10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

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When I first purchased my tripod it sat unused for several months. In some ways, I was a bit afraid of it, all the effort of having to carry it around and set it up, etc. Would people look at me funny? Was it heavy to carry around? Setting it up properly looked complicated and seemed to take ages. Did I really need one?

How to Learn to Love Your Tripod

After a trip in what turned out to be a low light environment where I wasted a day of travel by coming back with no sharp shots, I bit the bullet and dusted off that tripod. Now it pretty much goes wherever my camera goes and is my go-to accessory in many situations.

Eventually I learned to love my tripod, hopefully, you will too. Some people think having a tripod limits your capabilities. Yes, you do have to carry it, which may limit where you go, or how far you can carry it. But it is my opinion that even with those limitations, the benefits of using a tripod far outway the issues.

Reasons to Love your Tripod

#1 – Slowing Down is a Good Thing

Having to position your tripod, take the time to set up the camera, get the angle and framing right all take time. This means you often need to think about where you will position your gear before you actually do so. Then it means you need to think quite specifically about your composition so you can put your gear in the right place to achieve that.

All this careful consideration gives you time to look at your subject, to really take time and properly see it, to see the possibilities beyond the first initial obvious frame you might take. Taking the time to think about your composition also offers opportunities to be creative and experiment.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod - food shot

An overhead flat still life shot takes a lot of fiddling to get set up correctly.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Camera set up in an overhead position, pointing straight down. Not all tripods allow this movement with the center pole, so check before you purchase.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

An L Plate tripod mount makes it much easier to change between portrait and landscape orientation, but they are an extra cost. Provided your tripod head has drop notches, this is easy to achieve.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

A quick release lever tripod mount is my preferred option. Other choices include screw mounted closures instead. Note the included spirit level.

2 – The Tripod Carries the Weight

If you have a large or heavy lens (and camera body) it can be very tiring to lift and hold and shoot with for extended periods. Bird and wildlife photographers often use long lenses that can be very heavy. A tripod will take the weight for you, allowing you to shoot for longer without fatigue. If you need more flexibility in capturing birds in flight, or animals on the move, a gimbal head allows freedom of movement and support at the same time.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

This is the wrong way to be using the center column, it adds the opportunity for vibration and is not very stable.

3 – Video

I am not a videographer myself, but there is nothing worse than watching a wobbly handheld video. Keeping it steady on a tripod with a fluid head is a good way to start.

4 – Sharpness and Stability

Of course, the whole point of using a tripod is to ensure you get sharp shots by removing any camera movement or vibration. Additionally, you can use a remote or self-timer to limit further physical contact when taking the shot and maximize sharpness. My camera has a custom setting for landscapes that flips up the mirror and pauses for 2 seconds for the vibrations to flatten before the shutter clicks.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Using an L plate makes it easier to mount the camera in either landscape or portrait orientation.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

L Plate with the camera set up in Portrait.

5 – Macro

When dealing with a small subject and a very limited depth of field, getting focus on the right spot can be hard. It is even harder when you are hand holding to keep the focus steady. Just breathing is enough movement to throw the line off and end up with blurry shots. Using a tripod combined with manual focus is often a good way to improve your keeper ratings with macro photography.

Additionally, if your camera supports it, using live view and zooming in to fix the focus more accurately could improve your keeper rate a huge amount (it did for me). My final tip is to use a wireless remote as well.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

6 – Landscape and Panorama

Lugging a tripod on a hike for a day seems like a huge effort, but being able to set up your camera and take sharp shots is worth it in my opinion. Should you want to experiment with hyperfocal distances a tripod is recommended. Using filters to tone down a bright sky? Need a tripod.

Landscapes often lend themselves to a panorama, where you take several shots and blend them into one big (usually long) one. It is important to get your horizontal or vertical lines straight so the frames match up when you are stitching them together in software. You also need to make sure the camera is oriented flat on the rotation as well. Some people even work out the parallax point and may shoot using a nodal rail.

All these elements require a tripod to ensure they happen correctly.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

This 7-minute long exposure absolutely required the use of a tripod.

7 – Low Light

All cameras struggle when the light situation is low – astrophotography, light painting, timelapse, light trails or just generally limited lighting circumstances. To counter the limited light, the camera will be required to hold the shutter open for longer. It is very difficult to hold a camera perfectly steady in your hands for even one second, let alone 20 seconds, or even several minutes.

