Why Should You Use a Tripod?
While almost anyone would agree that carrying around a tripod is not convenient, using one can change a good photo into an excellent photo. This tutorial will give you a basic overview of tripods.
Digital cameras have evolved to a point where many of us have been lulled into a false sense of security in regards to photo quality. With auto-focus, auto exposure, and image stabilization built into today’s digital cameras, taking an acceptable photo is quick and easy.
But an acceptable photo is not the same as an excellent photo.
Without a doubt, tripods are inconvenient to carry around in addition to your camera. They are heavy and bulky. (Although you can buy small, lightweight tripods, the terms ‘small and lightweight’ seldom result in a good tripod).
Despite any inconvenience in carrying it around, there are several good reasons for using a tripod. A tripod will allow you to use a range of techniques that are not possible without it.
Things You Can Only Do With a Tripod
1) Take a photo at a slow shutter speed without any camera shake
Mounting your camera on a tripod will also allow you to use a slow shutter speed in low light situations – without any blurriness in your photo caused by camera shake.
Tip: If your camera is on a tripod, you can set a slow shutter speed and take a moving object (like a car) to capture it in a motion blur – while keeping the background in sharp focus.
2) Take a photo with a small aperture (giving greater depth of field)
3) Shoot a series of photos to create a panorama
4) Shoot a series of photos at different exposures to create an HDR (High Dynamic Range) photo
Using a tripod allows you to take a series of bracketed shots (i.e. the same shot at different exposures). First, you take at least three shots - one underexposed by one stop, one at perfect exposure, and one overexposed by one stop. Next, you composite the three shots together in an image editing software. This will allow you to create a stunning HDR photo.
Which Tripod to Buy
What to look for
Tip: Mount your camera on the tripod when the legs are fully extended. See if it wobbles after you apply some pressure from above. Stomp on the ground next to the tripod and watch if your camera moves. You are looking for the least amount of lens movement.
The first compromise you have to make when choosing a tripod regards its weight. In general, the heavier the tripod is, the steadier your camera will be.
You probably think you want the lightest tripod possible (because these are easy to carry)… but lightweight tripods are not as stable (wind, and vibrations from people walking by can cause your photo to show some ‘blur’). Don’t buy a tripod solely based on carrying convenience, as you could end up with a tripod that has limited use.
Another compromise regards to the tripod’s size (both when extended, and when folded down). A tripod that holds the camera at your eye level when extended will save you back pain. However a tripod that does not extend to your eye-level will be smaller, and hence lighter to carry. Some tripods conveniently fold down to a small size by having their legs made of four sections instead of the traditional three sections. Some compact tripods even have legs made of five sections. But remember, the more sections your tripod’s legs are made of, the less study it will be.
The last compromise you’ll have to make when choosing a tripod regards price. Lighter tripods made of carbon fiber can be quite expensive. Heavier tripods, usually made of aluminum, are cheaper.
Tip: There is no such thing as the ‘perfect tripod. The tripod that is right for you is the one that you can afford, and that you don’t leave at home due to its size and weight.
How to Use Your Tripod
Always spread the tripod’s legs fully - A tripod will be more stable the further you spread the legs.
Use the minimum height that you need - Don't extend your tripod’s legs more than you need to. The more you extend the tripod’s legs, the less stable if becomes.
Extend the thicker sections of the legs first
Extend the legs rather than the central column - The central column should only be used for fine adjustments, or when you desperately need a bit more height. Keep in mind that it is not as stable as the legs.
Tip: Adjust the height of the legs before spreading them. This will help you make sure that all the legs are all the same height.
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