What's the purpose of a tripod? For most camera owners, the answer to that question is to gain the ability to take a family photo.
We all know the classic example. There's a camera on a tripod and the camera user has to hit the shutter release button and sprint over to the group of people in the shot, pose, smile and hope the camera doesn't go off before they get into place.
If you've kept up on reading my posts you should know that there are more uses for tripods than just a family photo.
Why is owning a good tripod important?
Image quality is paramount to professional photographers, and if you want your images to turn out really well the same standards of quality should apply to your photography, too — owning a sturdy tripod can help.
Let me use another example to explain. You're outside during a warm summer evening (I'm thinking really warm, people — summer can't come soon enough) and the sun is just touching the horizon. The sun's departure from the skies means less light and a slower shutter speed. Your subjects, two children have been eerily well-behaved throughout the shoot (they can be your kids or someone else's; whatever fits the example best).
The lack of light is becoming a concern now because you're having to resort to shutter speeds that are as slow as 1/15th of a second or worse.
Uh, oh. That's not good, especially when hand-holding a camera.
Here's where owning a good tripod comes in handy. By placing your camera on a tripod, you remove any chances for camera shake caused by your surprisingly shaky hands — let's face it, even your own heartbeat can betray your photos at times.
So, tripod in hand, you attach your camera to it and place it on a firm patch of ground. Once focused in on the kids, you ask that they stand very still (because their movement can also affect the photograph) and click, you take a test shot.
There’s one problem though ... the tripod you own is a $10 catastrophe you purchased at your local grocery store.
Can I get another "uh, oh?"
When you pull the image up on the camera's LCD screen to review it, you zoom in on the kid's faces and see that there's just a touch of motion blur.
For most people, this isn't as big of a deal, but if you're as picky as me, you'll want every detail to be in focus and clear.
In the example you owned a tripod, but it was a cheap one and not very sturdy. As you pushed down on the shutter release button the tripod shifted backward and as the photo was being taken it shifted back forward slightly. The tripod didn't move very much, but it was enough to destroy image quality.
A sturdy tripod is well-constructed with tight clamps and a good camera mount
I own two tripods. Both tripods are made by the company Manfrotto and they've been very useful as tripods go. The first tripod is made out of aluminum and has a tripod head that has two methods of movement — horizontal movement for back and forth panning and vertical movement for moving the camera up and down. This kind of tripod is great for video production too.
This tripod is moderately heavy and that helps keep it sturdy on the ground, but it's not so heavy that I can't carry it around. The best part was that it was less than $100 and it will last for years.
My other tripod has a ball head and that means that I can move it in any direction. It is constructed with carbon fiber so it is very light and very sturdy. I purchased this tripod during a sale and it's original worth was well over $300, but I got it for just over $100. I'm not a bargain hunter, but that sounded pretty good to me.
Owning a good tripod is really important when shooting at slower shutter speeds and it's especially important if you want to shoot at shutter speeds longer than a second. Night sky photography is a prime example.
There are more uses for a tripod than just night photography though. You can take a self portrait by using a remote shutter while your camera is on a tripod. You also can use a tripod to shoot sports photography by following players as they run parallel to you. Doing so with a slow shutter speed can create a nice blurred background while your subject stays in focus.
Even shutter speeds that are faster than 1/100th of a second can introduce motion blur on a pixel level (if you want to be that picky) while hand-holding the camera. Using a tripod further removes the element of you. No shaky hands, no problem.
Whenever I teach people about photography and the subject of tripods come up, I always encourage them to look for a good deal because owning a cheap tripod nearly always will negatively affect your images. A good tripod for under $100 can easily beat up a cheap $10 tripod.
No, really: You can actually destroy one of the cheaper ones with a good one. I've seen things, people ...
Have a good week!