Are You Holding Your Camera Wrong?

If there's anything the Internet loves more than cat photos, it's pointing out to people that they're doing something the wrong way.

In this video, portrait photographer Irene Rudnyk responds to complaints that she has received in YouTube comments about the way she chooses to hold her camera vertically. For her entire shooting career, she has always held the camera vertically with the shutter button toward the bottom. As it turns out, many people have been systematically taught that this is wrong, and that holding the camera vertically should always have the shutter button towards the top.

After doing a little digging, Rudnyk claims she coincidentally found that male photographers almost always teach the shutter on top method, while it was only female photographers that taught the shutter on bottom preference. For me personally, I too was taught that shutter on top was the only correct way after first starting out doing it shutter on bottom. I changed up my style to not look like a fool, and now it's just muscle memory. But Rudnyk's demonstration as to why this style of shooting might not be comfortable to women was news to me, and I think knowing this we should back off a little on the assertion that all photographers need to work one way or they are "wrong."

What's your preferred way of holding the camera vertically?

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63 Comments

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Eric Crudup's picture

Wow, why on earth would anyone care how someone that makes excellent pictures handles their camera? This seriously screams "mansplaining" to me, and I'm not one to use that term lightly. I bet every single one of those commenters can't touch Irene as a photographer. This is so stupid that it's difficult to believe, yet internet comments continue to surprise with the sheer depths of their idiocy.

Noah Stephens's picture

It’s probably not mansplaining. The men who criticize Irene for no good reason likely do the same thing to men. One cursory look at the fstoppers comments section prove this.

Randy Kepple's picture

I think most of the commenters (on this post) are supporting Irene, and that's a pretty broad statement to mansplain your opinion about how anyone commenting about their work not holding a candle to Irene. But hey... welcome to the internet!

Eric Crudup's picture

It seems like you're upset because I used the term "mansplain", hahaha. You then use the term incorrectly in an nearly incomprehensible mess of a sentence. Yes, I'm willing to bet that someone dumb enough to mansplain to an awesome photographer about the way they hold their camera is probably not a great photographer. I would bet money that her work is way better than any of theirs.

Mr Drizz's picture

Doesn't matter one bit. Do what works for you, simple. I've shot both ways, got the same results.

If I'm shoot a lot in portrait then a grip is the only way forward 😀

It really depends on the situation. The way you hold your camera should be primarily for stability, but you also have to take into consideration space. Grip on top also puts your elbow way out, and that might not be too great for a crowded space. Then there's also the problem with shutter button down in that you don't have as much of a grip on the camera.

It's not that there's a right way or wrong way, what she's trying to say is that there's a reason you might want to do it differently.

Jordan McChesney's picture

Wait, y’all have been using your hands? I just superglue mine to my forehead and pay someone else to press the shutter so I can double fist strawberry margaritas.

Ian Smith's picture

Are you holding your margaritas properly? : )

Jordan McChesney's picture

Well, I’m holding two, so I must be doing something right!

Michael B. Stuart's picture

#Shutup Meaning I'm shutter up. With pinky as trigger finger right?

Tim Gallo's picture

mediocre photographers with mediocre advices raising a new community of mediocre photographers.

Lee Stirling's picture

I wear glasses, making it impossible to actually push the viewfinder or camera up to my face proper. I find that holding the camera vertically with the shutter button on top helps because my right thumb can be pressed up against my forehead, adding a point of stability for the shots I'm taking. I vote for shutter button on top.

Willian Gomes's picture

The only "wrong way" to hold something that I see is the way some people hold the lens from the top side.
Holding from down side of lens helps to get a better stabilization and yes, I'm from Brazil and I'm using google translate. ;)

Ivan Lantsov's picture

! STUPID

Vincent Morretino's picture

I'll hold my camera several different ways, depending on the shot and the environment. When shooting with an ultra-wide lens from close to the ground, sometimes I don't even look out of the viewfinder half the time because I have gotten very used to what to expect framing-wise.

I was confused about the video and folks saying "shutter to the bottom". I'm assuming they mean "shutter button" and not the shutter since it's in the middle of the camera.

Paul Asselin's picture

I think part of it depends on which eye you are using to look through the VF. Left eyed like Irene means it is easier with the button below.

