When it comes to photography, one of the most useful tools that you have at your disposal is none other than the humble tripod.
It may sound overly simplistic, but the tripod isn’t a tool that you’ll want to forgo –especially if you’re doing low-light photography, or capturing landscapes using a long exposure. If you’re using a slow shutter speed, especially, having a tripod to stabilize your camera is invaluable, and key for preventing camera shake.
Your tripod is more than just a large, heavy object that you buy and then promptly forget about, instead –it should be a part of your everyday camera kit. Especially today, with so many relatively lightweight options are available –at reasonable prices. This is one piece of equipment that you’ll want to think about bringing along more often.
Wondering why this piece of equipment is getting such high praise? Here are just a few of the many reasons you should be using your tripod.
When Do You Need a Tripod?
When trying to decide when a tripod’s necessary, a good guideline to follow is that a shutter speed of at least 1/the focal length is required for a sharp image. So if you have a 100mm, the minimum shutter speed you could use without a tripod is 1/100th of a second. Anything slower than this would require a tripod.
• Sharper Images
Okay, so let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Your tripod is very useful in any situation in which you want sharp images without blur. Which is all the time. Using a tripod can help ensure that any camera shake is eliminated and allow you to focus on the small details of your subject without losing any of the sharpness.
And if you have a long lens, where every bump or jostle can cause blur, then using a tripod will make capturing those crystal clear images, that much easier.
→ Related reading: 11 Steps to Tack-Sharp Landscape Photos
• Long Exposures
Anytime you slow your shutter speed down, you will increase the risk of camera shake and blurry images. This is especially true when you are working with long exposures, such as trying to photograph blurred rushing water. Depending on your desired result, this type of photography usually requires a longer exposure than normal. Using a tripod allows your camera to remain absolutely still while the shutter’s open.
→ Related reading: Guide to Long Exposure Landscape Photography
• Low Light Situations
Any situation that presents you with low lighting will leave you adjusting your settings to accommodate it. Low lighting situations often mean that you’ll need to use a slow shutter speed, which will require the use of your tripod to prevent camera shake and ensure a clear image.
• Time Lapses
While this one might be obvious to some –time-lapse photography also requires the use of a tripod. Any movement during the period in which your camera is attempting to capture a time-lapse image can disrupt the entire shot. Using a tripod is the best way to capture time-lapse images without any unwanted movement or camera shake.
• Sunsets and Sunrises
Some sunsets call for slow shutter speeds; which also means that your camera will be at risk for any sudden movements. A tripod will enhance the quality of your image and help ensure you walk away with some winning shots.
• Macro Photography
Macro photography requires you to get up close to your subject and capture the tiniest details. When you are so close to your subject, any movement at all can cause an unwanted blurring effect that will ruin your image. To capture amazing macro images, be sure to use your tripod to help keep your images sharp, clear, and in-focus.
• Straight Horizons
Most tripods come with a built-in level that can help you determine if your tripod is level or not. This can help you take a shot with a more level horizon. You can also adjust where the horizon is in your image easily with your tripod by simply moving it up or down.
• A Tripod Slows You Down
This might sound controversial at first, after all, why would you want to slow down? But when you are working with a tripod you are forced to slow down –which will help you to be more deliberate. Instead of simply snapping away, you’ll have time to think about what you’re doing, focus on your surroundings, and think about your composition. While you are setting your tripod up, you’ll be able to slow down and take it all in. Slow yourself down a little, take in the beauty, and think about what you really want to capture.
• For Video Work
When it comes to video, the same principles apply. Using a tripod will help to steady the camera, resulting in a much smoother and far more professional result.
While there are ways to get around the need for a tripod, or various hacks you can use in a pinch, one thing is certain, if you want better images, use your tripod. You can adjust a lot of things in postprocessing, but blurry pictures are not something you can fix.
Like anything, a tripod takes effort and practice to master, and at first, it may just feel like extra weight to lug around, but with practice, you’ll soon become adept at using one, and will find that it’s an invaluable tool that you can use to capture some amazing images.
Do you enjoy using a tripod?