The only way to guarantee sharp shots is to hold the camera still, in other words, use a tripod.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

A long exposure shot of around 20 seconds to try and remove the crowds of people attending the event, instead I have blurry ghosts.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Night shot of a fire dancer – the tripod allowed me to take a longer exposure time and capture the trails of fire.

8 – Special Effects

Focus stacking, HDR (High Dynamic Range) and exposure blending are reasonably commonly used special effects these days. The common factor is several frames are taken but the camera itself stays perfectly still (or may only move in tiny increments). The multiple images are then blended together later using post-processing techniques. Therefore in order to keep the camera perfectly still from frame to frame, you must use a tripod.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Two frames are blended for this shot, the berries in one and the falling icing sugar in another.

9 – Long Exposures

Those lovely foamy waterfalls and swirls of whitewater in streams or smoke like waves around rocks and shorelines require exposures of that are much longer than usual. They could be tenths of a second, a few seconds or several minutes, depending on the lighting conditions. To keep your camera that still for that long, demands a tripod must be used.

Often, to simulate the limited lighting conditions required to give the very soft flowing effect, filters will also be used, which are mounted on the front of the lens. It is very difficult to load and mount the filters if the camera is not sitting on a tripod, leaving your hands free to add the extra equipment.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Shot at 1/15th of a second, too long to handhold steady, but long enough to capture the colored lights on the trees.

10 – Self-Portraits

Not the quick snap up the nostrils at arm’s length which is the best you can hope for with a cell phone usually. Instead, using a tripod allows you to be very creative with your self-portraits. Adding in a wireless remote, and shooting fine art self-portraits becomes easy and fun.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Top view of a camera with a wireless remote trigger mounted on the hot shoe and plugged into the camera.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Back view of a camera with a wireless remote trigger mounted on the hot shoe and plugged into the camera.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Wireless remote and a camera trigger ready to be plugged into the camera.

This self-portrait was taken with the camera in an overhead position pointing straight down. The remote was in my hand.

Summary

Tripods require some effort to use. They must be taken with you, whether that be in the studio, a wander in the gardens or several hours long hike in the mountains. It is extra weight and an awkward shape to carry. For many people, they prefer to go without and successfully manage to do so.

Personally, I believe the benefits a tripod offers are invaluable. By forcing me to slow down and think more about my photography, my composition skills improved a great deal with my landscape work.

Being prepared to use and experiment with a tripod allowed me to move into macro photography. Adding in manual focus and a wireless remote improved my sharpness and accuracy with very limited depth of field.

Having the capability to set the camera up at unusual angles and heights, and keeping my hands free for other things gave me the freedom to try out food photography, still life shots and creative self-portraits.

Anytime you need the camera to hold still for just a bit longer than you can (or want to) hold it is when you need a tripod. There are lots of fun things you can shoot but they might be difficult if your hands aren’t very steady or your gear is heavy.

So learn to love your tripod, soon it will be your best friend.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Stacey Hill invested in her first DSLR back in 2007. While having many adventures out and about in the South Island of New Zealand, Stacey took to blogging about her experiences learning photography. Recently she discovered the fun and creative possibilities to be had with Photoshop. She can be found having an opinion all over the place here.

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  • E.L. Bl/Du

    thanks for all the great tips. Loved your self portrait…

  • Stacey

    Thanks, it was a lot of fun making it but really challenging to do by myself too. Great learning experience tho!

  • E.L. Bl/Du

    it sure turned out gorgeous. Reminds me of a famous painting. I would give my eye teeth to just work along side as your assistant. There’s so much to learn…This shot is just so creative, and really catches the eye. Beautiful. Perfect! I like the red contrast w. the blue which almost looks like water. Rare to catch movement in a still shot.

  • Stacey

    Well thankyou! Im glad you see the water effect in the fabric, I edited it with that idea in mind actually. As far as learning, if you like that kind of shot (its heavily composited) then my muse is Brooke Shaden and she is a wonderful educator, has some great classes online too.

