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I don't know about you, but when I take portraits, I seldom use a tripod.
And while certain situations call for shooting handheld, there's plenty of others in which I should have a tripod under my camera.
In this quick tutorial, you'll learn how to get better portraits by simply using a tripod.
Editor's Note: I use Sirui tripods as examples in this article. As a Sirui customer and owner of a Sirui W-2204 tripod, I know first hand that their tripods are well-built, feature-rich, and durable.
Portrait Photography Tip: Add the Element of Long Exposure With a Tripod
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If you ask me, portraits that include indicated motion like blurred clouds or waves have that element of uniqueness that make the images stand out.
But you can't use a long exposure unless you have a tripod...
But by mounting your camera on a tripod, you can extend the shutter speed as long as you want (or as long as your portrait subject can hold still).
To get movement in the shot, slow the shutter down to about 1/2 seconds. If the movement isn't to your liking, continue slowing the shutter to one second, two seconds, and so on until you get the desired look.
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In addition to being able to slow down the shutter, using a tripod like my waterproof Sirui W-2204 allows you to get in the water without worry of what it'll do to your gear.
In my case, I like to set up my tripod on the beach as the tide is coming in, but with the waterproof construction, you can take a tripod like this into the middle of a stream and be totally fine as well.
If you set up your tripod in water, be sure to add weight to the center column hook to act as ballast. Though well-made tripods like my Sirui are supremely stable, it doesn't hurt to add a little extra weight to ensure the tripod won't go anywhere.
Get a Tripod That's Tall Enough
This seems like a no-brainer, but your tripod needs to be tall enough for you to use without having to bend over to see through the viewfinder.
Sirui and other leading tripod manufacturers offer tons of tripods of varying heights.
Not only that, tripods often have center columns that give you even more height, that way you can customize your experience of using the tripod a little further.
For example, Sirui's new SR-Series tripods have a two-stage center column that brings the total height of the tripod to 80 inches.
If you don't need quite that much height, these SR-Series tripods reach 59 inches on their own, with plenty of adjustments to the height available by adjusting the legs.
It's also a good idea to have a tripod that can accommodate very low shooting angles as well.
Though not typical, there might be an occasion when you want to shoot a low-angle portrait looking up at the subject.
More commonly, you might want to get on the eye level of a child or even a toddler, and with a tripod like the Sirui SR-Series, you can do just that.
In fact, these tripods can get as low as a 5.5 inches off the ground for some truly interesting compositions.
Editor's Tip: Are you looking for the ultimate tripod for your portrait photography? Learn about some of the best tripods on the market right here.
Use a Ball Head With Your Tripod
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Learning how to get better portraits requires, in part, having the right portrait photography gear.
In addition to utilizing a tripod, it's a good idea to also have a ball head at your disposal.
Ball heads get their name because their movement is enabled by a ball and socket joint.
Usually, ball heads have one or two knobs for locking them in place, which makes it extremely simple to adjust the positioning of the camera when you need to make changes.
When looking for a ball head, there are certain features you want to be sure it has.
For starters, big, chunky knobs as seen on the Sirui K-30X Ball Head shown above are nice because you can easily find your grip on the knob, even if you've got your eye to the camera's viewfinder.
Secondly, having a built-in bubble level is nice for getting straight horizons when shooting outdoors.
Finally, a quick-release plate is a must as it allows you to quickly and easily mount your camera to the ball head and remove it as needed. That helps facilitate changes between handheld shooting and shooting with a tripod.
Using this and the other tips outlined above, you will more easily be able to get high-quality portraits!