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How To Choose a Tripod That is Right For You

by Valerie Johnston | March 19, 2012

You are probably a novice to moderately experienced photographer (after all, most of the population cannot claim expert status) and you are considering the essential tools for this activity. You get yourself a pretty good DSLR or even an advanced point and shoot digital. You invest in a good lens and/or flash, a nice carrying case, and even some manuals explaining the "how to" of your preferred type of photography.

Aren't you forgetting something?

What about a tripod? While most people say that they don't need a tripod because they won't be doing any of "that" sort of photography, the simplest fact of the matter is that all photographers find that they need a tripod at some time or another.

digital camera, photography, tripods, night photography, still photography

The Uses of the Tripod

Whether you are trying to take shots in dim light, also known as "low light photography" or are doing some DIY portrait work, the tripod is actually an essential. Why? Let's consider the times when tripods are necessary:

  • Travel Photography - Landscapes, panoramas, and scenes so wide that they need to be "stitched" in the photo editing program all require more than just your steady hand. They require the rock solid positioning possible only through a tripod. If you are also working in "sweet light" hours around dusk and dawn it is imperative that the tripod is at hand as well;
  • Low Light Photography - Sunrise, sunset, candlelight, indoor weddings, cathedrals, and anywhere you cannot use the flash is often called low light. The slow shutter speeds needed for these places also means that you are likely to "shake" the camera during the exposure and to then blur the shot. The tripod prevents any issues of this kind; and
  • Portrait Photography - You want to be to the side of the camera if you are taking a portrait, but if it is a "self portrait" you know that you have to put the camera at the right height and to use a cable to fire the shutter. All of this adds up to one simple thing - you need a tripod.

Also consider the advice of ManFrotto.com that explains that "with a tripod you can get your camera in to places you couldn't go without it." This means you can put a camera where you cannot possibly stand and still make shots!

Details About Tripods

You understand the "why", but now you want to know just "what" to buy! That is actually pretty easy...just ask yourself about the camera you use. Is it small? Is it heavy? How much movement will be required from the tripod - i.e. will you fire "down" on subjects or out into the world?

Base your choice on the size and weight of the camera, and then ask yourself what movement is needed. You can then consider the actual weight of the tripod in terms of toting it about with you. Does it need to be "heavy and heavy duty" or can it be a very lightweight thing?

digital camera, tripod head, manfrotto, ball head

Finally, do you need a tripod with a separate "head" or a single unit that consists of the legs and the head together? This impacts prices and is a valid question to consider.

We suggest heading to a few forums or user comment sites to discover what others are saying about the different models available. For instance, the DPPreview site has open forms on tripods in which novice to advanced users make their suggestions.

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Tips-n-Tricks #377

Switching to manual focus when you are hand holding a macro lens can be a little easier than autofocus. When you get in close just use your body to rock back and forth to get the focus you want then shoot quickly. This is probably not the preferred method of shooting close up, but if you can pull it off then more power to you.

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