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A tripod is one of the best purchases that you can make as a photographer.
It can improve your photos in an incredible variety of ways...
Of course, like most photography equipment, not all tripods are made alike, so you need to be sure that the tripod you invest in is one that's high-quality and durable, so it'll last you for years to come.
In this article, I offer up a number of reasons why a tripod is something that every photographer - even brand new beginners - should have in their kit.
Tripods are Necessary for Landscape Photography
When I started out in photography years and years ago, I insisted on shooting handheld virtually all the time.
I felt as though I had more freedom not shooting with a tripod. Not to mention, I felt that I could move faster, take more photos, and get to more locations by shooting handheld.
The problem with that approach is that my photos looked like I was working fast.
Some were blurry because the shutter speed was a little too slow for handheld shooting. Other photos lacked the proper composition because I was in a hurry. Yet others weren't sharp as a consequence of having to keep the shutter speed higher and using a larger aperture, which diminished the depth of field.
The moral of the story is that though it is a little more work to use a tripod when you're photographing landscapes, that extra 20 seconds to set up the tripod will do your photos a ton of good.
When to Use a Tripod: Long Exposures
If you ask me, one of the most creative types of photography is long exposure.
But you can't achieve the beautifully blurred effects like you see above if you're holding the camera in your hands.
Instead, you need a good, solid tripod to keep your camera absolutely still while the shutter is open.
That will ensure that everything that's not moving in the shot will appear crystal clear and whatever is moving will be nicely blurred.
When looking for a tripod, it's advantageous to buy one that has a hook on the bottom of the center column.
If you look closely at the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 Tripod above, you can see a small metal hook at the base of the center column.
This allows you to add weight to the tripod (i.e., your camera bag) to help act as ballast if the wind kicks up.
By pulling the tripod down toward the ground, it offers your camera that much more stability for the best long exposure images.
Why Use a Tripod: Compensate for Low Light
Related to the previous point, using a tripod allows you to extend the shutter speed to compensate for low light, but without the image suffering from camera shake that occurs when it's handheld.
Additionally, by extending the shutter speed, you don't have to use a larger aperture (which reduces the depth of field) or increase the ISO (which results in graininess appearing in the image).
Granted, if there's movement in the scene, the slower shutter speed will result in blurred movement as discussed above...
So, the solution is to use a tripod, slow the shutter speed down as much as you can without introducing blurred movement, and then open the aperture and increase the ISO as little as possible to get a well-exposed image in low light.
Why You Need a Tripod: It Improves the Composition
Earlier, I noted how back in the day a lot of my landscape photos were rushed, and because of that, they looked rushed.
But guess what?
When I started using a tripod, something happened - my compositions improved.
That's because a tripod makes you slow down a little bit, so rather than firing away with your camera, you have to take a few seconds to actually survey the area to see what shot would be the best.
Now, this doesn't mean that you need to take 10 minutes to compose every shot, because if you do, you'll likely miss a lot of photo opportunities!
Instead, just take 30 seconds to look around as you setup your tripod. Look at the scene, survey the light, look for foreground elements to add interest to your photo, and so on.
Trust me - slowing things down a little bit will do your photos a world of good!
Besides, if you get a tripod like the Vanguard VEO 2 235 AB Tripod shown above, you can set it up in about 15-20 seconds thanks to its quick-lock twist leg locks.
That means that you get the best of both worlds - you can set up quickly and have a solid, stable base for your camera, but because the VEO 2 235 AB is so easy to setup, you don't need a ton of time that would otherwise take away from getting the shots that you want.
Wrapping It Up
There are many, many more reasons why you need a tripod, from shooting video or HDR still images to astrophotography and taking self-portraits.
In fact, there's too many reasons to have a tripod to continue shooting without one! So if you're asking yourself, "Do I need a tripod?" the answer is an emphatic YES.
Just beware that not all tripods offer the same level of performance or amenities, so choose wisely when you're shopping.
I've shot with Vanguard tripods for years, and I can tell you firsthand that they make the process of taking photos - be it landscapes, portraits, or something in between - so much easier, and with better results!