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How To Use a Tripod

By , Saturday 9th January 2016 in Tutorials

Image stabilisation features in lenses and improved high ISO performance in cameras, have transformed the possibilities of taking pictures in low light, but the steady base of a tripod is your best choice when it comes to exploring the creative possibilities of slow shutter speeds and low light.

Here are some quick tips on using a tripod effectively, as well as some features you'll want to look at when choosing the best tripod for your needs. Use these tips to set up your tripod and you'll get sharp results.

Setting up the Tripod

It may seem like a simple procedure, but it's surprising how many people get it wrong.

You should use the top sections first. Do not extend the thin flimsy lower sections until all the top sections have been extended. The top sections are more stable and less prone to vibration and flex. You should also avoid using the central column as much as possible, especially in windy conditions, as it is the least stable part of the tripod. Instead, be sure to extend the legs as far as they will go before using the central column. You can hang your camera bag from the central column to aid stability.

The images below illustrate the worst possible way of setting up a tripod, and the best, most stable method.

How not to use a tripod
How not to use a tripod
Ultra Stable Tripod Position
Ultra Stable Tripod Position

When moving the tripod around between shots, remove your camera! Too many times I've seen people with expensive cameras and large lenses nearly fall off the mount, or become overbalanced during transportation. Please remove your camera and store it safely!

Features to look out for

Extendible legs

Ultra Stable Tripod Position
Ultra Stable Tripod Position
Unless you are solely using the tripod for indoor work or on perfectly level surfaces, you'll definitely need adjustable extendible legs. These allow you to adjust the length of each leg allowing for level shots. They can also be used on steep slopes and even stairs while remaining stable.

 

Low level macro

Macro Tripod
Macro Tripod
If you're looking for macro tripods, you'll need a tripod that has a removable central pole and over extensible legs. This allows the tripod to go down to around 30cm and be rock solid stable. On some models you can also reverse the central column, so that the camera is suspended below the tripod allowing you to get right the way down to ground level.

Some Tripods Allow Ultra Low Positions
Some Tripods Allow Ultra Low Positions
For ultra low shots, some tripods feature a removable central column which can be inverted to lower the camera under the tripod allowing for almost ground level shots.

Choice of Heads

Interchangeable heads allow for multiple uses
Interchangeable heads allow for multiple uses
Some of the mid-high end tripods feature interchangeable heads for different uses. These heads range from a simple pan and tilt, to gimbal or even altitude/azimuth. Each of these provides a different method for positioning and directing the camera and varying levels of control and ease of use.

 

Foam Grips

Foam grips for comfort
Foam grips for comfort
It may not seem obvious, but the foam grips serve two purposes. Firstly they provide a non-slip surface to grip when moving the tripod or carrying it, but the foam is also warm! On cold frosty or snowy days the metal construction of the legs will get very cold to the touch!

Are you looking to use the tripod on extended treks? If soyou would be better off looking at some of the light weight carbon composite models as some of the mid-range models can be quite heavy.

 

Waterproof

If you may be using your tripod in water, consider how waterproof the leg construction is. Can water get inside the tubes and fill up? Can it drain out easy enough afterwards?

 

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About the Author

Tim Trott

Tim is a professional software engineer, designer, photographer and astronomer from the United Kingdom. You can follow him on Twitter to get the latest updates.

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