One of my favorite pieces of equipment is my tripod. I have incredibly unstable hands, and if I am shooting anything slower than 1/60th, I will end up with a blurry photo, no matter how hard I try to be still! I wanted to write a post about tripods for anyone who shares my problem, and in doing some research for this post, I came to a conclusion: there is a lot of (often very confusing) information out there about tripods. So in this post, I'm going to condense all of the information down to a few important factors that will help you select a tripod.
Why Use a Tripod?
There are hundreds of reasons why a tripod can be extremely useful, but here are some examples of why/when to use a tripod:
- To prevent camera shake and blur in your photos – having a tripod will ensure that your photos will be sharp, and will give you the option to shoot at a low ISO to minimize noise in your photos.
- As a support system for heavy camera/lens set ups – if you are on a long shoot, and you have a heavy set-up, you may find it helpful to put your camera on a tripod. Again, this will prevent camera shake when your arms get tired from carrying your camera.
- In night photography and long exposures – with either of these types of photography, a tripod is a necessity.
- Macro photography – when shooting macro, having exact focus is extremely important. Having your camera on a tripod will help you frame up your shot, and keep the focus exactly where you need it when you press the shutter release.
Choosing a Tripod
At this point, things tend to get a bit overwhelming when purchasing a tripod. Don’t worry, though. Just keep these 4 criteria in mind as you are making your selection:
So, if you're shooting macro photos of flowers in your kitchen, you'll be able to get by with a basic, inexpensive tripod. However, if you're a landscape photographer and often find yourself on location, you'll need something more sturdy. Let’s break it down a little further:
- Height: Determine how high -- and how low to the ground, you'll need your tripod to reach in order to achieve the type of look you're going for. Also, consider your own height – if you're tall, you’ll need a tripod that will extend high enough for you to comfortably use without having to hunch over. Many tripods also come with a center leg that will allow you to increase the height.
- Weight: If you're going to be doing a lot of walking with your tripod, you may want to consider a lightweight material such as carbon fiber, or aluminum. Keep in mind, though, that carbon fiber tripods tend to be on the pricier side. Aluminum is much less expensive and only slightly heavier.
- Stability: Depending on the weight of your camera, and the type of terrain on which you'll be using your tripod, stability is an important factor. The locks on the tripod legs come in either a flip lock, or a twist lock. Personally, I prefer the twist lock, as I have found that sometimes the flip locks do not lock-in all the way, and my camera slowly sinks, which can make a long exposure blurry due to the movement. Also, the feet of your tripod are important. I do a lot of shooting outdoors, so the feet on my tripod are rubber with a metal spike to secure it to the ground.
- Mobility: Being able to move your camera to varying angles on your tripod can be vitally important, especially in portrait photography. The tripod head is what allows you to move your camera around. Two of the most common types of heads are: Pan Tilt and Ball. The pan tilt head has handles that will allow you to move your camera to either portrait or landscape (vertical/horizontal). This is the most common type of tripod head, and is found on most of the lower-end tripods. The ball head allows a bit more flexibility, and is generally more expensive. These heads usually do not have handles, but do have a control to loosen the head as you move your camera into the desired position.
Tripods: Putting It All Together
Just like any type of photography equipment, as long as you take into consideration how you will be using this particular piece of equipment, you’ll find it much easier to select a great tripod.
If you don't currently use a tripod, you may want to consider a low price, basic tripod, just to see how you like using it. Then, if you find that it becomes an essential piece of equipment for you, consider investing in a higher-quality tripod. Here's a short list of popular tripods from Amazon:
- Slik Pro 700DX AMT-Titanium Alloy Tripod
- Dolica 62 inch Proline Aluminum Alloy Tripod
- Vista Explorer 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod with Tripod Bag
- Manfrotto MK290LTA3-BHUS 290 Light Aluminum Tripod with Ball Head
Do you have any questions or comments about choosing a tripod? Leave us a comment below - we would love to hear from you! And please share our tutorial using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!