Tripod Tips for Photography and Video

A few things about tripods

In my years of teaching beginners, I noticed that many of my students did not know how to properly use their tripods. This lesson will give you some tips and tricks, some of which are not commonly known.

Why use a tripod?

  • A tripod steadies your camera
  • Tripods allow you to use your camera “hands free” – eg, taking group photos where you are one of the people in the group.
  • A tripod allows you to take long exposures, where the shutter is open a long time – think night shots, fireworks

Main obstacle people have when using a tripod

The main problem people have with tripods is not attaching the camera firmly. The camera still moves and wiggles a bit. This can cause a lot of problems, especially if you are taking a long exposure. Sometimes this is caused by operator error, and sometimes by using poorly designed or cheap tripods.

Another problem is that people use a small tripod for a large heavy camera. This can cause the tripod to tip over, or be unsteady in windy conditions.

Common kinds of tripods

  • Super Compact – for small cameras and iPhones, used on a table top
  • Compact – fold down small, great for traveling
  • Gorillapods – can wrap around trees, but they are quite heavy given their low height
  • Bean bag type of pods – Not technically a tripod, but useful for setting your camera on a table or the ground
  • Two-part tripods – you buy the legs and the tripod head separately. Most pros use these. If you have a larger camera, these are recommended.
  • A wide variety of tripod heads are available – video, three-way, ball, pistol grip
  • Most tripod heads have detachable plates that use a quick lock and release mechanism

Tripods come in all price ranges as well. From tens to thousands of dollars.

Tripods are made from plastic, aluminum, carbon fibre and other composite materials. The carbon fibre ones are usually the priciest, but that also depends on the brand name and the size of the tripod. There are now many “no-name” and store brand carbon tripods on the market.

You will also need to get a tripod that is tall enough so that when you are standing, your camera is at eye level or even higher. If your tripod is too short, you will be limited to how high off the ground you can shoot, especially if you are tall.

Try before you buy, with your own camera!

If you want to buy a tripod, go to a camera shop. Take your camera with you and get the sales person to show you how it works. Test out a few different tripods.

Extra tip – Image Stabilized Lenses

If your camera lens has image stabilization (for use when using slower shutter speeds while hand-held), you may not be able to get an “in focus” photo when using a tripod. The reason is that the stabilization mechanism uses a gyroscope, and the camera must be moving in order for that gyroscope to work properly. So even though you manually focus, and use a tripod, your photo may be thrown out of focus when taking the photo. I’ve seen this happen first-hand many times when teaching night photo classes.

The video at the top of this post is a sample lesson from my online course called, Take a Break – Photography for self-care.

The course is still open for new students. You can start anytime, and do it at your own pace. Click here to get all the course details.