By the end of this article you will know 10 ways of how to use a tripod to improve your photography and you should see why you need a tripod in your essential kit!
1. Take amazing night photography and destroy the limits of low light situations.
In situations like at night or at sunset there is less available natural light in the environment.
In times like these you could find yourself needing a very low shutter speed to ensure you don’t rely on ISO too much and end up with too much digital noise.
Now how do you solve this? Well, if you know about the shutter speed rule, you will know that you want to stick to the reciprocal rule to avoid camera shake to ensure sharper images.
What is Shutter Speed ? - Photography Pursuits
What if you need a slower shutter speed to allow more light, because you don’t want your ISO to go any higher?
THIS is where a tripod is a godsend. Compose your photo using a tripod. Set your shutter speed to whatever is needed, say for example you need a 2 second shutter speed.
Take the shot by either pressing the shutter or using a remote shutter release for even better stability. And there you have it: a well exposed image with enough light minus any camera shake from trying to take it handheld.
This can really apply to any situation with low light. Perhaps it’s the middle of the day but you’re in a room with low natural or artificial light and you really need more light.
The tripod will save you.
2. Relax and enjoy a better nature photography experience.
When doing nature photography you are out in the elements seeking for that next National Geographic level image. This not only takes hard work in finding the perfect location,
but also patience…
Some top class nature photographers will be waiting in one spot for HOURS or perhaps even revisiting the same spot for days on end, all just to get the perfect shot.
So how does a tripod help?
You’re on a hike and you come to a spot with a perfect shot of the landscape in front of you but the clouds just don’t look right…
…but you can see there is a break in the clouds further in the distance and the clouds are moving in the right direction. Simply set up your composition for the landscape. Place the tripod and get your exposure right. Take a seat and wait.
Have a hot beverage from your flask and sit comfortably as your tripod waits for the right moment. As soon as the break in the clouds appear you can simply press the shutter or use your remote shutter and there you have it.
You’ve got your perfect shot and you didn’t have to stand there holding the camera for hours. And you didn’t miss the shot because you didn’t have to reset. Sometimes you may have to adjust the exposure slightly but for the most part you are ready and waiting.
You can use a similar example if you are waiting for a rare animal to appear in shot. Perhaps a leopard or a specific bird that is known to appear in a certain spot. You get the idea.
3. Capture the best light trails at ease.
Ever seen those pictures where you have a cityscape and you see awesome light trails of cars driving past. All set in a scene with grand buildings behind them perfectly in focus.
You can accomplish that with a tripod. We all know that if your shutter speed is too slow and you have a moving object the picture ends up showing a blurry image of the object due to motion blur.
We can apply this concept to light trails.
Say you have a building or a road that you like the look of and you want to capture light trails zooming through that road. This is how you do it…
… first you compose your shot as required.
Then try to plan where and when any traffic comes through. This is because you will use the traffic as your light source for trails. You can use traffic lights as an indicator for timings.
Now you set a long shutter speed.This will depend on the speed and volume of the traffic coming past but I would normally start at longer than 5 seconds at least. Otherwise you probably won’t catch much light to show off the trails. As well as this you need enough light to expose the buildings in the settings and the slower shutter helps with this.
When you expect the traffic to pass by the shot you press the shutter and see what you come up with. Since the cars are moving and you have such a long shutter speed you don’t see the body of the cars but just the vibrant light emitted by their headlights/rear lights. On the other hand since all of the buildings are stationary it doesn’t matter that you have a long shutter speed. You still have them in perfect focus since you have a tripod and there is no camera shake.
Bonus tip: how to light paint with your smartphone.
You can practice this technique using your smartphone. Turn your flashlight on on your smartphone or even use the screen as a light . Set your tripod up and set your shutter speed for a few seconds. Release the shutter. Starting ‘painting’ with light from your smartphone in the air- basically just wave the light around in the air in any shape you see fit. See the results and keep repeating and adjusting your technique until you get the hang of it.
4. Take amazing self portraits and don’t rely on an amateur
Let’s be honest, we’ve all been in that situation where you think you really want a picture of yourself in a certain location but you don’t trust any of your friends to take a good enough picture how you want it!
