Tripod basics

Why tripods matter!

Heavy, clunky, not easy to fit into a camera bag – all reasons you want NOT to carry a tripod.

However, when it comes to longer exposures, panoramic shots, or maybe you’re a little shaky and haven’t got your camera holding skills down, tripods can save the day!

Some people say they should be the second purchase of photography equipment after the camera itself. I’m not sure about that, but for sure, they are important!

Nowadays, they are made from lighter materials such as carbon fibre, or aluminum – making them easier to carry. They can even fold down smaller so they can fit onto nicely made harnesses on your backpack or camera bag.

They range in price a LOT – and you don’t always get what you pay for.
For example, you can buy a super cheap tripod and be done, or even use a wall or a beanbag with a 2 second self timer – money saved!
Or, you could opt for a super expensive big brand tripod which will cost almost $1000 – in which you are paying for the quality and sturdiness of the tripod, along with a heavier payload capability in a super light package. Imagine professional landscape photographers!

Don’t be foolish though when buying – sometimes if you look online or in magazines, you see a tripod for sale at $500 and it fits your budget, but, IT DOESN’T COME WITH A HEAD! Confusing – why just sell tripod legs?
Well, manufacturers understand that although you need a tripod, you may need a different type of head for the type of photography (or video) you’ll be doing.

A macro photographer may want a sliding rail head. A landscape photographer may desire a lever style or perhaps a ballhead Most common are probably ballhead tripods these days.

Anyhoo, think about what you’re shooting in terms of subject, and then equipment, because your tripod needs to be secure enough to hold the weight of your camera, lens, and any accessories you may have (filters, mics, etc).

Tripods support various other items on them – lighting, flashguns, strobes, softboxes remote devices etc.

Personally, I have 2 tripods. One is a carbon fibre Gitzo and although sturdy – I don’t like the ballhead and plate that came with it. So I also have a Benro slim tripod (also carbon fibre for lightness) – which was cheaper than buying a new head for the Gitzo – these can reach up to $500 or more. It’s likely I will sell the Gitzo tripod soon as the Benro tripod far than meets my expectations.

Enough about me …
You want the tripod to be sturdy. If it’s windy, you can weigh a tripod down further by attaching your camera bag to the bottom of the center column. Most include a hook for this purpose.
Also, personally, I only extend the thickest legs of my tripod, so it has a better footing and solidarity. Just personal preference, unless I need the full height.

Lastly, if you’re into action, consider a monopod instead – these, as the name suggest have only one leg, and you can freely move it around – great for quickly changing direction and moving.
You can even buy monopods that double as walking poles. 2 for 1! Never tried them – but I am sure they work just great.

To recap
Keep your tripod sturdy.
Don’t forget to include the price of your tripod head when buying a tripod.
Work within your budget!

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