Digital Photography Gear: Consider a Tripod

January 09, 2013

Digital Photography Gear: Consider a Tripod

All serious photographers need a tripod.

Beginning photographers always resist using a tripod because they’re often big and bulky and a pain to lug around; they can slow you down and using one can take some getting used to.

But when it comes to getting ultra-sharp photos, the most important thing you can do is shoot on a tripod. The pros always use a tripod, and for good reason. If your photo is out of focus, you won’t be happy with it, even if everything else about the image is perfect.
There are many different types of tripods available, in all shapes and sizes. But all tripods have the same basic design—three legs underneath a plate that attaches to your camera.

Look for the tripod that right for your camera. It should have enough mass to compensate for the weight of the camera and lens. If you shoot a DSLR, that should include weight of the camera, a sizable lens and possibly an external flash. Lightweight tripods won’t be able to keep your camera steady. This is especially true if you’ll be shooting outdoors where windy conditions can shake a flimsy tripod. Most tripods will list their maximum weight load in the tripod specs. This maximum load should be less than your heaviest camera with your longest lens and flash unit (if you have one) attached. Otherwise, your tripod may actually buckle or collapse.

And, when you’re looking at tripods, consider the legs and the leg locking mechanism as well as the number of leg segments. In general, thicker tripod legs are better able to dampen vibrations and are less prone to move in the wind. But thicker legs also translate into number of sections in a tripod leg is also something to consider. Longer, fewer leg sections will mean more stability and less time adjusting the tripod’s height. But longer legs also mean that the tripod will be a larger item to carry around when the legs are folded up. So, if you plan on doing a lot of traveling with your tripod, consider looking for a tripod with more leg sections that will fold up compactly. If compactness isn’t an issue, look for a tripod with fewer leg sections.

When shopping for a tripod, consider your height and look for a tripod that is tall enough to allow you to compose your images without stooping. And look for a tripod with either a very short center post or none at all because the center post can prevent you from being able to adjust the tripod low to the ground.

Also avoid leg braces. Leg braces are extra arms that attach to each leg of the tripod and force the tripod legs to move together. Leg braces are intended to make the tripod more stable. But they also prevent you from adjusting the legs independently and this can make it much harder to get level on uneven ground. So you’re generally better off without leg braces.




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