A tripod is always going to be your best friend when it comes to taking sharp images regardless of shutter speed, but sometimes you don't have a choice or just don’t want to carry a tripod around. In those cases, you will most likely end up shooting handheld and will need to makesome adjustments to keep your photos sharp.
There are two methods for capturing sharp images when it comes to shooting handheld; increase your shutter speed or figure out a way to keep your camera still.
Increasing your shutter speed is easier said then done. Obviously increasing your shutter speed will help your photos stay sharp, but you can only increase it to a certain speed before your image becomes under exposed. To help bring some light back into your shot you have two options; increase your ISO or increase your Aperture. Both come with some set backs such as increased noise for ISO and a shorter depth of field for your Aperture. I’d recommend you increase your ISO last to avoid any unwanted noise. Think about what you are shooting and how much of it you truly need in focus. Once you lower your fstop as low as you need, all that is left is your ISO.
But how fast of a shutter speed do you need? That completely depends on how steady your hands are, but there is a little, easy-to-remember trick that may help you out. Take the focal length you are shooting at (x) and make it 1/x. Ex. 55mm = 1/55, 16mm = 1/16, 400mm = 1/400 etc. There is no guarantee that this will work and a faster shutter speed is always recommended, but this will help get you started. I usually try to have a minimum shutter speed of 1/60 even though I typically shoot at 35mm or less.
As for keeping your camera still, I’d recommend trying to find something to sit your camera on. If that’s not an option, hold your camera with both hands, brace yourself against something, and exhale slowly as you take a shot. Exhaling helps your body relax while inhaling/holding your breath will make you tense.
If increasing your shutter speed and bracing yourself against an object isn’t enough, try turning on burst mode and hold down the shutter until you capture at least 3 images. Many times the first and last shots will be blurry because your finger moved the camera as you pressed/release the shutter, but the middle image(s) may come out sharp.
Lastly, if your camera has image stabilization, turn it on. It can only help.
Any questions or additional comments, let me know below.