Tripod Recommendations:

Budget Tripod: Dolica Proline

My Recommendation: MeFoto Road Trip CF

Top of the line: Feisol Legs with Acratech GP Ballhead 

Mini Tripod: Pedco Ultralight

Flexible Mini Tripod: Joby Gorillapod

I want to take just a few minutes and talk about when you should and should NOT use a tripod – far too often I see beginners carrying around and using a tripod when they don’t need too. In my opinion the only time you must use a tripod is when you are shooting at shutter speeds slow enough that you might get blur from handshake and that typically happens when your shutter speed is less than your focal length. If shooting at 50mm your shutter speed should be at least 1/50 of a second. There are more variables in figuring out the best shutter speed to avoid shake and I talk about those in my shutter speed video.

Shooting at those slower shutter speeds is when you DO want the camera on a sturdy tripod DOES it really hurt to use it at those other times? It can because I see beginners doing two things when they use a tripod – setting up at eye level and rooting. We are humans we like to be comfortable and so we often setup cameras at a comfortable eye level, for some compositions this is OK but being free of a tripod means you are free to quickly try a variety of heights – what does your composition look like from ground level, just above? How about as high as you can reach? Using a tripod encourages us to set up at ONE height and stick there – this brings up ROOTING. We plunk the tripod down, put the camera on it and don’t move, continually shooting from the same location – maybe you try a different depth of field, maybe you try moving the focus point but generally you are going to end up taking way too many photos from that point of view and being free from a tripod encourages movement. Small shifts left or right, up or down can make a large difference in your composition not to mention frees you to look in all directions. When we work with new photographers on our trips we like to remind them about the 360 rule – always take a moment to do a slow spin looking for other possible subjects or compositions that are sometimes behind you. Shooting with a tripod is friction against moving and that’s potentially holding you back from a better shot.
When are tripods useful?

  1. Using a tripod to shoot a bracketed exposure can help reduce ghosting and increase image quality but if you have a camera with a decent burst rate, with some practice you can certainly shoot a fast burst of bracketed shots without serious alignment issues.
  2. When you are setting up a careful composition, I find a tripod makes it easier to really study your composition, leveling your horizon, scanning the frame for distractions. It’s harder as a beginner to study a shot and bring it up to your eye making the adjustments you want though it is possible, just don’t get rooted in the same spot
  3. Working with really heavy lenses, it is nice to have some support there even if you remain above the shutter speed rule.

So there are certainly valid reasons for using a tripod but as beginners I want you to aware of the drawbacks and hope you will keep those in mind as you photograph.

Quick Tripod Tips

  • Always turn of image stabilization when your camera is on a tripod – some stabilizations systems at some shutter speeds will actually cause blur and give you soft images as a result.
  • I like to position one of the tripod legs under my lens for increased stability.
  • Never ever walk away from my camera on a tripod unless you are 110% sure it is stable.
  • Position the tripod plate release under the lens, making it harder to accidentally grab. There are times in the dark I thought I was adjusting the ball head when really I was loosening the plate. Not fun!!

Do you have additional scenarios where tripods are useful – leave them in the comments below.
These days because of all the travel I am doing I am happy carrying the MeFoto Carbon Fiber Road Trip – it offers a nice blend of portability and stability- You can see several other recommendations at different price points below. If you would like to plunk your tripod down next to me in some awesome locations- Click here to see where I am headed next year. 

Tripod Recommendations:

Tripod Recommendations:

Budget Tripod: Dolica Proline

My Recommendation: MeFoto Road Trip CF

Top of the line: Feisol Legs with Acratech GP Ballhead 

Mini Tripod: Pedco Ultralight

Flexible Mini Tripod: Joby Gorillapod

 


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