Learning how to use a gimbal can help us make better videos and is also useful for some still photography situations. We can avoid the more common gimbal mistakes by looking at gimbal techniques in general. By being more informed and well-practiced, improved techniques with gimbals will follow!
What is a Gimbal?
What is a gimbal, and what is a gimbal used for?
As you look online at gimbals, you might be a little confused at what different manufacturers call a gimbal. Don’t worry, you’re not seeing things, there are two very distinctly different types of mounting accessories called gimbals.
One type of gimbal is a tripod head used by nature and sports photographers using large telephoto lenses to shoot moving subjects. It’s an interesting hinged mount that allows for camera and lens repositioning while still giving good support for these heavy lenses.
The other type of gimbal is what we’re discussing in these gimbal tips. It’s a stabilizing mount used for dampening excess movement and is most often employed for creating smoother videos.
Some have a simple balanced dual or triple axis pivot that works passively, while others have active dampening, either by a gyroscope or computer-controlled electronic motors like the E-Image Horizon Pro from Ikan pictured above.
If you’ve ever seen the large Steadicam rigs used in TV and motion picture production, that’s what these types of gimbals are most like. Steadicam is a brand name from Tiffen, so the term gimbal is used for describing the mounts and their actions.
Can You Use a Gimbal for Still Photography?
Since we usually see gimbals for videography, it’s natural to wonder, can you use a gimbal for still photography?
Sure you can. The same reasons for wanting one in videography can apply to still photography. Any type of photography that requires to be mobile are good candidates for using a gimbal as we follow various types of action.
Some examples of these types of activities are wedding photography, street photography, sports events, concerts, or an active day out with our family or pets at a park.
Gimbal Mistakes to Avoid
photo by Sergei Chuyko via iStock
As good tips to use a gimbal, let’s look at a few common mistakes and how to avoid or correct them.
Some of the mistakes we’ve seen or made ourselves include not balancing the gimbal, not readjusting when changing lenses, forgetting to charge the batteries for a powered gimbal, expecting too much from a gimbal, and being impatient.
Balance the Gimbal
For the gimbal to operate properly, it must be set up properly. For some gimbals this will be done electronically, but for others it’s done by moving counterweights. The E-Image Horizon Pro can be set up by a very simple adjustment to center the rotational axis of the arms. You can see that in the picture just above.
Readjust With Different Lenses
photo by 66North via iStock
Since the weight and the Colorful Camera Lens Elements Photography Graphic Zoom Fixed Lenses Stock Photo - Download Image Nowcenter of gravity for a camera and lens rig depend on both the camera and the lens, anytime we change lenses we should rebalance the rig on the gimbal.
A fast wide-angle zoom weighs significantly more than a standard kit lens or a normal lens, and a fast telephoto zoom might weigh even more. Plus, the center of gravity will likely change even if the lenses are near the same size and weight. So, don’t neglect this vital step.
Charge Your Batteries
One of the biggest gimbal mistakes we see over and over is neglecting to charge the batteries for a powered gimbal. Really, since almost everything we use for modern digital photography and videography uses some form of electrical power, recharging and checking battery levels should be a regular habit. Perhaps a checklist could help if anyone is prone to forgetfulness.
Sometimes when we get a new piece of equipment, we have unrealistic expectations of what it is actually able to do for us. A gimbal can really smooth out our movement when shooting videos and also helps for some still photography, but we should also practice being as smooth as we can ourselves.
Also, we can be patient by learning all of the features of our gimbal. The E-Image Horizon Pro has some interesting capabilities such as low angle shooting and also has optional extra handles which can increase our overall steadiness and provide more comfort when filming.
Follow these gimbal tips and you’ll avoid most of the gimbal mistakes we tend towards, making for better, smoother movies and also for sharp still images in active situations.