  • E.L. Bl/Du

    Very much see water effect, Its hard to take your eyes off of it. She looks dipped in the water, softly. I love it. Yes I am very interested in looking up Brooke, appreciate the lead to learn more. I can only imagine how long it took to get it set up after seeing it in your head. Then having the ability to put it all together like that is an art. You can be quite proud. TY so much.

  • Stacey

    I am the model in the shot BTW 🙂 Yes I spent a lot of time taking the shots to composite, and the blending in PS took many hours. Its hard work but fun. Was a great learning experience for me too.

  • E.L. Bl/Du

    I thought so, but then thought, no way, she has to have that remote and camera aimed perfect w/o even seeing it…lol. It’s so mind boggling. I saw on her site (Brooke) she has the editing classes too, which I really need to stop avoiding to get better. Your work has pointed out to me if I want to take it seriously I need to spend more time on some education. The “fine art” photo class looks really fabulous, I cant thank you enough for the lead. Maybe someday I may have the ability to make as stunning of photo as yours. Also, have not seen your wireless remote b.4, looks so much more reliable than the one I currently have. Im also looking forward to following more of YOUR work too, do you have posts anywhere else? Cant seem to get enough. I have stumbled on a great inspiration which really helps w/ motivation. And your really nice too. Most great artist get a little stuffy, but you are a real inspiration and I am grateful.

  • Stacey

    Brooke is a huge inspiration to me and she is very generous with her knowledge and really supports her creative community. Re education, yes if you want to get better, it is necessary to spend time on your learning, it can be hard work and take time but consider it an investment. I have been doing this for over 10 years and everytime I get my camera out I learn a new thing too.

    I actually have an article coming out in a few days on how I use my wireless remote to shoot here on DPS so keep an eye out for that. As for finding me, there is a link in my author bio that takes you to my photography blog and I have years of posts about all kinds of photography stuff on there. Thanks for asking and good luck.

  • E.L. Bl/Du

    another great thing I was not aware of being so new. I did click on that and seems I have allot of good reading to do now. (and practice) I’ll surely watch for the new article about the remote too. I like the way you explain things, makes it easy 4 me to understand and remember (when its critical) Looking forward to more. Im SO happy I found you. Truely you are an inspiration. Looking forward to more. 🙂

  • Stacey

    If you click on my name in the author bio it comes up with all the other articles I have written for DPS. The other link takes you to my photography blog. Lots of reading in both places. Glad to hear you enjoy my writing, its nice to know it connects with readers.

  • E.L. Bl/Du

    yea, thats what I did, I never knew you could do that on this site. I have your site open and was browsing some of the photos and articles. I think I found my link in there to get over my fear of learning PS/LR. My biggest hurdle, so glad to see your approach here. Its liken to finding a great math or chemistry teacher that makes you love it once you understand it. Your approach to still life is refreshing. Its giving me ideas to photo bounty from the garden this coming season, and how to get it right this time. IDK how you do it, but your ability to catch emotion in all your shots is pretty amazing. I also admire how you share what inspired you to make the shot. Thanks too for being so nice and chatting w/ me. You should tell your boss to give you a raise b/c you are GOOD for business. Cant wait to see your remote in action. I got so frustrated w. mine I bought a wired one. YouPro looks interesting.

  • Stacey

    I have been enjoying getting more into still life, its actually really hard to do well and have learned a lot while doing it. There is an article here about what I learned from it, but its a style that takes a lot of time to really get your head around. Part of that is having the right props to work with as well but scrounge in your markets and second hand shops and friends cupboards for good deals.

    Glad to hear my writing style or “voice’ works for you and appreciate your feedback :). My wireless remote cost about $50US to buy, its a chinese brand, and except for going thru batteries a bit faster than I expect, it works fine.

  • E.L. Bl/Du

    It never dawned on me to use concepts of “still life” to make vegetables more interesting but it makes so much sense now. Hope you dont mind me tagging along and asking a question here and there. I just have to say something about your photo “depression” its a knock out. I hope you can find gratitude in what that dark place brought to your creative work. (and take you out of the dark) Im sure many people have times they can put themselves in that shot. Emotion is a difficult concept to put in a photo. You REALLY nailed it. (may I share I make teddy bears so if it were me, I would be holding a dagger or something dark and errie b/c thats where I go in those times) lol The Irony of the bear really brings the shot home I think…anyway thats MHO I think your work is absolutely stunning.

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