We all want to improve our images and have them match the quality of the eye catching images we see online and in our email boxes and in high end galleries. Some of the equipment to elevate our personal photography to that level takes years to acquire. Some of the technique and skills to elevate to that level takes years as well. One simple and relatively inexpensive instrument to add is a tripod.
When should you use a tripod? Basically whenever possible and appropriate. Obviously there are times when using a tripod just isn’t right and isn’t going to work. For all the rest of the times mount that camera up!
What does a tripod do for you? Using a tripod is going to help you achieve that tack sharpness to your images that you need if you want to elevate the quality of your photography to the next level. Using a tripod can also help with composition and leveling off the horizon in images. Want to use long exposures for waterfall images, star trails, motion effects? Better get a tripod.
What should you expect when shopping for a tripod? A broad range of options and prices. Any tripod is going to help. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when shopping around.
- Cost-figure out what you are willing to budget out for a tripod. You can buy cheap-and you can spend some serious cheddar on a nice tripod.
- Weight-if you are a landscape photographer that is going to be doing some hiking the weight of your tripod and tripod head will matter. A carbon fiber tripod will save you some serious lbs and effort in hiking and will also make your wallet much lighter too. If you do landscape photography 2 feet from your car or shoot in more stationary situations then save some money and get an alloy tripod.
- Size-I’m 6’4”. I would like a tripod that I don’t have to stoop down to see through my view finder. For others a tripod small enough to fit in a backpack or suit case will be more of a consideration.
- Flexibility-Cheap tripods will be all in one. This means you will attach it to your camera and that is it. Spend a little more money and you can get a tripod that you can interchange heads with. Now the world is opened to many more options and purposeful uses for your tripod.
- Stability-make sure that your tripod will handle what you need it to. If you have a higher end camera and some heavy glass on it you don’t want to constantly worry about your expensive camera gear taking a spill.
Last of all-don’t forget your tripod. On a photography trip to Moab a couple years ago with fellow Shutterhog, Alex, I managed to pack every camera item I owned-minus the tripod. I ended up buying what I could find-which was a cheap plastic throwaway from Radioshack. Pack your gear!