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Ask any photographer what their favorite accessory is, and most will be quick to reply with “tripod”. It’s with good reason that a tripod is considered such a must-have accessory by photographers. Even if they are inconvenient, heavy to carry, and they tend to draw attention to you as a photographer, it is a price that is worth paying considering the benefits it can bring to your photos. Here are 7 reasons why a tripod is a must for all outdoor photographers.
One of the best bits of advice I was ever given when I was starting out was this “The majority of the time, if I want to capture the best possible photo at the best possible time, then a tripod is an absolute must”. This is, of course, referring to the time of the day when the light is softer and there is less of it, in other words, the golden and blue hours.
Low light conditions mean that you have two options for being able to capture a photograph at these times. Set a high ISO on your camera – which comes with the downside of noise in the photo and as a result less sharpness. Or use a tripod. You simply will not be able to handhold a camera steady enough for anything slower than 1/60th of a second where even the slightest movement can mean camera shake.
So if you are planning to photograph in low light conditions and a tripod is allowed, make sure you use one.
One of the biggest advantages that a tripod can give you is that it allows you the flexibility to control the amount of movement that you want to show in your photos. That might be moving water like a waterfall, or it might be clouds in the sky. It can even be objects and people.
To be able to show movement in a photo you require some parts of the image to be sharp so that there is a contrast to the moving parts of the image. If the whole image is slightly blurred through camera shake, then the image will fail to show that movement. So, if you want to capture movement in your photos, then make sure that you are using a tripod.
On some occasions, you will arrive at a scene and after examining and framing your shot, you will quickly come to realize that there is something missing. This usually points towards a point of interest in your composition that will help capture the viewer’s attention.
You might be lucky enough to have other people around that can be your models. But sometimes you are all by yourself and there is no other way than to put yourself in the photo.
This is where the tripod can act as your photographer. Simply set your camera up, frame your shot and set the self-timer for the length of time you need to get into position. Not only does this help you capture photos that can tell a story or show an experience, but it also means you have a photo that is model released.
Most photographers are guilty of capturing too many photos at the usual eye level view. But let’s be honest, how many people want to be on the ground in the cold and wet? A tripod is a great way to capture photos at slightly different elevations whether that is higher up or even close to the ground.
There are also times when a tripod can be put in places that people can’t go like over a fence, on a precarious ledge on a mountain or even in the water where you wouldn’t want to get your shoes and clothes wet.
For example, for the photo below, I was faced with a high wall with no ledge to allow me to stand on to capture this photo. As this was an old stone wall standing on it wasn’t an option as I would have probably damaged it. But I was able to position my tripod on the wall to capture this shot.
Even if you are not going to be using your tripod for your camera, there might be occasions where a tripod becomes a handy light stand where you can mount your flash. This is especially useful when you are outdoors by yourself and need to light something from a different position than where you are standing.
Unless you have someone there to hold the flash, the only way to light the subject the way you want is to use a tripod.
Sometimes one of the main benefits of using a tripod is that it makes you slow down and become more analytical in your approach to taking a photo.
By being able to put your camera down and take a step back you sometimes end up slowing down and that usually means an improvement in the photo. Once you have taken a shot you can evaluate and make the necessary adjustments to make any improvements to your composition.
You’ve just reached your chosen location after several hours of walking. The last thing you want to do now is to have to spend the next few hours also holding up a heavy camera and telephoto lens.
A tripod not only helps you capture great photos, but it can also sometimes give you respite from having to actually hold the camera. It is a welcome relief and will mean you can actually focus on capturing a great photo instead.
A tripod can truly be a photographer’s best friend and will give you so much more flexibility when photographing something. You can control your shutter speed, depth of field, and even the way you frame your shot in a much more considered approach.
Most people forego using a tripod for the simple reason that it is cumbersome to carry around. But ask yourself if that little bit of inconvenience outweighs the improvement you will have in your photos? There will usually only be one answer.