There comes a point in every photographer’s creative journey, where they must make a decision; will owning a tripod make them a better photographer? In many cases it will be the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle, having already spent a great deal of money purchasing a camera, lenses and accessories. It’s possible that this equipment has even been upgraded more than once and yet, buying a tripod was resisted.
How many times have you attempted to rest the camera on a post, backpack or fluffed up item of clothing, attempting to provide a stable base without using a tripod; it’s time.
There are plenty of reasons why a tripod should be attached to every photographer’s bag, most of which you are probably aware of, but just in case here’s a few:
- Pin sharp landscapes – steady as your hands maybe, it’s unlikely they are as rock solid as a good, well-engineered tripod. Set up correctly it will provide a sturdy base which ensure there isn’t any chance of the camera moving, it’s locked on the focus point.
- Low light photography – when the light gets low and upping the ISO or widening the aperture still results in a slow shutter speed, the smart reach for a tripod. Providing there isn’t any movement in the scene it’ll also allow the ISO to be dropped, reducing possible noise.
- Long exposures – often due to low light, but any situation where the shutter speed is slower than can be hand held and still produce a sharp image requires some form of support, a tripod is usually the best solution.
- Creative photography – love those shots of milky, fast flowing stream or crashing waves, perhaps images where the clouds are skidding across the sky, guess what, chances are a tripod was used.
- Wildlife photography – unless you’re related to Popeye, keeping one of those huge 800mm prime lenses needed for the best wildlife close-ups steady without a tripod is next to impossible. Signing up for the gym of buying a tripod are the only options.
- Macro photography – pin sharp close-ups of nature’s small fry needs a rock solid base, those wishing to specialise need a suitable tool.
Finally convinced? Now it’s about finding the right companion for your photography needs. Choose one which suits your style and requirements, lightweight for travel, rock solid for a heavyweight, professional DSLR, or adaptable for a specific genre.
Possibly the most important factor here is weight. Most of us travel and as airlines impose strict weight restrictions shaving a few grams is essential when avoiding excess charges.
The tripod needs to be rated to comfortably support your camera and heaviest lens, however, choose one which is excessively heavy and you’ll find reasons to leave it at home rather than carry it. You’ve decided to buy a tripod, but one you are comfortable, one which you will actually carry is essential.
A top of the range, rock solid tripod will not be of any use at home, it won’t improve your photography in your equipment locker. For any tool to be of use, it has to be in the tool bag.
Although, there are several good quality budget options, buying cheap is often a false economy. Poorly manufactured models won’t stand up to abuse or tough conditions and before long an upgrade will be required.
Purchase the highest quality you can afford, is the best advice I’ve ever received, so now I’m passing it on.
To tripod, or not to tripod,
Sooner or later, we all have to decide.
Iain is an ex-military man, and served as a Warrant Officer in the Army Physical Training Corps. This enabled him to become highly qualified in a large number of adventurous activities. Participating in many expeditions to many parts of the World which this satisfied his wanderlust.
He now works freelance as a writer and photographer and enjoys finding adventure wherever he travels. He publishes the popular travel photography based website Mallory On Travel, an adventure travel guide for the everyday adventurer by a former adrenalin junkie.