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Tripod St. Louis Arch - SLR Lounge-1 Shooting Tips

How to Use a Tripod (and When)

By Michael Henson on January 24th 2015

We’ve all seen them. The professional photographer – a rare breed dressed in a safari vest with countless pockets, a fanny pack (I mean, seriously? It’s 2015!), a floppy hat, multiple camera bodies hanging from straps and belt adapters, running around the zoo or the park with their eye to the viewfinder and their camera apparently permanently fused to the tripod. It’s an intimidating sight!

If you’re anything like me, you’ve told yourself multiple times that you aren’t going to be that guy or gal. You’ll do whatever it takes to avoid being a “tripodie.” Well, let me just say, I said the same thing about a minivan and now I’m rocking one everyday. (The fact that I’ve named it the “Swagger Wagon” does nothing to raise its, or my, street cred.)

Tripod Fireworks - SLR Lounge

The truth is, I’ve come to appreciate the features it provides, much like I’ve come to appreciate my tripod. This bundle of overpriced (not really but, boy, can they get expensive) sticks has opened up possibilities that were previously impossible or resulted in substandard quality. The concept behind a tripod is incredibly simple…it holds your camera still. That’s it! But when you begin to examine the benefits of stability, the options become obvious and numerous.

[Recommended: The Best Tripods]

Stability comes into play quickly as you progress as a photographer. If you are new to photography, this might be one of the most beneficial additions to your stack o’ gear (along with a fresh copy of Photography 101). If you are an experienced photographer that hasn’t spent much money or thought about your tripod in a while, take a moment to mull it over…or check out some of our reviews to help figure out your next upgrade!

As I’ve mentioned, there are numerous benefits to using a tripod. Today, I’m going to focus on just a couple of reasons for using one – to reduce camera shake and to have the ability to increase your shutter speed.


Tripod St. Louis Arch - SLR Lounge-1

Camera Shake

If you run into a situation where you are concerned about camera shake when hand-holding your camera, use a tripod! By creating a solid platform for your camera to rest upon, you are eliminating one of the major culprits responsible for softness in your images. We’ve all been there. You get that “one” amazing shot, the white whale of photographs and you just know that it’s going to look amazing with one of the ever popular SLR Lounge Lightroom Presets (or Photoshop) printed as a 20×30 canvas wrap on the wall above the fireplace. You run home, rip your SD card gently from your camera, open the image up in the computer and feel your blood run cold as the icy grip of “image softness” wraps its long, cold fingers around your heart.

It is all too easy for us to unintentionally shake the camera as we press the shutter, catch a gust of wind on a telephoto lens, or use a lower shutter speed than advisable with a longer focal length. By making the extra effort to utilize the tools available to us, a tripod in this case, we are able to craft the image we envision with greater precision and more consistent results, and that is the goal for any photographer regardless of experience level.

Shutter Speed

Another huge benefit to the tripod is the ability it gives us to lower our shutter speeds. Whether you are shooting landscapes with a ND filter, shooting fireworks at the next celebration, or even trying to capture some moody holiday lights, understanding the creative freedom you have in regards to shutter speed is liberating. The primary issue with lowering your shutter speeds is the camera shake that inevitably follows if you are trying to hand hold the camera. Utilizing a tripod helps us avoid the blur…(Don’t forget, if a tripod isn’t available or you’re waiting on the one you just ordered to arrive, you can make some adjustments via your camera mode.)

Tripod Long Exposure - SLR Lounge-1

You’ve Convinced Me! Now what?

Well, if you haven’t already, check out a couple reviews (Oben, FotoproSirui ball head, Mefoto) to determine what options are out there and think about what features you need in your tripod. Also, consider what type of tripod head you would like. The differences between a ball head and a pan head are numerous and each has pros and cons.

If you are ready to set up and go, here are a couple pointers to keep in mind.

  • Legs – Be sure the tripod legs are stable and locked into place.
  • Level – Unless you are expressing your creativity by giving the rest of us a complex, make sure you have your tripod head set up where it’s level in either portrait or landscape view.
  • Extra weight – If you are in very windy conditions or have a lot of weight at the top (large, pro grade camera + heavy zoom lens, for example), you may want to think about hanging some weight from the center column of your tripod. This helps keep it even more stable in less than ideal scenarios.
  • Shutter release – Since you don’t have to actually hold your camera and image quality is the priority, think about picking up a shutter release. This will enable you to fire the shutter remotely via either a wired or wireless option.

And finally….

Tripod Fireworks - SLR Lounge-1

Get out there and shoot!

Get out there and SHOOT! Share your favorites with us on your favorite social media platform, like us on Facebook, and be sure to sign up for email updates to stay up to date on the latest and greatest news, reviews, and photography articles! Also, don’t forget to leave your comments below! I’d love to hear back from you!

CREDITS : Photographs by Michael  have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.


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Michael Henson is a St. Louis based photographer obsessed with everything creative. His photography interests span genres from still life to sports. When he’s not running around with his face to the camera or behind a keyboard writing, you can typically find a guitar in his hands or catch him out enjoying life with his family and friends.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. David Hall

    Great article.

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  2. John Cavan

    Good to see shutter/cable release mentioned here, a lot of people forget about that and end up negating a lot of the value of a tripod with stabbing motions on the top of their camera. However, I think one piece of advice that often gets missed is: don’t go cheap! A cheap tripod can be worse than not having one at all and yet so many people get suckered into the flimsy “consumer grade” options out there.

    Another one, while I’m thinking of it: remember to turn off any lens stabilization when on the tripod. Some systems can detect the tripod situation (I think it’s iffy, but easy enough to test), but many can’t and the result could be blur introduced by the system.

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    • Murray Severn

      I was thinking that too about the image stabilization. Been caught out a couple of times with it in low light trying to do some HDR bracketing.

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    • Murray Severn

      A tripod was always on my list, especially seeing some of the stuff my dad needed one for. Closely after that was the cable release. There are times that using a 2 sec delay is too long to capture the moment you want.

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    • Michael Henson

      Agreed! My first tripod was about $35 and was/is (still have it but rarely use it) a frustration at best. I upgraded to a Manfrotto recently (not even bear their best version) and the quality difference is ASTOUNDING! Definitely don’t skimp on a tripod…

      And, great point about image stabilization… Definitely something to keep in mind!

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  3. Ralph Hightower

    Great article! Tripods are great! I’m now on my second tripod; my first had served me well for a long while.
    I’ve used my tripods for a number of different things: fireworks, the International Space Station, Space Shuttle launch, panoramas, star photography and the moon and multi-second exposures.
    There was one time when I used a tripod to photograph fireworks that had motion, but that was because I was not on terra firma; I was on a pontoon boat and the lake waves caused the motion.
    One option for those that don’t have a remote release is to use the self-timer function.

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    • Michael Henson

      Awesome! Agreed about the self timer option… That’s a great feature if you don’t have a remote release. Thanks!

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  4. Brandon Dewey

    Great Article!

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  5. Basit Zargar

    Thanks for such a nice article.

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