A good, sturdy and reliable tripod is an excellent addition to your photography gear that can open up new avenues of creativity and possibilities for your work. A tripod keeps the camera dead still while you take a photo meaning that you will never have ‘shakes’ or blurs in your images giving you the ability to take absolutely crystal clear images every time.
As well as giving you stability a tripod can be used to allow for a whole range of exciting photography that would otherwise be very difficult. Light trail photography is when the photographer sets the shutter speed to a very slow rate of 10 to 30 seconds and captures the light trails of cars, street lights and other points of interest. The results are a fascinating phantasmagoria of the world across time that gives your audience a truly unique glimpse into your creative perspectives. This type of photography is nearly impossible to do without the use of a solid tripod! Night sky photography is also very similar in that a tripod is required to get the best shots.
Why do You Need a Tripod?
There are many advantages of utilizing a great tripod in your photography.
- Gives you guaranteed stability in your shoots.
- Allows you to work more easily in poor or low light conditions.
- A tripod lets you take long exposure or slow shutter speed photos without blurs and shakes.
- You will be able to take much sharper and well defined photos when you use a tripod.
- Using a tripod lets you slow down and properly plan your image and the settings you want to use to create the perfect picture!
- You won’t get tired while holding a heavy camera for extended periods of time.
Tripods are great a assistance to amateurs and professional photographers alike that let you take sharper, better defined images in low lighting conditions as well as explore the potentials of longer exposures and slower shutter speeds.
The only real downside of using a tripod is that you need to carry it around with you however if space and weight is a concern for you because you are travelling for instance, then you can get hold of some awesome folding lightweight tripods that will easily fit into your bag.
What are the Differences between a Tripod for Photography and Video recording?
In the historical context one of the major differences between tripods for video and photography was that the video cameras were much larger and heavier than still image cameras. This meant that the tripods for professional film cameras had to be much more sturdy and capable of taking greater weights.
The commercial market for consumer video cameras has been quite limited until recently and the hand held video cameras that were popular in the 1980’s and 1990’s rarely needed to utilize a tripod and were primarily used for home videos.
Since the advent of modern digital cameras and the explosion of extremely high quality consumer grade video cameras that are small, lightweight and easy to use, a wide range of tripods are now available.
One of the major differences between video and photography tripods is that the video tripods need to be able to facilitate smooth fluid movement for panning and sweeping shots. A still image photographer never needs to utilize these kinds of features although there are different specifications that they may require. For example, still photography tripods can often ‘reverse the head’ which means they can move the camera below the tripod for close up shots.
In the modern world however, there is much less difference between tripods for consumer level still image cameras and video cameras since both have come down in size and weight.
What are the Different Types of Tripod that are Available on the Market?
- All-in-One Tripod: This is one of the least expensive types of tripod that are highly portable with a permanently attached head and legs. The all-in-one tripod is a great choice for your first tripod and is a great way to explore the possibilities of working with a tripod. These are very versatile and can be used in a studio or out on location but you may find that over time you wish it had more height or a different kind of head.
- Travel Tripod: Travel tripods are usually very small which makes it easy to pack them in your bags but as a result they sacrifice some of the functionality of other larger tripods. The cheapest travel tripods are made from plastic however it’s worth spending a little more to get a carbon fiber frame which is more durable and lighter weight. The travel tripod frames are very light though which means that if you are taking long exposure shots you may want to anchor it down so it doesn’t get nudged and ruin your shot.
- A Studio Tripod: These are heavy, strong and functional but they are certainly not designed for easy portability! A good studio tripod will provide you with a great maximum height, smooth head panning and guaranteed stability. In terms of their functionality they are among the best out there and, as the name suggests, they are perfect for your studio!
- A Pocket or Desk Tripod: These dinky tripods are designed to fit in your pocket and usually stand no higher than 4-10 inches tall. They may not be great for studio work but they are perfect for snapping self portraits. The tripods are obviously not very tall and so they need to be placed on a desk or other flat surface but they can be very handy for taking photos while you are sightseeing and are a great option if you’re planning a trip abroad. Most of the pocket tripods available are not designed to hold a DSLR camera with a lens so you’ll need a compact mirrorless camera. The pocket or desk tripods are mainly meant for self portraits, fun group photos and longer exposure shots while you are out and about on holiday.
- The Monopod Tripod: The monopod tripod is not technically a tripod since it only has one leg and not three! They are designed to be lightweight and although they do hold the weight of your camera and thus remove any shake from the image they cannot stand alone so you’ll need to be holding your camera to keep it balanced. Due to their lighter weight they are ideal for wildlife or landscape photography where you may have to walk large distances to get your photos. They are perfect for photos using a telephoto lens and so can be a great solution for sporting photographers as well.
What are the Key Features that You should look for in a Tripod?
When you are deciding which tripod you should get to compliment your camera, photography style and day to day requirements the first thing you need to establish is what you will be using it for and where you will primarily be using it. If you need something portable for travel then size and weight will be the most important features of a tripod however if you are going to be using it in a studio then the functionality of the head and versatility of height will be more important.
- Height: How tall do you need the tripod to be? If the tripod you plan to get has an attached head then you will want it to be at approximately the level of your jawbone so you can comfortably look through your camera when it’s in place. If, on the other hand, you are getting a modular tripod with a detachable head then the tip of the tripod should be at shoulder height.
- Weight: If you are going to be moving around a lot with your tripod then its weight will play a major role in your process of choosing the best one. Aluminum was the traditional choice of material for tripods because it was sturdy and lightweight however today carbon fiber tripods have equal strength but are up to to 30% lighter than their aluminium counterparts. If you want to save on the cost then a basalt tripod is a good choice, which has a fibre glass core that is covered in layered basalt for strength. Weight is the key reason I for the most part do not use a tripod when shooting in Philadelphia. I use an Olympus camera and lens and the image stabilization is awesome.
- Tripod Head: The Tripod head is one of the most important features that you need to consider. A Pan-Tilt head is the most common type of head and has a dual or single handle that controls the vertical and horizontal movements of the camera. A Gimbal head is specially designed for heavier cameras and is often used in fast action or sporting photography. The camera can be adjusted to face any direction and it gives great balance even when using a telescopic lens. A Ball-head rotates smoothly and uses one handle to control it. It’s an extremely popular choice for a good quality all round tripod.
- Stability is crucial when deciding on which tripod to get. You can save on weight by opting for a monopod tripod which has one single leg although a three legged traditional tripod will give you more stability, allow the camera to stand freely but will weigh significantly more.
A tripod is a priceless piece of equipment that will open up new possibilities in your photography practise.
Getting a good all round versatile tripod is one of the best investments that any photographer can make, particularly if you are working as a freelancer but even if you are just serious about taking some great photos.
There’s a lot of choice on the market which can be a little daunting but it also means that you will be able to find exactly what you need with a little bit of careful thought, some research and a clear idea of what you will be using it for.
Do you use tripods for photography or taking videos?