Photography tripod guide

Main/Photography tools/Tripod

After getting your basic gear - it is always a personal choice what to get next. For most people a tripod is a very useful addition to ones arsenal.

Why get a tripod for taking pictures

For a good picture the subject has to be sharp. In certain snap and shoot situations the tripod will not make much difference. However, there are numerous situations where sharpness is key and the only way to get the camera stable enough is to use some sort of stable ground for the camera. You can use the ground but it is more practical to use a tripod as you then will be able to control the height and angle.

If everything is blurry in your pictures, then it’s probably camera shake. If some area of your pictures is in focus and tack sharp, the problem is not camera movement.

When do you need a tripod?

I tripod is needed whenever you will need longer exposure. Typically you can shoot handheld if your shutter speed is faster one over you focal length. If you are shooting at a focal length of 50mm you can shoot handheld as long as you are shooting at 1/50 seconds or faster. For anyone needing longer exposure - you will need a tripod. Typical example of this is low light situations. Other situations when you want long exposures like in the nighttime picture below. Other options are pictures requiring multiple exposures like HDR or High dynamic Range.

For a multiple second shots like these you will need a tripod.
Long exposure
Long exposure picture

Types of Tripods

There are different kind of tripods depending on your use. This is a good video explaining the gist for landscape photographers:

Cheaper tripods - If you are not into landscape but want a tripod for a studio or more casual use, you can afford a heavier and cheaper tripod as you don't need to bring it with you.
Most small tabletop tripods are too weak for any DSLR and therefore not worth it even if you find a cheap one. Primary problem is that they will not be able to hold your camera up straight with a front heavy micro lens. If you have a small cropped sensor DSLR with a 50mm lens you will get away with almost anything. For anything else you need a more powerful tripod. Even for studio photography of innate objects there is an advantage to more expensive ball-head tripods. However, if you have a low budget it is not worth it. Many pros will say that they have spent a lot of money on cheap tripods that would be better spent buying a more expensive and usable tripod. If you are new to photography, buying an expensive tripod can really hit your budget hard.

Monopods - These are easier to carry around, but less effective. Monopods can greatly help out on your exposure time. However, they their lightweight has huge advantages and they fit perfectly in your backpack if you are carrying one. This is also why they are used by sport photographers.

If you really need a sharp image and already using tripod - it is also an advantage to use mirror lockup and using a remote control to avoid any camera shake.