A tripod solves this. With a tripod you can set up the shot perfectly to your liking. Frame it how you want. You can even use your friends as models to set it up if it is a group picture and you are with them. Set the exposure right and maybe take a test shot.
Then you simply get into shot and use a remote shutter release. This could be a remote shutter release of any type; luckily most modern cameras now have an app for your smartphone which you can use.
No more self timer scrambles where you have to run into shot and get ready before it releases!
5. Create better artificial lighting for your subject
If you shoot with a tripod you can free up yourself to control the scene more freely. Perhaps you’re shooting a subject and you know that you need to place a reflector or light in a certain position, but you need someone to hold it but there’s only you there.
The tripod doesn’t need to be held since you can use a remote shutter release and you can place yourself in the right position to manipulate the light how you want.
This is a great addition and can make your workflow so much better since you don’t have to set up a rig and clamp things in place after every shot if you want to change up the lighting.
Flexibility is king and not only makes you faster but makes the process more enjoyable too since you’re not messing about with moving things around all the time. This leaves you to focus more on the images.
BONUS POINT: The tripod also lets you compose your scene however you want. Maybe you need to move a distraction out of the scene or adjust someone’s hair. By having a set position for your camera on the tripod you can adjust the scene while controlling the composition.
6. Take killer time lapses with ease.
You might have seen beautiful time lapses of sunsets and sunrises before and wondered how someone can sit in one spot for so long to be able to do that. A tripod is how.
Set up your shot. Set up your intervals for your time lapse with the shutter release system that you’re using. Start and go make a cup of tea. Come back when you’ve shot for the right amount of time and you’re done.
7. Fix camera shake on that telephoto lens.
If you are unsure what a telephoto lens is, they are lenses where the focal length is longer than the actual length of the lens itself. These lenses are used for longer reach and to magnify subjects that are far away. A general minimum focal length for telephoto lenses is about 80mm. These lenses also tend to be very long and bulky compared to a wide angle lense like a 24mm.
Because they are longer lenses, camera shake is also a lot more evident in any pictures so having a sturdy camera is very important. A mathematical way to look at this is by using the shutter speed rule which we explain in this blog post.
Basically your shutter speed should be 1/focal length. So if you have a telephoto lens that is 300mm then you would want your shutter speed at 1/300 at least if you are shooting hand held. Now, in some cases this can be impossible if there is not enough available light. This is where a tripod is valuable.
But it’s not just for camera shake. Telephoto lenses can be quite bulky and heavy. In these situations placing a tripod down can take a big weight off of yourself, especially when you are not shooting since the tripod will just hold the weight.
8. Get pin sharp macro photography shots.
Macro photography is the art of shooting very close up shots of a subject . The closer you are to a subject the more visible any camera shake is. Now if you are shooting handheld then there’s the possibility of camera shake.
At the same time when you are shooting macro you may have a very thin depth of field to just get the subject in the photo, so any slight movement of your hands might ruin the picture you are trying to achieve.
Tackle both of these issues by using a tripod to free the camera’s position. Depending on the subject you could move it into the exact correct position for the perfect image. With everything set up, just use your remote shutter and take that perfectly composed picture
9. Take impossible shots by using the skill of focus stacking
Focus stacking lets you stitch together more than one image to create one final image.
Have you ever had a photo where the exposure is perfect but the depth of field means you only get a certain amount of things in focus? This can be limiting because you may have subjects that are just outside the field of focus.
You can solve this using focus stacking
You place your tripod. Set your exposure. Take an initial picture.
Then adjust your field of focus with the same composition and exposure settings to get what else you want in focus instead.
Then you have 2 photos with 2 different fields of focus.
Now you use some editing magic. Use Photoshop to mask whatever you want into focus from these pictures.
Focus stacking works best when the subject or scene is not very mobile and the exposure isn’t changing quickly.
Another way to use this is to simply add different elements into the photos by taking a few different versions. For example you may take a base photo to expose the subject then take another shot with a bright light or reflection on the corner of the subject. Then composite these two photos together using the base as the main image and only brushing in the highlight that you created on your second image.
Hopefully you can now see how useful a tripod can be as part of your kit!
We hope you found this helpful! As always we appreciate your time for reading this.
– Photography Pursuits Team