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I have Sony DSC-H200 optical 26x zoom bridge camera. I wanted to take Long-exposure shots like Night life, Traffic lights, star trails etc., but I don't have any necessary tripod(I couldn't afford one). I just try to see if there's any stable surface available nearby and try to use it, but it doesn't always help.

I wanted to know if there's any alternative solution other than finding a stable wall or thing ?

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I just try to see if there's any stable surface available nearby and try to use it

That's the basic idea.

Be careful to watch for slight slippage. Also note that vibrations can also affects the stability, including when you trigger the shot - make sure you use a timer so that the vibrations of your touching the camera can subside. I'd use the 10 seconds timer to give it as much time as possible.

but it doesn't always help.

There may be other issues here. Are you controlling ISO and exposure time ? I have found that some cameras apply a lot of processing to shots ( and Sony often do ) that reduces detail. Typically they'd sharpen and do noise reduction far too aggressively. It's useful to shoot RAW ( if you can ) or at least reduce sharpening and noise reduction as much as possible.

I wanted to know if there's any alternative solution other than finding a stable wall or thing ?

Bean bags. Some people use Gorillapods.

  • Is it favorable to buy a tripod now just for a Point-and-shoot or should I wait till a year or two when i get to work and buy a DSLR ? – Psk livewire Jan 7 '17 at 13:51
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    I would wait. That said a cheap tripod can be better than no tripod, but I'm not convinced your issue can be fixed with a tripod. Maybe post a new question with one of your problem photos and see if there is any other issue at work with technique. – StephenG Jan 7 '17 at 13:54
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    Using a flat surface and setting 2 seconds self-timer (to avoid shacking the camera while shooting) near always works to me. Even if the surface is not horizontal and I need to hold firmly the camera against it, it usually works. – Pere Jan 7 '17 at 19:05
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    Gorillapods are great but, at least where I live (Japan), they're a fair bit more expensive than the cheapest tripods. – Nathaniel Jan 8 '17 at 4:26
  • @Nathaniel you can find small gorillapods and tripods in Daiso easily. Extremely inexpensive and convenient to carry around. I simply put them in my pocket when I go backpacking instead of carrying a 2-kg tripod around with me. – phuclv Jan 8 '17 at 11:35
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On a tight budget or when you can't use a tripod, bean bags are the way to go. Find a stable surface, place the bag and wiggle the camera around until you are happy with the framing.

FYI ordinary shop bought bags of sunflower seeds or lentils or surprise surprise beans work pretty well as a bean bag. Sand is also pretty good but heavy. Stick your choice of filling in a pillowcase or something and you're set.

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    A sock is probably a more appropriate/convenient size to support a point-&-shoot camera. A no-cost improvised alternative could be a plastic shopping bag with some dirt in it. A wide variety of things can be made to work in a pinch. – Makyen Jan 7 '17 at 18:10
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    @Makyen you're probably right, but the Sony DSC-H200 is probably better described as a bridge camera (closer to an entry-level DSLR than a point-and-shoot). – scottbb Jan 8 '17 at 2:12
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If inexpensive tripods are too expensive, I suggest making your own stable platform. The tripod socket on cameras is 1/4" × 20 thread-per-inch UNC, a.k.a. 1/4-20. (Do not try to use metric, such as M6-1. They are not compatible).

Depending on your skills and creativity, you can make something that is entirely suited to how and where you tend to shoot. Maybe you like shooting low from the ground? Then make your own ground pod (basically, a flat board with a bolt sticking out of it). Couldn't be much simpler.

Kirk Low Pod
Kirk PO-2PC Low Pod

If you add feet to your ground pod, that will provide some distance clearance over uneven surfaces. You could even strap the pod to the side a tree or pole for eye-level mounting.

If you're a pretty good DIY'er, I'd suggest trying to make your own Ultrapod. It's a compact table-top tripod with a small omni-adjustable ball at one end to mount your tripod to. When folded, its angle-iron shape makes it perfect to strap to a tree, handrail, etc.

Ultrapod
Pedco Ultrapod

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    google for "DYI tripod" and you can find lots of easy ways to make a tripod like this – phuclv Jan 8 '17 at 11:49
  • You recommend DIY, but show pictures of commercial products? – xiota May 25 at 1:10
  • @xiota sure, as in "replicate this commercial product". They make great aspirational references. – scottbb May 25 at 1:11
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One option that won't work for every situation is to take lots of short exposures and combine them in post-processing. You don't need a tripod for this because you can align the images in software before you combine them. Just shoot the images hand-held on burst mode, keeping the camera as steady as you can.

You can't get things like light trails from this method, but you can get a smooth "glassy" surface on water and turn crowds of people into diffuse shadows, similarly to the results you'd get from a long exposure.

If you have Photoshop, the procedure is to open your image files as layers, then select all the layers, and then select "auto-align layers" in the edit menu. This will line up all the layers perfectly, and you can then average them all together using one of the techniques described here.

If you can't afford Photoshop and don't mind hacking at the command line, you could use a utility called align_image_stack to align them, and then merge them using (for example) ImageMagick. (There may be more user friendly free software that can do it as well, but those are the ones I've used.)

If the camera moves around while you're shooting, you'll find that you can't use the edges of the final image, because they weren't covered by all the shots. So when shooting this way you should zoom out a bit more than you normally would, and be prepared to crop later.

  • I know some Sony point-and-shoots use this feature in night mode. Some mobile camera apps probably use it too – phuclv Jan 8 '17 at 11:48
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I have a tripod but when I can't use it (sometimes it's forbidden) I have this.

MP3-BK

With the three adjustable pegs you can easily set your camera horizontal even if the surface isn't (chair, window sill...). Works even with my rather heavy EOS70D+standard zoom lens.

You can also use it (in portrait mode) to hold the camera vertical against a round church pillar.

Not very expensive, small and light enough to be kept permanently in the camera bag.

  • Technically, that is a tripod. – xiota May 25 at 1:07
  • @xiota More like a tridact :) – xenoid May 25 at 6:14
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Your camera offers a few built-in aids for night shots. Set the mode dial to SCN (Scene Selection) and select from the menu one of: - Night Portrait - Night Scene - High Sensitivity

Depending on your camera, in some of these settings the camera actually takes several exposures and combines them to a better quality image.

In addition there is also a "Fireworks" setting available, which is good for long exposures.

Try these out and see if your results improve.

You can download the user manual at https://docs.sony.com/release/DSC-H200_guide_EN.pdf

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When i am taking a long exposure picture without a tripod, i firstly look to see if there is a wall or other solid platform to use instead of a tripod. if there is nothing to use instead of a tripod, try to position yourself in a comfortable position, bring your left arm so it is resting on your body and try to not move! if the exposure is short enough try not to breathe as this causes you to move.

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Just use your bag or a coat. This is a solution when you forgot a tripod or other things.

  • Can you please extend a bit your answer. – Romeo Ninov Jan 16 '17 at 14:17

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