Photography Tips: How To Choose A Tripod

Tripods are the perfect accessories to keep your camera steady and leveled when shooting still photographs. A sturdy tripod allows you the luxury to use a long shutter speed, without the occupational hazard of camera shake. It also allows you to shoot waterfalls, sunsets, fireworks and other artistic photos using a deep Depth of Field. It allows you to focus on the hyperfocal distance and getting pretty much everything in focus without having to worry about the shake. Some photographers cannot stand the idea of having to lug an extra few founds of weight on their shoulders, while others, especially landscape and artistic nature photographers cannot imagine life without them. Love them or hate them here are a few tips on how to choose a tripod.

Choose a tripod
© Miroslav Petrasko

How to Choose a Tripod Size & flexibility

There are a thousand different varieties of tripods available in the market starting from the smallest table-top tripods suitable for a Point & Shoot camera to the heavier all-metal ones that need a trunk to transport. But nearly all of them have their own utilities. A small table-top tripod would be perfect when shooting macro photographs using your Point & Shoot or taking self portraits. A larger tripod with extendable legs would be perfect for the purpose of shooting landscape etc. A really tough all-metal built tripod on the other hand would be ideal for demanding conditions when there is a bit of wind swishing about or when you are faced with a challenging weather. Joby’s gorillapod is the perfect choice when you need extreme flexibility and the ability to shoot from the most seemingly difficult angles. The gorillapod has legs that can be twisted and turned and wrapped around branches, it clings to hooks or other ledges and setup on places that is impossible for a traditional tripod to get a foothold.

Choose a tripod
© Yersinia

Grip

Grip is not a feature but an essential aspect that no tripod can do without. Without the right amount of grip it is impossible to secure your tripod and expect to shoot. The slightest bit of wind will knock the tripod and the camera over if it is without a firm grip. Aluminum made tripods is the worst of the lot as albeit being lightweight they tend to wobble around in wind.

Height

How to choose a tripod with the right height? The height of the tripod should be commensurate with your height and of course the type of photography you do. A small adjustable tripod is ideal for flower photography or basically when you’re doing a lot of ground level work. A taller tripod with adjustable legs is the way to go when you do a lot of landscape or other photography where you want the camera to be at your eye height. Take into consideration the maximum height of the extendable central column (if any) and the height of the DSLR before choosing the tripod height.

Choose a tripod

How to choose a tripod center column

The central column has two important purposes; one is to support the weight of the camera and second is it is extendable (in some tripods) adding some extra inches or a foot of height to the tripod. One problem with that is that the central column can be a bit wobbly when extended. This can potentially ruin your long exposure shots or your macros shots where the slightest bit of movement gets magnified.

Choose a tripod
© Koshyk

Slinging extra weights

A major feature that some tripods come with is the ability to support the use of extra weights at the base. For this a special set of hooks is provided on each leg and you can attach a tensile cloth and put some weights on it to have more solidity to the whole setup.

How to choose a tripod head

When buying a tripod you would be given a choice between one that comes with an integrated head plate and one that is without a head plate. The head plate is where you attach your camera and with the help of mounting screws make sure it is in position. Not having an integrated head plate can be good because it allows you to choose a head plate you prefer to go with your tripod. Camera head plates sometimes come with a quick release plate. it is ideal when you want to quickly attach and de-attach your camera from the tripod. It comes in handy when you want to shoot hand-held and tripod mounted alternatively. A ball head will allow you to get a smooth panning and tilting movement with your camera.

Next photography lessons:

Photography Intermediate 1: Understanding Camera Metering

Photography Intermediate 3: Beginners’ Emotional Photography

Photography Intermediate 4: Easy Double Exposure Photography

Photography Intermediate 5: Create a Sense of Depth to Your Shot

Photography Intermediate 6: Maximize the Background in your Composition


About Rajib Mukherjee

Rajib’s love for the road is second only to his love for photography. Wanderlust at heart and a shutterbug who loves to document his travels via his lenses; his two passions compliment each other perfectly. He has been writing for over 3 years now, which unsurprisingly, revolve mostly around his two favorite pursuits. He routinely punctuates his daily schedule by hitting the road.

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