WHY USE A TRIPOD?
An essential addition to any photographer’s kit is a tripod. These come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny units suited to only very small compact cameras, all the way through to large heavy tripods used in studio and landscape photography with medium and large format cameras. To learn more about tripods and other useful photographic accessories then please join us on our next Fundamentals of Digital Photography course.
Obviously the smaller your camera is the smaller the tripod can be and vice versa. For compact digital cameras there are a variety of table top tripods available. These are great for getting creative shots at a party or a restaurant, or even when travelling and you´d like to take a photo of a low-light landscape. If you have a digital SLR we always recommend using the sturdiest and biggest tripod you can afford – the heavier the better as it will not be affected by wind and the tripod head will not buckle under the weight of the camera. Some tripods even have a hook at the bottom of the centre colum allowing you to hang your camera bag or a sand bag from it to weigh it down.
The more expensive tripods are generally made of tougher materials and a few have “spider” legs, which let you extend the legs at extreme angles when photographing on a staircase or on very uneven surfaces. Some manufacturers such as Manfrotto manufacture the tripod legs and heads separately. This allows you to choose a head and leg combination to suite your photographic needs. For example they make a pistol grip head which is similar to a computer game joystick – here you just squeeze the grip to rotate the head to the desired angle.
A tripod is important for any photography beyond taking snapshots, and the function that it fulfils is two-fold:
Preventing camera shake
In low light conditions the risk of blurred images is increased as there is a strong possibility of the camera moving ever so slightly during the exposure (shutter speeds of 1/60th of a second or slower). Mounting the camera on a tripod will prevent this, if used together with the camera’s self-timer, a cable release or a remote.
Having the camera mounted on a tripod allows the photographer to finely adjust the camera position to achieve the desired composition. Hand-holding invariably involves a little horizontal or vertical inaccuracy of the image, as well as skew horizons. The photographer will even have the opportunity to step away from the camera, and then scrutinise the scene to make any final adjustments or changes.
As the use of a tripod is not always practical due to spatial or other considerations, the photographer may need to resort to alternate means of support. A popular accessory is the bean-bag, which as the name implies is often nothing more than a bank bag filled with dried beans or rice. It is very useful when working from a vehicle, and when photographing from a very low level, typically in wildlife and other nature photography.