Different Tripods for Different Subjects – Which to Choose?



Tripods are always a fun topic of conversation but you might not think so because of their simplicity. In more circumstances than others, the tripod that you use really doesn’t make a big difference. The reason is because your tripod is designed to hold your camera and that’s it. But at the same time, different tripods include certain features that are beneficial for special situations.

In this article I will identify six different situations in which different tripod features come in extremely handy and can improve your photographs. These situations will go beyond the basic tripod usage of mounting the camera, adjusting height and angle. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Tripods for long exposure photography

When it comes to photographing long exposures a sturdy tripod is key. However, the most common tripods purchased these days are made of carbon fiber. The reason is due to the strength and light-weight properties of the material. Those two factors make carbon fiber desirable for any type of photography. However, with long exposures you need the tripod to stay still, and having a light tripod is not always the best.
Tripod long exposure photography

Having a tripod that includes a hook under the head or at the bottom of the center column, allows you to hang a weight or bag, helping to steady the tripod even more. Higher quality tripods also include vibration dampening technology which can help reduce shake. Lastly, a tripod that has the ability to attach spikes to the bottom of the feet can be very useful when photographing in dirt, sand or in the ocean.

The P5CRH folds up to approximately 12 inches.

The P5CRH – folding tripod

Tripods for panoramic photography

The weight of your tripod does not matter so much with panoramic photography, unless of course you are photographing long exposure panos. There are two tripod components that can really help improve panoramic photographs. The first feature is a leveling plate or base. With it, you can have your tripod in any angle and level the camera separately from the rest of the tripod. That will ensure the smoothest transition between frames. The other feature is a nodal slide, which will help bring the lens closer to the pivoting point of the tripod instead of the camera body. Having the lens nodal point in the correct spot will ensure minimal distortion between frames.

For advanced panoramic photographers, a gimbal head might be the ideal choice for a mounting system.

Tripod panorama

Tripods for headshot photography

Headshot photography is very different than other portrait photography. That might sound strange, but it’s true. With your typical portrait photographs you are likely moving around too much to use a tripod. However, with headshot photography the client is typically standing or sitting in one spot and moving only slightly. You, the photographer, are not moving so much.

At the same time, you are moving enough that you need fluid movements with your tripod, and the ability to let go without the camera changing positions on you. So when it comes to photography headshots be sure to use a ball head on your tripod rather than any other. It will make the process so much better for you. I highly recommend viewing one of Peter Hurley’s headshot videos and how he uses his tripod with a Hasselblad, which is a fairly heavy camera.

Tripods for product photography

Product photography is studio photography where the subject doesn’t move. When you are in the studio photographing product stills your camera is typically in one spot the entire time, with only minor adjustments. Quite often you will be tethered to a laptop, and there are plenty of tripod accessories to attach a camera and laptop at the same time. But oddly enough many product photographers utilize camera stands rather than tripods. They’re the same principal as a tripod except their extremely heavy, and have fine tuning adjustments for height, angle and length of reach. They are also on wheels for portability around the studio. Due to the heavy-duty structure of camera stands, attaching a laptop is very easy and safe.

Tripod product photography

Camera stands are expensive though, typically over $1,000, so they are not for everyone. If you’re not willing to dish out that much money in one shot, then my recommendation is a heavier steel tripod. Because you’re not moving them great distances, they are perfect for staying in one place. The weight of these heavy-duty tripods means they can hold heavier cameras, and if you want to attach a laptop mount as well you can feel comfortable it will hold both products safely. Also, for product photography a ball head is not the best choice. Instead, a positioning head like the Induro PHQ-3 would be ideal.

Tripods for wildlife photography

Paul Burwell talked about tripods for wildlife photography previously, so definitely give it a read. Typically a sturdy carbon fiber tripod will do perfectly fine for this type of photography. Gimbal heads can be a wildlife photographer’s best friend in addition to LensCoats (yes, the camo covers). If you cannot afford a Gimbal head, stick with a ball head so you can stay sturdy and adjust your view in smooth motions.

For some wildlife photographers, safari clamps (like the ones from Really Right Stuff) can be extremely useful, especially if you are taking a tour through Africa and have to shoot from a truck.

Tripods for photowalks and travel photography

I combined these two into one, because they’re extremely similar. Even if you are not traveling far for a photowalk, the principal is the same. Basically with any type of travel or photowalk you want to carry a tripod that is light and convenient. I personally have a Really Right Stuff tripod that’s made of carbon fiber. It’s extremely tall, but also light. In fact, it is as light as my compact 3 Legged Thing tripod.

