I recently returned from a trip to Walt Disney World with my family. Below is a photograph of the castle during the fireworks show. With everything I know about photography, this image should be too blurry to use. However, that didn't stop me from trying to get it!
First I'll tell you the reasons that this should not have turned out. It was taken with a cheap camera - Sony NEX C3 with a kit 18-55mm lens that sells used on eBay for about $250. Fireworks also require a tripod because you need a shutter speed of at least 1/2 second to get any trails on the fireworks. Together, those things should have made this image impossible to get with me standing in the crowd.
One thing I did have going for me was the image stabilization built into the lens. Beyond that, I just took a ton of images totally expecting to only get a few keepers. Of the 75 images I shot, I would say there are about 7 keepers. Higher than I would have expected in trying this!
There are some techniques that help in capturing images with slow shutter speeds without resorting to a tripod. If you are using an SLR or other camera with a viewfinder of some kind, press the camera to your face with your elbows tucked into the middle of your chest. If you are using a camera without a viewfinder, shorten the neck strap and press gently away from you at the limit of the strap, but not at the limit of your arms' reach. You can also put a shoulder on a stationary object like a light pole or wall, or rest your camera hand on a railing. I have found that, rather than holding my breath, I get the most sharp images by gently exhaling while pressing the button. Also, use the motor drive and take lots of photographs. If you can shoot several consecutive photographs, I have found that the second or third in the series is usually sharpest, but rarely the first or last.
For the techinical details: Sony NEX c3 with 18-55mm lens set to 18mm (27mm equivalent) at f5, 8/10 of a second, ISO 400.
This is not to brag about me, but rather encourage amateur photographers to try out stuff that isn't supposed to work. You never know, you might get something worth keeping!