A tripod isn’t always seen as a necessity for photographers due to the advancing technology allowing us to handhold our cameras in ever diminishing light. This is especially true in genres such as wedding photography and sports photography, but I would argue that spending some time with a tripod can improve anybody’s photography skills.
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The Obvious Pros of a Tripod
There are some very obvious reasons for using a tripod. They are designed to provide a stable platform for our camera when the shutter speed gets too low to accurately handhold, with them eliminating camera shake and producing sharper photographs at narrower apertures and lower ISOs.
Another considering is long exposure photography, especially in landscape and cityscpape work. Using a longer shutter speed to convey motion can often add another dimension to our photography and make the final image a lot more intriguing, and for this sort of work a tripod is essential. There are more subtle reasons that a tripod can greatly improve our photography though.
Slowing Down and Getting in the Zone
We may live in a golden age of technology and communications, but this has led many of us to lead overly hectic lives. We rush around, coming and going from work, family commitments, chores, and all the information that bombards us on a daily basis. We rarely switch off from the world, but for many photography is a welcome escape from this hustle and bustle. It’s a way to slow down and relax, all while expressing your creative side.
But how can a tripod help us escape the daily grind?
I’ve seen countless photographers out in the field, most of them at the weekend as they escape from their work week. They rush around like headless chickens, unable to get out of their 9-5 mindset of doing as much as possible in as short a timeframe as possible. Eventually, after a few hours with the camera, they settle down and start to enjoy the craft, but the problem is they’ve already wasted some of their precious relaxation time simply because they couldn’t get out of the office mindset.
This can all be solved with the humble tripod. Using a tripod slows us down considerably, in both the physical and the mental sense. It takes time to set the tripod up, mount the camera, and generally alter the composition. It’s a much slower and more considered way of shooting, and that can get us into the zone much quicker than usual.
There are a lot of times when I’ve been in a rush getting to a location, possibly stressed from some outside factor. However, when that tripod comes out I’m instantly in the zone. All the stress melts away and rather than taking two hours to bring myself to the present it takes two minutes before I’m immersed in my photography. Using a tripod is also an absolute must if you’re learning the basics of photography composition!
It may sound a bit unrealistic that just using a tripod can have such a dramatic impact on our photography, but I urge you to give it a try for a few weeks and then tell me it hasn’t helped you. If you have tried it out please let me know how it went in the comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Choosing a Tripod
Tripods, much like cameras and lenses, come in all sorts of price range and with many different features, materials, and mechanisms. Choosing a tripod is largely down to personal preference and your photography requirements. If you’re planning on shooting close to home or the car then a cheaper but heavier option will do the job, but if you spent time hiking in the mountains then it makes sense to shell out a bit more cash for a lighter carbon fibre model.
If you don’t have a camera yet, make sure to check out our buyer’s guides below:
Budget Friendly Tripods
If you’re unsure about your need for a tripod and don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars, Velbon are a great budget friendly brand of tripod. They are aluminium so are quite a bit heavier than the more costly carbon fiber options, but it’s cheap and stable and a great gateway into the world of tripods.
- 2-in-1 tripod, one of leg can be used as monopod
- Quick release leg locking, giving a more convenient leg handling
If weight is an issue then the Neewer carbon fiber tripod could be perfect for you. It’s the one of the cheapest carbon fiber tripods that you can find, and considering the cost it’s actually surprisingly good.
Admittedly it doesn’t extend as high as some of the more expensive options, but it’s surprisingly stable and incredibly light. It also folds down to about the size of your forearm, so it makes the perfect travel photography tripod.
- Weighs just 1.45 kg / 3.2 lb
- Recommended for: Everyday use
3 Legged Thing are, as you might have guessed, a company who solely focus on tripods and their various accessories. This is their lightest tripod yet, but still comes with the rock solid build quality that typifies 3 Legged Thing tripods. It comes with all the features you would expect such as a removable monopod and a decent working height of 165cm, but the real gem in it’s arsenal is how low it will go. You can use this tripod just 10cm off the ground, making it ideal for macro photographers and those looking for unique perspectives.
- MACC (Multi-Angle Center Column) for limitless shooting angles with firm hexagonal center column that offers one handed, effortless smooth operation and rapid set-up
- Position versatility - 3 section legs with 4 position angles - 20°, 40°, 60°, 80° and rock solid positioning - unique "locked" to "unlocked" twist leg lock system
We’ve already given the Vanguard Alta Pro 2+ a full review, but it’s definitely worth a mention here too. It’s an award winning, budget friendly, and incredibly versatile tripod.
The multi-angle center column makes it useful for all sorts of camera gymnastics when trying to get that perfect angle, and both the aluminium and carbon fiber versions are as sturdy as you could hope for. Really, for this price it’s hard to buy anything that even comes close in terms of quality.
- Load capacity 40kg/ 88lb
- Recommended for: landscape/ studio
The aptly named company make another appearance on the list with their high end Winston tripod. This may be up there in terms of price bracket, but I guarantee that it will last you years of heavy use. It’s carbon fibre so is obviously nice and light, but it’s absolutely rock solid and has a working range of about 2 metres, going from almost floor level to above head height to ensure you’re never stuck in a position where your tripod is holding you back. Buy this and you can probably forget about any other tripod purchases for at least five years.
- Supports up to 22lbs
- Compact folding for easy carrying
Gitzo may need some improvement when it comes to naming their tripods (Yep, all of their tripods’ names roll off the tongue like this) but make no mistake that they’re at the pinnacle when it comes to making tripods.
The price tag is… Hefty. However, it uses state of the art carbon fiber eXact tubes and weighs a tiny 1.29kg, folding down to 36cm. It arrives with an excellent Gitzo ballhead, and you can truly feel the quality difference between this and a more bargain basement ballhead.
It costs a lot of money, but the chances are that this tripod could last you over a decade of heavy use if treated correctly.
Alex is the owner and lead writer for Click and Learn Photography. An avid landscape, equine, and pet photographer living and working in the beautiful Lake District, UK, Alex has had his work featured in a number of high profile publications, including the Take a View Landscape Photographer of the Year, Outdoor Photographer of the Year, and Amateur Photographer Magazine.