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Guide to Tripods - What is a Tripod and How Do You Use It?

May 19, 2021

Guide to Tripods - What is a Tripod and How Do You Use It?

If you’ve never used one, you might assume that camera tripods are awkward, heavy, and only meant for pros, but that’s not true. 

Tripods have come a long way in the last few decades with lightweight and affordable models that offer terrific results. 

Tripods all have three legs and a part where the camera attaches, but there are many brands, styles, variations, and price points. Most modern tripods are made of aluminum or carbon fiber, although some are still made of wood. Wood doesn’t fold to a compact size like the other materials, so it’s better suited for photo studios. 

What is a Tripod Used For? 

Whether you’re a professional or amateur photographer, tripods are an essential tool for improving the technical quality of your images. In low-light situations, it’s nearly impossible to prevent some blurriness with a handheld camera. For once-in-a-lifetime situations, why risk it when a tripod could have saved your shot? Taking the time to set up the tripod position also encourages thinking beyond a standard grab and shoot, resulting in more creative photos. 

A Versatile Tool for Film and Digital Photography 

A tripod stand is a versatile tool for both film and digital photography. Three-legged tripods offer the necessary steadying effect for slow shutter speeds that human legs can’t provide. You’ve never heard of a two-legged tripod for good reason! Even so, there are many photographers who use expensive cameras with huge telephoto lenses, try to shoot by hand and then wonder why the results are mediocre at best. Although digital photography and smartphone camera technology have significantly improved the ability to take decent photos, a good tripod can still spell the difference between a fuzzy image and a sharp, beautiful one. 

10 Reasons to Use a Tripod 

  • Increase sharpness and depth of field
  • Support long telephoto lenses
  • Improve overall image quality
  • Enable better framing of the shot
  • Take nighttime shots
  • Shoot panoramic landscapes
  • Enable self-portraits with a camera timer
  • Take extreme close-ups (e.g. flowers, insects, etc.)
  • Capture difficult or impossible angles
  • Shoot vibration- and blurry-free photos and videos 

How to Use a Tripod 

The first step is to learn about the parts that make up a tripod. All models have a center column and three legs with some type of locking mechanism that enables lowering and raising the tripod to an appropriate height for your shot. Most tripods also offer the ability to adjust the spread of the legs for varying situations that call for different heights (e.g. tight spaces). At the end of each leg is a foot for added stability, and on some models, this is interchangeable. 

The tripod head is where you attach the camera. This typically comes standard with three-way or pan-and-tilt capabilities. You simply twist one of the arms to loosen it, reposition the head to the desired angle, and then tighten it to lock it. Other models come with a ball-head, featuring one control that loosens or tightens the head to the desired angle. 

How to Put a Camera on a Tripod 

Once you place the tripod in the desired position, adjust the height, and ensure it is level, you can mount your camera. Attach the camera to the tripod’s mounting socket. Depending on the type of tripod, the camera may screw directly onto the tripod. If not, you will need to clamp it into place or tighten screws to ensure it is securely attached to the tripod. If you’re using a smartphone, you’ll need to purchase a special mounting bracket to attach it to the tripod. 

Buy a Tripod for Your Unique Photography Needs 

Just like other photography accessories, doing a little research can help you find the best tripod to fit your needs and budget. While you can buy a perfectly adequate tripod for about $50, price alone isn’t the only factor to look at. If you’re only going to use it now and then, a lower-end model will suffice, but if you want to capture exquisite portraits or wildlife photos, you might need to spend more. You can always read online reviews from trusted professional photography sites to help inform your decision.

If you already have some photos that you need scanned and converted to a digital medium, take a look at our photo scanning services

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