Tripods – It has always been quoted that a tripod is the second most useful tool of the photographer after the camera itself. Here on this website too, I have said it many times that a tripod is indispensable. People especially beginners in photography have often wondered why is it so. Why a tripod is so useful? Is it really worth the hype which has been created or is it just a fancy decoration to appear more professional?
Well, honestly even I had such doubts when I started out but eventually, they faded away. I am perfectly fine if at this stage you don’t agree with me. In this post, I am gonna list the top 10 reasons Why Should you Use a Tripod and after you read this article, I am gonna let you be the judge of whether a tripod is really worth your attention and money or not! Stay put.
1. To Make Perfectly Sharp Images
This goes without saying that using tripods can make your images very sharp. You just cannot achieve the same level of sharpness, Why? because every camera has tiny little mechanical parts that move in perfect sync to capture an image. Those mechanical parts create very minutes vibration which can sometimes appear in your photographs. Many lenses these days come with Image Stabilization or Vibration Reduction systems in-built but even they have a threshold. After crossing that limit of camera shake, no system can help you out.
You may argue that you have very steady hands. That’s good, it’s gonna help you a lot but imagine a scenario where you have to crouch or stay put in a not so comfortable way and wait for a long time in the same position. I bet you’ll wish you had a tripod because it’s just impossible to hold your camera steady while you wait to capture that perfect shot. Believe me, these situations will occur more frequently than not!
2. When You are Using Big Lenses
You must have seen wildlife photographers or sports photographers carrying big lenses. Those 600mm guns can be a huge pain to work with if you don’t have proper support. These lenses are heavy, bulky and you need to be agile with them. A typical AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4 weighs around 8lb (4kgs approx). That’s a lot of weight for a single lens. Going in for a heavy tripod or monopods would be a really good idea. Just make sure that the maximum weight limit of the tripod is well beyond the weight of these lenses.
Note: As a rule of thumb, keep the shutter speed equal to the focal length of the lens. Suppose if you are using a 500mm lens, then keep your shutter speed at least 1/500th of a second.
The above rule is very important because if you plan to use shutter speeds below the required range, then you need to have a tripod to support you or the pictures will be blurry. Framing with telephoto lenses is tough and you can easily lose your subject out of the frame if you don’t keep it steady. All these factors demand the use of a tripod in the wild or in the field.
3. To Shoot the Stars – Astrophotography
Shooting star trails isn’t a child’s play and there goes a lot into the making of a good “astro-photograph”. These typically include pictures of The Milky Way, constellations, star trails, and sometimes even planets. It is a no brainer that if you are shooting in the night, it’s gonna be pitch black and that’s necessary because you cannot allow any light pollution to ruin your pictures.
In such an acute shortage of light, you cannot expect to hold the camera yourself, can you? A tripod is an absolute must here. You need to shoot hundreds of pictures at regular intervals to make a single star trail image. You can be creative with it, try some light painting under the stars, the results will be magnificent.
4. Making Long Exposures
Long exposures are those photographs in which the shutter speed of the camera is considerably slow to hold it by hand. They are generally in the range of 1/6th of a second to 30 seconds or more (bulb mode). At such slow speeds, a stable and sturdy tripod becomes essential. Those pictures of silky smooth waterfalls, light paintings, and car trails are typical examples of long exposures.
5. Helps when using Filters
Okay, this might not be for everyone but those who are interested in landscape photography, you must know that landscape photographers make extensive use of filters. They travel around with a separate case full of filters like gradient filters, neutral density filters, polarization filters, infra-red filters and many more. These filters are not like the traditional circular UV filters which attach to the thread on your lens. Rather, these filters need a special holder. Watch the video to understand better.
The tripod comes in handy when you want to adjust these filters but you cannot do it if your hands are busy. Makes sense? Right, landscape photography involves patience and precision. A tripod can really help you in keeping the camera locked in place while you tweak around.
6. Making Timelapses (Being Creative)
Timelapses are beautiful creations and remind us of the power of time. To make time-lapses you need to have some basic video editing skills and of course you need to know a thing or two about photography as well. Timelapses are nothing but a series of frames captured at regular intervals of time. These frames are then played back at a certain frame rate. The shorter the interval, the smoother the video because more frames will be taken for the same time duration. Look at this beautiful video of Nepal by Scott Green (He’s a dear friend).
Again, tripods play a major role here because the first step in making a timelapse is to lock the camera in place and shoot continuously. The procedure is somewhat similar to shooting star trails but here, instead of compressing all the images into one, we convert them into a video.
Tripods and Videography go hand in hand. Video tripods are different from the regular photo tripods. Their legs are bigger, heavier and have more sections. The head used in videography, called the fluid head is different too. It is an entire system using which videos, film, etc are created. Not only camcorders but also, GoPro, DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are also used to make high-quality professional videos. A shaky video is no good for anyone. Read more about video tripods here.
8. Portraiture and Glamour Work
Studios are generally portrayed as places with light stands, tripods, flashes, and of course models. Portrait work is all about the focus. Especially, the eye needs to be in focus because that’s the first thing a viewer notices when he looks at a portrait. Using tripod limits the amount of camera shake caused by various factors.
That’s the reason why professional model photographers rely heavily on a good old tripod even if they are using an 85mm lens. A tripod used for this purpose is lightweight and strong and the ultimate goal here is to capture beautiful and sharp images.
9. Helps in Framing and Composition
One may ask, how does a tripod help you in composing shots. Well, if someone has ever used a tripod, he/she would know-how. Carrying and using a tripod slows you down. Instead of going about clicking pictures randomly, you are forced to stop and adjust your camera before every frame you make. This is essential because once you slow down, you can think more.
Try to follow the rule of thirds most of the time. It is true that using a tripod is cumbersome at first and you may feel that you are better off without it, but trust me this pain will help you in the long run. Thinking before taking a picture is the key to make mind-blowing images, but this takes time and practice.
10. Saves You the Pain of Carrying Your Camera Around
This is one of the biggest advantages of carrying a tripod. If you plan on using heavy cameras and lenses, then at some point in time you will face this problem. Hanging your camera around your neck for the entire day leads to severe pain and issues. Well, there are other straps available in the market which allow your camera to swing and stay at your hip but there are always chances of bumping around and hurting your equipment. Instead, get yourself a good tripod – it will be a wise investment. You can mount the camera on your tripod and carry the tripod on your shoulders, holding them by the legs.
Personally, I prefer to use a tripod most of the time because it helps me to shoot better. There are times though when a tripod becomes more of a burden than an advantage. A good photographer is one who can utilize the max potential of his tools. Many times, people go for an upgrade even if they are not completely acquainted with what they have. This is the wrong policy and will do more harm than good.
I believe I have given reasons why you should go in for a tripod. If you buy one or not, always remember that it is not the equipment that makes you a great artist, it’s the time and work which you put in. So, start shooting! And if you have any doubts, queries or feedback, be sure to leave them in the comments section below and I’ll be more than happy to help you out.