On Tripods: The Three Legs of Success

Five Reasons Why You Need to Own & Use a Tripod

When it comes to capturing great photos, let’s not beat around the bush– so, here it is: The number one camera accessory every photographer needs is a tripod. 

With the rise of content creators and compact gear, one often sees photographers and videographers hand-holding their cameras. While this method can be successful sometimes, it is critical to understand that a tripod is not a luxury but a necessary and vital creative tool for the photographer who is serious about their work.

The reasons for owning a tripod are many but in this blog I want to deal with the Big Five which are:  

  1. Improve Framing
  2. Sharper Images
  3. For Filmmakers and Content Creators
  4. For Low-Light Environments
  5. Creative Freedom

Adjust Shots with Ease

Photo by Ingo Doerrie

Do yourself a favor on your next long shoot day: ditch the neck strap for a tripod. With this simple change, one will quickly notice two things:

First – the literal weight of the camera is off your shoulders. Your neck and back also send their thanks. The next reason requires some additional context. 

Annie Leibovitz is quoted to have said that “one doesn’t stop seeing. One doesn’t stop framing. It doesn’t turn off and turn on. It’s on all the time.” Framing is, by far, one of the most time consuming processes in photography, and, for good reason. Getting the frame right is what makes a good shot and an exceptional visual story. With a tripod, you slow down, you work the tripod with small subtle changes to reach a point of understanding that determines what is in your image frame and more importantly what is not.  

Pro tip: A perfectly straight horizon is critical in landscape photography so check to see if your tripod features a bubble level. Bubble levels are built-in on models priced from $100 and up. They are also sold separately and can be easily added to your current tripod.

Get Tack Sharp Images

Photo by Austin Park

Rest assured that your shot will not only be level; a tripod will keep your camera and lens absolutely still. This is critical when using telephoto and macro lenses – all of which emphasize camera shake due to length of the lens or the tight depth of field of the macro. 

Also, it’s a common misconception that one can work around a shaky image with a faster shutter speed. Allow us to save you the headache: A tripod will win this battle every time. If all it takes to avoid scrapping an entire shoot day a tripod is the best investment you can make.  

Instantly Improve Your Filmmaking Game

Camera on a tripod
Photo by Erik McLean

In the age of digital filmmaking, let’s not lose sight of this fact: if lacking skill or crucial equipment, even a $10,000 camera can produce amateur results. A quick and simple way to take your videography from novice to pro is to place that camera on a tripod. From rigs to gimbels to tripods, a tell-tale sign of a professional shoot is smooth and steady camerawork

Of course, as with any tool or method, there are creative exceptions. The decision to go handheld on a film shoot is often a creative choice that serves the narrative. StudioBinder noted that “filmmakers have utilized the handheld shot to achieve more than just a stylized look, but rather a psychological effect.” In other words, intentionally shaky camerawork is often seen in action sequences, such as in the film Breathless

Pro tip: Tripods are great multitaskers, especially when serving a small crew or a one-person set. From cameras to lighting to mics, this versatile accessory has you covered. 

Low Light? No Problem.

Photo by John Fowler

Sure, for concerts or low-light venues, it’s common to see a photographer switch from tripod to handheld over the course of the evening. However, capturing the night sky or patiently pursuing wildlife at dusk requires a more calculated approach. 

Even in darkness, it’s all about light. With a capable camera and the right settings, the night sky suddenly transforms into a colorful and even bright canvas. In order for the camera sensor to read any available light in a low-light situation, a slow shutter speed is key. But remember – that means that the camera has to be absolutely still. The slightest movement will create a blur in the final image. Use a Tripod for success.  

Your Ticket to Experimentation

It is a common misconception that tripods hinder creativity. Quite the opposite. A number of photography niches where the use of a tripod is not just recommended – it’s demanded. Specific kinds of photography are simply not possible without the use of the three legs of success. 

Photography niches where a tripod is critical include:

Self-Portraiture

Photo by Mike Von

The 21st century self portrait is a product of the smartphone. Images taken with the help of selfie sticks and front-facing cameras are, certainly, signs of the times. But, unless that’s the aesthetic you’re going for, it’s time to upgrade those accessories and think outside the cell phone box.

Whether shooting self-portraits with a smartphone, action, or DSLR camera, getting a tripod will instantly elevate your final product. As mentioned earlier, a tripod allows for quick adjustments in order to get the framing and angle just right. 

Pro tip: On the market for a versatile travel tripod? Joby GorillaPods are perfect for content creators and influencers. From point-and-shoots to mirrorless bodies, support for cameras of various sizes. Thanks to its bendable legs, one can use just about any surface to their photographic advantage. In those spur-of-the-moment situations, even a tabletop tripod will get the job done.

Nature Photography

Photo by Federico Di Dio

Behind every breathtaking landscape shot is a wide depth of field. With that said, let’s talk about aperture and ISO. 

To achieve a shot like the one pictured above, one’s camera should be set at a small aperture. Since a small aperture lets in less light, the settings need to be balanced out by either cranking up the ISO or decreasing your shutter speed. There’s just one missing piece to this landscape puzzle. In order for all those carefully chosen settings to shine through in a final image that is sharp and in focus, that camera must be on a tripod. 

Pro tip: The taller your tripod, the less stable it becomes – especially when working outdoors where wind is often a factor.Avoid using a center column in these situations and if you are active in the landscape genre we advise you to get a top of the line tripod such as the Really Right Stuff (insert model) or the Manfrotto (find the model). 

Timelapses and Long Exposure Photography

Photo by Chloe Leis

Whether watching freeway traffic go by, seeing clouds roll over a cityscape, or witnessing a blur of people get on and off a subway, timelapses create a dreamlike effect that, and with planning and the right equipment,  these images are simple to achieve. However, timelapses can mean hours of continuous shooting. As a result, using handheld methods would be completely impractical. 

The same goes for long exposure photography. Interested in adding light trail images like the one pictured above to your portfolio? Low ISO, a longer exposure time, and a tripod are essentials within this niche. 

Pro tip: a shutter release cable or wireless remote are also highly recommended to further prevent imaging blurring. 

Final Thoughts

Putting a tripod to good use can vastly improve your photography or cinematography. Thankfully, there’s one that is just right for every photographer and for (just about) any situation. Here are a few recommended tripod brands known for their reliable, long-lasting, and sturdy products. Suggestions courtesy of Samy’s Camera:

Studio & Landscape

Really Right Stuff tripods and accessories, simply put, are built to last.

Travel

Manfrotto, particularly their Aluminum Traveler Tripod, is lightweight and durable.

Monopod

When you want to give your arms and back a break, this Sirui P-326 Carbon Fiber Monopod provides extra support. 

Tabletop

Joby GorillaPods, like this 3K Flexible Mini-Tripod, are incredibly versatile and perfect for action or iPhone photography. 

Whichever tripod one decides to pack, they are all designed to help take your work to the next level. 

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