5 Tips To Eliminate Shaky Footage In Handheld Cameras

Eliminating shaky footage with a handheld camera is challenging, but not impossible. Here are the five best tips for shooting great looking handheld footage.

October 23rd, 2017

Do your videos shake? Do your videos look like they were shot from a boat in the middle of the ocean during a hurricane?

Regardless of whether your video has a little wobble or is bobbing up and down like a rough sea, a shaky video can do significant damage to your final shot. It will make a mess of your frames and distract your viewers, which is never a good thing.

If you struggle with shooting a stable and precise shot, don’t worry. There are a few practical things you can do to stabilize your videos without breaking the bank with fancy equipment.

In fact, shooting videos entirely handheld is one of my favorite techniques. No fancy stabilizer. No costly or complicated pieces of gear. Just my camera and I.

Recording steady footage with a handheld camera is challenging, but not impossible. Over the years, there are several tricks I’ve come across that have helped me shoot fluid videos this way. Here are the five best tips I’ve learned for shooting great looking handheld footage.

1. Shoot with a wide lens

You need to shoot with the widest possible lens you can, which is the most important tip you need to know. The wider your lens, the less noticeable any shakes are.

A wide lens will not eliminate movement, but this tactic will make movement appear less exaggerated.

Currently, I’m shooting with the URSA Mini Pro. My go-to handheld lenses on this camera are either the Rokinon 16mm T2.2 or, for a slightly more narrower shot, a Rokinon 24mm T1.5. But, there are times when I will also use a Rokinon 35mm.

Shooting with a wide lens is a surefire way to minimize shake when shooting handheld

2. Shoot with a high frame rate

The second trick you need to try is shooting your videos with a high frame rate. Four out of five times when I’m shooting handheld, I shoot the videos at 60 frames per second.

As above, this technique will not eliminate shaky footage, but it does deemphasize it.

Shooting in slow motion takes the emphasis off of the shakes and jitters of shooting handheld by slowing them down, which makes them look more purposeful and elegant.

3. Shoot with proper form

When I’m shooting with the URSA Mini Pro, I will often bend my knees a bit and cradle the camera near the center of my body. This position creates a strong foundation, and it also allows for multiple points of contact between you and your camera. Generally speaking, the more points of contact you have with your camera, the better you can stabilize your shot, which will lead to more steady footage.

If you’re shooting with a smaller camera—not a cinema camera—like a DSLR or a Micro Four Thirds camera, consider attaching a strap to your camera, placing the camera around your neck, and then using the strap to create tension. To do this, you will need to push the camera as far away as you can in front of your face, which will help you to stabilize your camera and eliminate a lot of the shakes and jitters that plague the lighter and more compact camera setups.

Cradling the camera close to your body creates multiple points of contact between you and the camera further minimizing shake

4. Use image stabilization

Many new cameras, like the Panasonic GH5 and the Sony a6500, have image stabilization built directly into them. What is more, many lenses also have an image stabilization option you can use.

Whether you use image stabilization in your camera or lens, both options will help you minimize the small shakes and jitters of handheld shooting.

5. Look into a warp stabilizer

The four tips above will help you shoot great looking footage. But, if you’re looking for a little extra smoothness, then I recommend you look into purchasing a Warp Stabilizer within Adobe Premiere Pro.

The Warp Stabilizer comes free with an Adobe Premiere subscription, so you don’t have to pay extra for a third-party plugin. This plugin does a great job of taking footage that may have a little shake and making it buttery-smooth.

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