Stability: Shooting for a longer time (with or without stabilizers)
There are quite a few things to go over here. These are the things I do, they may differ from person to person of course. Some of these are general, while others refer specifically to flying stabilizers like the ones I discussed earlier. Each one of these things can help improve your shooting times, and this is how I do long weddings, sometimes as long as 18 hours (my record is now a 19-hour wedding) and often a lot of that flying a stabilizer with almost no stops for a long time.
Some of these might sound obvious to some of you, but my intention is not to be patronising, I would just like to be thorough.
Food – On the day
Being in good shape and good health will help here, that is discussed in more details in the last chapter, but in this section I am specifically talking about what you eat on the day of the shoot. This may differ from person to person. Personally I do not eat a large amount of carbohydrates (Google link for more info), but specifically I avoid sugar, which gives energy for a short period of time but then can cause a “crash” in energy. I personally wouldn’t touch an energy drink or coke with a barge pole.
It is obvious, but still worth mentioning that good rest is also important before a shoot. If flying out to somewhere, take at least a day or two between your flight and your shoot to give yourself time to recover.
This is an extreme solution, and of course takes a lot of time and effort, but that can really pay off by making a huge difference to your fitness, strength and stamina. This is particularly important for flying stabilizers. For health and safety I have to recommend getting advice from a professional fitness trainer or doctor.
Go out there and shoot. This will work out those muscles your body needs in order to hold and move the stabilizer.
The position of your body
This may sound obvious, but it’s an important point to mention. Get to know your body and stand in a way where you are not putting to much strain on your back. Which brings me to my next point...
Bring it closer!
This is very important with handheld stabilizers. Spin the weights so that that they are facing the side, then bring the stabilizer closer to you. This has no effect on the balance as long as your weights are the same on both sides. It puts much less stress on your back and arms because the weight is much closer to you. It also allows you to see the screen more easily.
Powermoo - $35
This is a small pendant that has an immediate and hugely noticeable effect on strength, balance and stamina (at least for most users). I do not know exactly how it works, but it is something I have used since 2008 and have been extremely happy with. You can see my review here, and visit the official site to read more about it (And also see the pretty photographs I shot for Powermoo, as I am their official photographer.). This may sound strange, but if you don’t believe me, check out reviews by other Youtubers.
Vest systems - £250+
This is the most expensive option, and requires a lot of practice, good fitness and a strong back. These help you shoot for longer, but they weigh a lot which is still a lot of effort to carry and move, and of course to carry to the shoot, which could be more problematic for walking, flights, trains and busses. As mentioned above, I am a big fan of the Kovacam vest and stabilizer system. But of course there are other options to choose from.
Arm braces - £50
These can be somewhat helpful and they are pretty cheap, but I prefer not to use one. They help if your problem is at the wrist, however, not being able to swap hands can cause more strain on your arm, and the added weight of the brace isn’t helping your arm or back much either.
The way you hold the handle
The way that you hold the handle can make a huge difference to the amount of time you are able to shoot. This is especially useful when you learn to switch to different hand holding positions during shooting, and will also allow you to do better moves more smoothly.
Using a lighter weight camera system - £200+
For most professionals, paying for an additional lightweight camera isn’t impossible. For some it may be too expensive, and of course this is where you could consider selling your big camera and getting a smaller one that will do the same things. There are currently many high quality lightweight camera systems you could get for a low price. When you add one of those to a lightweight stabilizer like the Glidecam HD-1000 or Monocam CF, and consider the much lower amount of weights you need to use at the bottom, you can actually end up with something fairly lightweight, it can definitely make a huge difference. Obviously get rid of unneeded accessories to reduce weight.
Using a lighter weight stabilizer - £200+
As mentioned above, this is something that can make a big difference. If your stabilizer is on the heavy side, consider something more lightweight.
Extending the pole
Extending the pole on your stabilizer and then reducing the amount of weights you have at the bottom can make a fairly small but noticeable difference, while still flying just as well in most situations.
When shooting with a handheld stabilizer, practicing holding it using your other hand than the one you normally use, and then being able to do just that while you are on a shoot, is a very valuable skill. I have always practiced switching hands which is very helpful for shooting for a long time. Learning to smoothly do the switch without shaking or dropping the camera is also a skill to practice, ideally over a very soft surface like a bed, and at first, without even having the camera on the stabilizer.
Additional handle - £5 to £30
This can be a very helpful option. There is a ready made product that does this (sorry I forgot the name) but it costs some $500 so it is too expensive for me to purchase and test just to review it, especially not when I can make my own for some £30 or less if I ever needed this option.
Extended handle - £5
This could be a cheap option to allow you to more easily hold the stabilizer’s handle with both hands as well as more easily switch hands, but there is no ready made product that does this that I know of, so it’s a DIY sorta thing, and obviously I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless you are sure you are good with DIY projects and you are sure you won’t damage your equipment, or are willing to take the risk.