So although the 3LT tripod is perfect for fitting into small places, like a camera bag, the Really Right Stuff doesn’t add weight, is much sturdier and extends much higher.

Tripod street photography

In Conclusion

In this article I shared six reasons why the tripod you use matters, and the differences between them. Although there are specific things to look for in a tripod depending on what you are photographing, it also doesn’t matter.

As long as you know your gear, understand how to use it to the best of its ability and your ability, then you’re fine. Use what you are comfortable with because having a tripod for many situations is better than not having a tripod.

Before wrapping up this article I want to share some other useful articles here on dPS. Be sure to read How to Buy a Tripod, How to use Your Tripod and Steady On.

If you have any additional comments to add please do so on the comments.

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Scott Wyden Kivowitz is the Community & Blog Wrangler at Imagely, a father, photographer blogger, and educator. Scott is also the author of multiple photography ebooks including the topics of long exposures, panoramics, and street photography. Get his free Lightroom video series, Fundamentally Lightroom, to help you simplify your Lightroom workflow, and also receive his free photography guides collection as a thank you.

  • Eric Saffron

    Although not technically a tripod but still of the same ilk, I find monopods are great for stabilizing shots when on the go. Portable, fast to set up, and steady the camera decently.

  • I’ve always been a tripod guy, so can’t really comment too much on monopods. They definitely are used for sports more than tripods.

  • Brett Ossman

    I’ll second this comment. Use my monopod A LOT.

  • Michael Criswell

    Great Post Scott, congrats, and I really hope to meet you in the fall in Maine NxNW

  • iStudioPix

    I have found that a bi-pod is a great way to steady the shot. These are normally found in hunting stores like Cabelas because they are used to stabilize a rifle, The V head comes off revealing mounting screw. These are very quick to set up. Put one leg down and you have a mono-pod. Put both legs down and you get lateral stability. Very good for wildlife photography.

  • That I’ve definitely never used 🙂

  • Thanks man! Looking forward to it as well.

  • Landscape photography?

  • JP

    My main tripod is a MeFOTO RoadTrip Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod. One of the legs also converts to a monopod. I would totally recommend as a great travel & wildlife tripod. It is super light, sturdy and the monopod conversion is so easy. Could not be happier with it.

  • One of my tripods is the 3 Legged Thing “Eric” which does the same thing. I have yet to use the monopod, but it’s nice knowing it’s there.

  • ccting

    I own Jusino T324 Tripod, it is the most stable tripod of Jusino brand. But i find it tends to move a bit when i adjust the shutter speed… anyway to avoid it ?

  • My suggestion would be to take advantage of the hook under under the center column and hang your camera bag for added support. And if you’re on the beach, dig the legs into the sand.

  • seara

    I guess I did not bring the language .

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  • sara

    We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.
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  • vafa

    Writing is an art that everyone does it. Congratulate you for having this art
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  • David Palmer

    Just be aware that some cities don’t allow tripods but a monopod can be used.

  • I’ve personally never come across a city that doesn’t allow a tripod. However, I have come across locations in cities that don’t allow them. For example, The High Line in New York City doesn’t allow tripods.

  • ranbir regini

    Hi, thanks for the information provided in the article.
    My suggestion would be to take advantage of the hook under under the center column and hang your camera bag for added support. And if you’re on the beach, dig the legs into the sand.
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  • aliel

    with their local competition – they found that they couldn’t go any
    lower in their price. …Because their competition kept matching them.

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  • KC

    I have a tense relationship with tripods sometimes. If they’re light enough to carry, they’re flimsy. If they’re heavy enough to be stable, they’re awkward. Then there’s the “heads”. If I had to pick one type, I’d pick a video tripod with a fluid head. I like the cross bracing and damping. Really, it comes down to the “head” for me. Besides the silky damping of a fluid head, the head is designed for heavier cameras and only two planes (horizontal and vertical).

    But, I also prefer a ball head. I like the variable angles. Those fall into two categories: brilliant and horrible. If it drifts or shifts when you lock it down, it’s horrible. For macro, it’s focusing rails.

    Here’s some other overlooked factors: platform size on the head and weight rating. As cameras are getting thinner, especially mirror-less cameras, you can put a lot of stress on the tripod mount on the camera with longer lenses. Too big a platform and a thick lens can touch the platform. Too small of a platform can put a bit of stress on the mounting area and quick release plates. Not all big lenses have tripod collars. With quick release plates, make sure you can get a few spares easy. It’s amazing how those get lost.

    The point I’m drifting towards is it’s as much about the tripod head, as it is about the tripod.

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