Tripods are heavy, expensive and often time consuming to setup. Are they essential to me? Do I really need a tripod for photography?
A tripod is often a very essential piece of your gear. If you have the means to carry one you should always try to. Sometimes you may find you can can get away without using a tripod for photography but it will limit your capabilities and shot choice options.
Whether you want more stability or the opportunity to shoot panoramas and long exposures. We have put together 10 reasons why you should think about carrying a tripod in your photography life.
1) Slowing the Shutter Down
Long exposure shots are so stunning and unique, when done correctly. However, unless you have the steadiest hand on the planet then you are going to need to mount onto a support. You can’t always know when you are going to run into a flowing stream or a busy side street and want to capture the movement.
It is also great to slow your shutter down when using a low key photography technique. The results can be amazing. Read more about that here.
2) Panoramic Shots
Even if you have a super wide-angle lens it’s hard to match the detail that you can capture in a nice panoramic shot. We recommend usually stitching together 5-10 images for panoramic shots. Remember you can afford to fill each frame more to get close details and contrasts. You can afford cut of a portion of a building or landscape if you know you will be panning to it in your sequence of shots.
You need a tripod for photography panoramic shots because it will keep the horizon straight. Most decent tripods nowadays have a very smooth 360-degree rotation so panoramic shots are a lot easier to put together.
Any good editing software will have the ability to stitch together your sequence of shots.
If you are out shooting a variety of images try to remember where your panoramas lie in the midst of your shots. We always suggest taking a picture of your hand right before you shoot a panorama and again right after. This makes the shots quickly detectible when you upload them to your computer to edit.
3) Telephoto Lens
When you pick up a large telephoto you can see why you need a tripod to support the weight. The large zoom will magnify even the slightest of camera shakes (down to even a couple of millimetres). Often they have a slow maximum aperture so you need to bring the shutter speed down to compensate. This will result in an even higher likelihood of camera shake.
4) Time-Lapse Photography
Even when the scenery isn’t great sometimes something incredible is going on. Whether the clouds are dancing or the sun is dropping below the horizon, time-lapse videos give a real sense of how powerful the earth can be at times. Most time-lapse videos consist of over 150 images and so obviously you need a tripod to keep everything in the frame in exactly the same place.
Try to keep the time between images below 30 seconds to avoid a lagging effect in your video. Final Cut Pro is great processing software for creating a time-lapse.
5) Shooting The Stars
If you want to shoot stars as they appear in the night sky you need to watch the shutter speed. There is a fine balance in letting enough light in and preventing stars blurring in the movement. Any shutter speed slower than 25 seconds will start to show the movement of the stars. Obviously a shutter speed of around 25 seconds warrants using a tripod.
When shooting the stars you actually want a really wide aperture to let in as much light as possible. A great go to setting for still stars would be 25 second exposure, f/2.8, ISO 1600. Then you just need to get that focus right.
Star trails are effectively time-lapse shots of the stars. As the night progresses the stars move around the earth and their movement can be captured in a photograph. A tripod is essential for this as even the slightest movement can cause the stars to ‘shake’.
If you are using a DSLR with a mirror up feature we would also enable this to reduce shake even more. Set your aperture to the highest possible (lowest f-stop), ideally f2.8 or higher, and set the ISO no higher than 3200.
You should be usually taking 400+ photos for a detailed star trail. This will really show the stars moving around the poles. Set your shutter speed to 15 seconds and the interval timer to 15 seconds so that once one photo is taken another one is taken immediately after. That way there is little to no gaps between the star movements in your shots. It will make for a very smooth and clear trails in your finished frame.
StarStaX is a great online stacker tool that effectively layers all your images on top of each other for a final outcome.
6) Macro Shots
The closer you can get to your subject, without camera shake, the better. It is all about details in macro shots. If you use a tripod for macro photography you can really get set up and take your time. You can close in on those fine details of a flower or patiently wait for that bird to land into your frame.
7) Sporting Events
To capture movement in sports you want to be panning your camera. Having a tripod adds fluidity to your shots. You can start to capture the speed of a racecar or the vastness of a football pitch. The tripod also comes in very handy when shooting videos aswell.
Of course you need to be sensible where and when you set up your tripod at sports venues. You do not want to obstruct to intrude on peoples views. You could argue that a sporting event is also a great place to not use a tripod.
8) To Hold Accessories
Tripods don’t just hold cameras. They can mount camcorders, flashes, remote triggers, lights, reflectors, filters and more. The list is endless.
Having a tripod for photography opens up so many opportunities for you and you can really start to manipulate lighting more by adding new accessories. This will become invaluable as you start to shoot headshots and portrait shots.
9) You Can Finally Be In The Photo
You can set a timer on your photo and go and get yourself in the image. Just like that you have yourself a new profile picture or a perfect family portrait.
10) Slow Things Down
This is definitely a good thing if you have the time. You can plan your frame and test lots of different settings. You can sit back and look at your surroundings whilst also taking the image. So many photographers tend to take their surroundings for granted. Slowing things down can really help you to soak up the atmosphere and appreciate where you are.
Take the time to get all your settings right and make sure your white balance is perfect for the mood you want to capture.
If your tripod is really light and you that it might shake or even blow over, add some weight to it. Bring a cord and hang your backpack/camera bag from the center column as a weight. Make sure it’s touching the ground so it’s not swinging. This way you can carry a light tripod but still have stability.