Tripods

Why Do I Need a Tripod Anyway?

Many people don't understand what a tripod does, why it's important, and how it can make such a huge difference to your photography - seeing them only as instruments of mystery only to be used by a professional. This isn't so and should not be so. You can get a tripod fairly cheaply (or very expensively if you prefer). Tripods aren't limited to a professional DSLR body and do not look out of place underneath a bridge camera, a lower end DSLR, or even some compacts. It is the laws of physics and light that make them useful - not the quality of the camera. In other words it is what the photographer knows about photography, not necessarily the price of his/her kit which makes for great pictures.

So now you know a tripod isn't reserved for the professionals, read on to find out more!

What Does a Tripod Do?

A tripod enables you to eliminate "camera shake", and to take photographs at very low shutter speeds. It also enables you to take pictures in ways in which the naked eye could never see them - impressing the heck out of your friends and colleagues.

Have you ever seen those images where running water looks like "candy floss", or car headlights have merged into one long beam of light? This is motion blur and is done with a tripod or other stabilizing device. 

The picture right was taken way back in around 2002, on a tourist holiday in Rome.

The picture was taken with an old  film camera and a pocket sized tripod, balanced on top of a box containing the electronics which controlled a set of traffic lights. It wasn't taken with expensive kit, but this is the kind of photograph which needs a stabalisation. This type of photography is open to everyone - it's open to you.

The stationary objects are sharp, the moving objects deliberately have motion blur - which can be used to stunning effect using a tripod. Tripods also enable you to totally "cheat" at photography - see our article about "Photographing Things Your Eye Will Never See". A tripod is the best way to stabalise your camera to create motion blur. It is designed with that purpose in mind, and you don't need to improvise by resting on objects which nature, or a city-scape happen to provide. You can choose exactly where to take the photograph from and at what angle.

Another time when a tripod will really aid your photography is when you are using a telephoto lens. Hand-holding a telephoto lens can sometimes be done successfully with certain lenses and shutter speeds, but if you want a "pin sharp" shot a tripod is your best bet. Hand-holding a telephoto lens you are far likely to get camera shake - due to both the weight and the magnification.

What Does a Tripod Do?

A tripod enables you to eliminate "camera shake", and to take photographs at very low shutter speeds. It also enables you to take pictures in ways in which the naked eye could never see them - impressing the heck out of your friends and colleagues.

Have you ever seen those images where running water looks like "candy floss", or car headlights have merged into one long beam of light? This is motion blur and is done with a tripod or other stabilizing device. 

The picture right was taken way back in around 2002, on a tourist holiday in Rome.

The picture was taken with an old  film camera and a pocket sized tripod, balanced on top of a box containing the electronics which controlled a set of traffic lights. It wasn't taken with expensive kit, but this is the kind of photograph which needs a stabalisation. This type of photography is open to everyone - it's open to you.

The stationary objects are sharp, the moving objects deliberately have motion blur - which can be used to stunning effect using a tripod. Tripods also enable you to totally "cheat" at photography - see our article about "Photographing Things Your Eye Will Never See". A tripod is the best way to stabalise your camera to create motion blur. It is designed with that purpose in mind, and you don't need to improvise by resting on objects which nature, or a city-scape happen to provide. You can choose exactly where to take the photograph from and at what angle.

Another time when a tripod will really aid your photography is when you are using a telephoto lens. Hand-holding a telephoto lens can sometimes be done successfully with certain lenses and shutter speeds, but if you want a "pin sharp" shot a tripod is your best bet. Hand-holding a telephoto lens you are far likely to get camera shake - due to both the weight and the magnification.

What Do I Need To Know Before Buying a Tripod?

When deciding on a tripod there are several things to consider (this mainly relates to full size tripods):

The weight of your kit

Tripods tend to have a maximum support weight / load capacity. If therefore you have heavy kit and/or lenses you will need to consider whether the tripod can support it. An aluminium tripod will usually buy you a larger maximum weight load for the price than carbon fibre, but at a cost - aluminium is heavier to carry around...

The Material the tripod is made of

Aluminium is heavier than carbon fibre. We have carbon fibre tripods for that reason, (otherwise we may require the assistance of a small donkey when carrying kit.. actually a donkey would be a great kit carrier...). Camera kit can get heavy very quickly - especially if you keep adding to it. Aluminium is cheaper though - so if you are on a budget you might want to choose aluminium. If you choose aluminium, just make sure you are able to carry it comfortably, and in cold weather make sure you use gloves!

The number of leg sections

The more leg sections, the shorter the tripod will fold down, which can be convenient. This may make the tripod slightly heavier and perhaps less stable.

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A central column

A central column can come in handy, but know that this isn't the most stable way of gaining height. It is better to have taller legs on the tripod than to rely on the central column too much.

A Tripod Head 

You can buy tripods with a fixed head, or ones where different types of heads can be fixed (which may or may not come with a tripod head) - see our section on tripod heads.

Buying Options and Advice

"Stick in the Bag" or "Pocket" Tripod

You can buy these kind of tripods for various weights of camera. There are specific models designed to take the weight of a DSLR. The type of tripod pictured has the advantage of being able to bend around objects and grip to them. In Rome this could perhaps have been used to attach the camera a lighting post, or tree-branch. 

The key is always to look at the specifications and make sure the tripod you opt for can handle the weight of your kit combined, your camera and your lens (and anyting else you want to mount on it).

For a compact camera this is possibly the best option of the three we have given here. There is a time and a place for them to be used with a DSLR also. You don't always want to carry a full size tripod around!

Alumunium Tripod

When deciding which is right for you make sure you take account of the bullet points above. Much will depend on your budget and the weight of your kit.

Aluminium tripods generally carry a higher weight than their counterparts in the carbon fiber range - which tends to mean they come in cheaper to buy. The compromise being you have to buy a heavier piece of kit, which will get very hot or cold in corresponding weather.

Carbon Fibre Tripod

As with Aluminium tripods, when deciding which is right for you make sure you take account of the bullet points above. Much will depend on your budget and the weight of your kit.

The biggest advantage of these tripods over aluminium is their weight. If you have to carry your kit any distance at all you'll thank youeself for buying carbon fiber.

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