Tripod trio

Debbie asks: “Time to invest in a really good tripod. What is your favorite and why? I have a 7D and with my new lens 70- 200 my current tripod makes me nervous: time to get a heavy duty one. But I’m also looking for a light on that I can carry.”

Good question.

There are basically three types of tripod.

The first is light and cheap and basically disposable. These cost around $50, are made out of plastic, so not provide good mounts or stability but nevertheless can be a good option when traveling and expecting to perhaps lose the tripod.

The second option is the heavy, big, sturdy, tough tripod. Usually made out of steel, these cost in the range of $200, and will last forever, and they are solid, have a hook for sandbags, etc. The problem is that these tripods are heavy, and therefore more for studio than for outdoors or travel use.

Then the option you may want to look at: a good carbon fibre tripod. These are as sturdy as the steel tripods, but weigh less. A great option for frequent use, travel use, and location use. Manfrotto and other top brands make these: expect to pay up to $1,000 or more, but they will last you forever. I have recently seen Chinese carbon tripods for around $300: they may be an option but beware, they may or may not be quite as sturdy.

Whatever you get: get a good tripod. Pictures a simply better, sharper, clearer. Not just the very long exposures! When people say ” I don’t need one”… I’m not so sure!

Don’t forget to think carefully about the head. I prefer ball heads but there are many options. Try the mechanism, see how easy it is to handle, how it handles vertical shots, etc. You may also want to make sure your tripod has a hook for sandbags or other weights.

And finally, when you cannot take or use a tripod, consider a good monopod. These too can be worth their weight in gold.

Have fun… Invest, and enjoy the shake free results.

Tripod Tips

Some photographers need tripods. Like landscape photographers. Or, in fact, like almost any photographers. If you think you can consistently produce sharp work handheld, you are mistaken.

So how do you produce good shots using a tripod?

  • When possible, use low ISO. A night shot, for example, is dark, but when using a tripod you have the luxury of being able to use long shutter speeds, so you do not need high ISO. High ISO gives noise.
  • Use the camera’s timer release. So that your finger pressing the shutter does not cause slight motion.
  • Weigh down the tripod if you can, so it is stable.
  • Put the camera as close as you can to the point where the three legs get together.
  • Use a ball head to hold the camera.

You’ll see, a tripod makes a major difference.

Shake-free trick

You all know that when you take handheld pictures at low shutter speeds (like 1/15th second on a 35mm lens) you do not get sharp pictures like this:


Actually. you can. I took that picture hand-held – holding the camera with only one hand! – at those very settings. And no, the lens is not a “VR” (Nikon) or “IS” (Canon) stabilized type.

So how did I do this? Other than of course having a rock-stead hand?

Just kidding about the hand. Here’s the first five pictures I took:






So how many sharp ones? One in five, and for me, that’s about what I get when I handhold the camera in one hand at half the lens length.

The point, of course, is that even with bad conditions like that, you’ll still get the odd accidentally sharp picture. If you need the picture to be sharp, shoot a lot. Click-click-click-click-click-click. It’s OK – sometimes you have to do it without a tripod even though you should be using one (and you know it!), and you’ll still get the odd sharp pictures even then.

(I’ll tell no-one if you don’t.)