What is Camera Shake?

camera shake


Camera shake is when your image loses stability and looks shaky or out of focus.

This can be caused by a number of factors, but the most common when hand-holding is a shutter speed that is too low for the focal length being used.

There are 2 rules to avoid camera shake when hand-holding your camera. They both refer to the focal length of your lens, and are as follows:

Rule 1

For focal lengths up to 60mm (eg the 18mm – 55mm standard lens), the minimum shutter speed is 1/60th of a second. This means that if you finish an image with a shutter speed lower than 1/60 (eg 1/30), even if you are holding your camera correctly, you will have camera shake because is is too slow to hand-hold!

Rule 2

For focal lengths greater than 60mm, the minimum shutter speed must be greater than the value of the focal length.  This may seem confusing but it is very simple when understood. An example of this rule is as follows: for a lens focal length of 135mm, the minimum shutter speed is 1/160, where 160 is the first shutter speed greater than 135. Another example would be for a lens focal length of 80mm, the minimum shutter speed is 1/100, where 100 is the first shutter speed greater than 80.

No matter which rule applies to your lens at the time of shooting, you should not finish on the minimum shutter speed as you can still have camera shake in adverse (eg windy) conditions. Its called the minimum for a reason, so unless you are rock steady with your hand-holding, don’t go near it. So my advice is always try to finish 2 clicks higher than the minimum shutter speed. Eg if the minimum is 1/60, 2 clicks higher is 1/100, and if the minimum is 1/160, 2 clicks higher is 1/250.

Remember, your shutter speed controls movement in your image and if it is too slow, it will create camera shake, and ruin your picture.

Another common reason for camera shake is using a tripod that is not sturdy or stable enough to hold you camera steady for a long exposure image. A long exposure image is when your shutter speed is up to 30 seconds or longer to create motion blur in your image, like running water or colourful streaks of car headlights/taillights. These can be brilliantly creative images provided your tripod does the job correctly.

The true test is your tripod should be sturdy enough to hold you camera rock steady for 30 seconds, with the tripod legs are fully extended in windy conditions!  This can be a big ask. Refer to the advice page on buying a tripod.