-finder loose.
- Press the shutter-release halfway and wait for a focus-lock (When using AF).
- Breath in.
- Gently press the shutter fully.
- Wait for the photo to be taken (Most people skip this step).
- Resume breathing.
This lets me get a sharp-shot down to 1/8s for a moderate wide-angle lens but it depends on circumstance. Wind can make this impossible and being tired does not help. If I just rushed to the top of the mountain to get a shot, chances are I’ll be panting for a few minutes before I can get any sharp images.
There are some lighter weight alternatives to a tripod such as Joby’s Gorillapod. This is a small, cheap and relatively light (How often does that happen?) flexible tripod. It is easy to carry by twisting its legs through a belt, camera bag strap or cargo-pants pocket.