I suspect that many digital photographers could improve the results that they get out of their cameras simply by attaching it to a tripod.
Over the next week or so here at DPS we’ll take a look at the humble tripod and will cover why they’re useful (read on in this post for more on that), how to shop for a tripod, the case for monopods and alternatives when you need a tripod but don’t have one handy. I hope you enjoy this series.
A ‘Rule’ for Hand Held Shooting
I’m not a big fan of rules when it comes to photography (I’m a much more intuitive guy) but sometimes it’s good to have them in the back of your mind as you shoot.
The ‘rule’ for whether it’s ok to hand hold a camera when shooting has to do with two main factors, the shutter speed you’re shooting at and the focal length of the lens you’re using. Here it is:
Choose a shutter speed with a denominator that is larger than the focal length of the lens.
- if you have a lens that is 50mm in length don’t shoot any slower than 1/60th of a second
- if you have a lens with a 100mm focal length shoot at 1/125th of a second or faster
- if you are shooting with a lens of 200mm shoot at 1/250th of a second or faster
Shooting at these speeds means that the effect of camera shake that you have while taking the shot should be minimized in image you end up with.
Keep in mind that this is just a guide – a starting point if you will – to keep in mind as you shoot. It’s a rule that was devised back in the days of film and these days most of us shoot with digital cameras that often have image stabilization which means you can use slower shutter speeds and that (unless you have a DSLR) don’t have focal lengths measured in mm’s which makes using it difficult. So take it with a grain of salt if you like.
A Case for Tripods
Having explained this ‘rule’ to a number of new photographers I’ve been then asked on numerous occasions why anyone would need to use a tripod or monopod if they keep the rule in mind and always shoot at speeds faster than the rule requires.
The answer is that in many cases the rule will effectively eliminate noticeable camera shake – however on closer inspection of the images you end up with, especially when you enlarge your shots, you might still find evidence of camera shake despite a nice fast shutter speed.
While they can be a pain to carry around with you tripods are an essential tool to have if you want to take your photography to the next level. They help eliminate camera shake, enable you to use slower shutters speeds which in turn means you have the ability to choose a wider range of aperture – which opens up all kinds of interesting and creative possibilities.
In fact I’m surprised that more people don’t use them – I’m not sure whether it’s embarrassment (at hauling gear around), laziness (being put off by the thought of having to carry something else) or forgetfulness (leaving it at home) that causes it but many photographers don’t use tripods – to the detriment of many of the images that they take.
Read the rest of this series at: