I have heard something about photographers getting trained like butlers by walking with a full glass of water on their hand and removing fingers one by one.

As I have heard, the training technique makes the photographer's hands less shaky, but does that technique really exist or is it just another urban legend?

Also what is the name of that technique?

  • 2
    Can't say I've ever heard of this - super interested to see what comes! As far as technique is concerned, I've found standing rifle shooting to provide better muscle training for steadiness.
    – OnBreak.
    Oct 18, 2018 at 22:00
  • 7
    if you balance a glass of water on top of your expensive digital camera, you'll have a great motivation to remain steady.
    – ths
    Oct 19, 2018 at 14:23
  • See How can I hold my camera steady?
    – xiota
    Oct 19, 2018 at 19:18

6 Answers 6


Now I will tell you a real training exercise. Train yourself to hand-hold the camera with a steady and non-jerking stroke when pressing the shutter release. Place an operating flashlight on a book shelf or mantel, at eyelevel height. Mount a small mirror before the camera lens. Use masking tape.

Assume a picture taking position. Adjust yourself and camera so the light beam from the flashlight reflects off the mirror and projects a spot of light on the wall. Practice holding the camera and pressing the shutter release, all the while observe the light spot for movement.

Practice until you can execute this deed with a steady hand. You will need to practice breath control if you train yourself for a hand-held prolonged exposure.

  • 9
    Nowadays you can just buy a cheap cat-toy laser and tape it to your lens. ;) Oct 19, 2018 at 1:20
  • 1
    @ junkyardsparkle -- Good idea - a tip of the hat from Alan Marcus Oct 19, 2018 at 2:54
  • Could you add some sketch for the technique, please? Oct 22, 2018 at 16:06

I don't think I've ever heard of it, and I've been reading about camera stabilization techniques since the 1980s. If I have ever heard of it, I have since forgotten it to the point that even this discussion does not jog a memory.

Most instructionals emphasize holding the arms against the body (or other solid objects such as a wall, or a tree, etc.) so that the hands have nowhere much to move. They also tend to talk about using the same breathing techniques that military sharpshooters are taught to increase their accuracy and consistency with firearms.


I am not familiar with that technique and to be honest, I don't recall any training or practice to help holding the camera steady. This is because of two factors: holding the camera correctly, and understanding the impact of shutter speed on motion.

I suggest doing a google search on 'how to hold a camera', where you will be linked to many stories such as this one. Providing the proper support to your camera will bring significant stability, and reduce 'shake'.

Of course, ensuring that you are shooting at the proper shutter speed is critical as well, and likely the largest noticeable impact to your images. An old 'rule of thumb' for full frame cameras was to ensure that you shoot at a shutter speed above the 1/focal length of the lens you are using: if you are shooting at 70mm, ensure your shutterspeed is above 1/70th. Likewise, if shooting at 200mm, shoot above 1/200th. In general, you should ensure that any hand held shooting occurs at 1/60th or above, though these days with stabilization and crop sensors, it is no longer a very useful gauge, only a simple reminder to ensure you are shooting at the proper shutter speed for your conditions.

You will notice photographers using long lenses with monopods or tripods, such as during sporting events or perhaps shooting wildlife. This is because many use very long lenses, and they often need shutter speeds lower than the focal length.

  • 2
    Most of the photographers using monopods with their longest lenses at major sporting events are shooting at Tvs shorter than 1/1000. They have to use such short Tvs to freeze the motion of the athletes they are shooting. They use monopods more because they don't want to have to support the weight of their heaviest lens with their arms for several consecutive hours.
    – Michael C
    Oct 22, 2018 at 15:39

Certainly the muscle stability this could potentially develop could be useful, but I'm not familiar with this being an actual training method in any training I've ever seen for building a stable platform. I have both a steady hand for photo and film (was recognized recently at a film festival for some of my stabilization work) and am a qualified sharpshooter and training for neither involved this.

There is actually one way that this could potentially be counter productive. This would tend to cause strength building and strength building can tend to make things less rather than more stable. I'm not sure how the balance would play out between the fine motor control of working on controlling minor twitch movements would compare to the strength building resulting in them being harder to control.

It certainly isn't the most effective training you could pursue, nor the most effective technique as the vast majority of stability comes from bone on bone support and breathing control with only some things like ninja walking actually coming down to pure muscle control and even that is more gross motor control than twitch control. Twitch control is helpful, but it's a much smaller piece of the puzzle.


Does that technique really exist or is it just another urban legend?

There is no such technique. What you describe appears to have been inspired by Doctor Strange, Iron Fist, and other depictions of monastery monks in training. It could also be part of the patter of a magic trick, where the water disappears or the cup floats or something.


I have found the source of the answer

Our photography teacher was indeed trained that way. The name of the technique was called "Bardak Çalışması" (Glass Practise, rouglhy) it was done like this;

1-You get a glass full of water then you are ordered to hold it on the ends of your fingers with a flat hand while walking through an room doing maneuvers an photographer would do.

2-Then you remove your fingers from under the glass one by one till you can do the stunts with only two or three of your fingers still holding the upright glass full of water.

So thats THE answer.

  • 1
    I would edit this but I'll suggest here instead. "... hold it on the ends of your fingers with a flat hand while ..." and "... remove your fingers from under the glass one by one ..." Otherwise, the last trick sounds as though we might be undergoing surgery to "remove the fingers ..." (ouch!) Oct 27, 2018 at 13:39
  • @JeffreyJWeimer I got stuff to do right now you can do it thanks Oct 27, 2018 at 14:59
  • 1
    I've edited your post accordingly. Oct 28, 2018 at 20:05
  • 1
    1. "maneuvers" photographers do typically involve holding the hands at angles that are not parallel to the ground. It would be impossible to hold a cup of water as you describe while performing such actions. 2. Searching for "Bardak Çalışması" does not return any result remotely related to photography. 3. Who is "our photography teacher"? If this was the source from whom you "heard something about photographers", it seems you did not consider this person to be credible since you came here to ask about the technique.
    – xiota
    Oct 28, 2018 at 23:37
  • 1
    @xiota The original unedited had fingers cut off. Oct 29, 2018 at 3:10

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