Ryan Stone's picture

So support the camera by the lens and therefore the lens mount, not the hand grip, got it.

Rob Mitchell's picture

If there's a way for your blog post to get attention, it's to post something that's going to get people's backs up.
Not even going to watch the video, pointless.

Personally, hold it anyway you want. BUT.
1. Open both eyes.
2. Don't use a photo of yourself holding a camera to your face as an avatar.

Alejandro Penner's picture

how is this even a thing? lol

Robert Nurse's picture

I've been holding my camera the "right" way. But, looking at how she hold hers, it seems she's a lot more comfortable and the camera is more stable.

I think she should hold the camera in whatever way is most comfortable for her. HOWEVER, a MUCH bigger problem is that she needs to take the lens cap off.

David Moore's picture

THe proper way to hold a camera is steady. Unless you want jittery photos. Then not steady. OK. thanks bye.

August Miller's picture

Old as dirt photographer here. She is using her left eye and holding the camera in a way that she can steady it for her body type and strength. Don't overcomplicate this. The only two things you need to know is "hold it steady so you get the shot" and make sure your stupid elbows aren't in the way of the other photographers and people sitting next to you. As a very young photographer I learned that lesson very quickly when sitting next to a bunch of photographers shooting NBA basketball games. Nothing pisses off a photographer, whose on deadline trying to get the shot, more than your elbow in front of their lens.

From her pics and videos, Irene seems to be left-eyed.

For anyone who uses her or his left eye on the viewfinder, grip down will probably be more comfortable because their nose will stick out past the prism beside the top plate of the camera. Likewise, anyone who uses their right eye to look through the viewfinder will find the grip-up orientation more comfortable. Using a camera the other way round means that the user's nose is jammed against the rear LCD. So, for Irene, and all other left-eyed photographers, holding her camera the way she does seems to be the more natural and comfortable option.

It has always struck me as strange that camera designers have never taken into account that the vast majority of their users have a nose that sticks out in front of the eye that will be placed next to the viewfinder. (Leicas are probably the most left-eyed-unfriendly cameras.)

I am right-eyed, and I normally use the camera grip-up, but will change it over whenever it feels more convenient to do so, for example, when bending down, but I always use my right eye on the finder. I always keep my left eye open so that I can see what is going on outside of the frame - quite often there is something more interesting there. Grip-down blocks my left eye view. Exactly the opposite applies if you are left eyed.

Do what works for you. Me, I shoot manual, rangefinder cameras, usually with heavy, large-diameter lenses.

When I need a vertical shot, I support the lens with my left hand. It's easier for me to focus and control aperture with my support hand. In the process, I have to be careful not to block either of the rangefinder windows.

That leaves me with the shutter release up top. Not right or wrong -- just practical.

Jason Lanier says you are all wrong...

Korey Napier's picture

I like to hold my camera upside down and use my thumb to press the shutter release. It makes for a more challenging experience when composing the shot. Plus, flipping it in LR is very satisfying.

Alan Brown's picture

Quite simply there is NO right or wrong - whatever puts you camera in the most stable position is the correct way. My goal is support the camera with my left hand on the balance point/lens (elbow braced against chest) and remove any weight/strain on my trigger finger.

This typically means shooting 'down' with both elbows braced against the chest, but depending on body position (eg crouching) I may revert to 'top' shooting.

Those who are adamant that 'top' shooting is correct should consider how they shoot landscape (ie elbows against chest for rigidity). It makes logical to me that we'd want to achieve the same goal of support when turning the camera.

Kirk Darling's picture

And there is the gender-related cultural explanation that is, actually, at least 30 years old.

The idea is that women tend to take "space saving" postures and men tend to take postures that consume more space. That's a distinction noted between Western men and Japanese men as well, and, indeed, camera manuals from Japan display an "elbow down" posture for shooting verticals.

So the supposition is that "elbow out" is just another example of "manspreading."

However, back in the days of cameras with relatively heavy mechanical linkages with plunger releases, the "elbows out" position did provide a tighter grip that better separated the hold on the camera from the action of pressing down the plunger, and thus promoted a sharper image (shutter speeds were slower back then, remember, with ASAs rarely above 400).

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