Digital Photography Tips and Tutorials · Choosing a Tripod

What this is about:

Tripods are great for taking long exposures and for getting crisp, clear nature shots. Choosing a suitable tripod for your photographic needs can be a tricky process. There are so many different brands on the market and it is difficult to decide which is the right one for your particular project. Different types of digital photography require different equipment, and when it comes to selecting a tripod, there are several factors to consider.

Do Your Research

Camera Tripod First and often the most important when considering any photography accessory, is price. If you have a budget, stick to it and don`t be tempted to buy the most expensive piece just because you have seen it advertised in a glossy photography magazine. Do your research and work out exactly what you can get for your money. Some of the most popular brands of photographic equipment are also the best quality and it is possible to pick up reasonably priced tripods second hand. If you do want top brand stuff without the high price tag, check out local newspaper classifieds or online auctions.

A tripod is an essential accessory to ensure your photos are super sharp, and it is probably one of the biggest investments you will make after purchasing a camera body and lenses. If you are planning on carrying your tripod over long distances, such as for wildlife photography or when hiking, weight is a vital consideration. Carbon fiber tripods are tough, light and manageable on the move, but because of the materials used, they do tend to be more expensive than weighty aluminium based models. Lighter aluminium tripods are fine for occasional use but they can become flimsy when used frequently, especially if they are being carried around extensively as well.

Look at the feet on your tripod before purchasing to make sure it is suitable for your type of digital photography work. Most models have rubber feet, which are perfect for studio based work, but if you are going out in the field you may need something a little more robust. Pick a tripod with spiked feet if you are carrying out a digital photography project on uneven, sandy, muddy or grassy terrain. Tripods allowing you to adjust each leg up to 90 degrees are best for outdoor work and offer greater flexibility in challenging conditions.

Size may be an issue, depending on the type of projects you have in mind. Many professional photographers carry a collapsible mini tripod at all times and use it as an effective replacement for larger, bulkier models when portability is important. Mini tripods are handy if you want to pose a picture from an awkward angle but need to keep the camera steady. Many of these feature bendable legs that can be twisted and wound around objects to hold the camera in place for you.

The Type of Mount Head Is Equally Important

Choosing a tripod where the head moves properly for your purposes is just as important as the factors above. Some heads use a ball and a socket so you can move it in virtually every direction. This eases movement of your camera while it is attached to the tripod. If you plan on panorama photography, using a tripod makes the whole process much easier. Although it is possible to do without one, we don't recommend it. Most tripods have markings at the point where they rotate, helping to determine how many degrees the camera is pivoting with each turn. If yours doesn't, there are several manufacturers including Kodak, Bogen and Kaidan that make special panorama tripod heads for just this purpose. In addition to having the very handy degree markings, these tripod heads are designed so that your camera rotates around a central axis, meaning the focal point of the lens remains aligned from frame to frame.

Some camera tripods have a quick release feature that lets you position your camera both forward or backwards, or to switch from taking photos on the tripod to taking pictures by hand, manually. Another option to consider is a device called a monopod. For hiking enthusiasts like us, this might be your best bet. The monopod has a single stand and can serve as a hiking pole in addition to steadying your camera.

Once you have finished a project, you can view your photographs directly on a TV through a USB DVD player without the need to burn them to a DVD. Simply plug in any compatible USB device containing your images to display them instantly on a TV screen.