- 2013 Photographer's Market: The Most Trusted Guide to Selling Your Photography
- Best Business Practices for Photographers
- The Fast Track Photographer Business Plan: Build a Successful Photography Venture from the Ground Up
- Group Portrait Photography Handbook
- The Best of Family Portrait Photography: Professional Techniques and Images
- 500 Poses for Photographing Group PortraitsSelling Your Photography: How to Make Money in New and Traditional Markets
- Starting Your Career as a Freelance Photographer
- Photographer's Survival Manual: A Legal Guide for Artists in the Digital Age
- Legal Handbook for Photographers: The Rights and Liabilities of Making Images
- Taking Stock: Make money in microstock creating photos that sell
- Going Pro: How to Make the Leap from Aspiring to Professional Photographer
When looking through a photography magazine, you'll often see the name of the tripod and tripod head listed in a caption below the photograph along with the information about the camera and exif data. Though many photographers may think of a tripod as just a tripod, there are two separate elements. The tripod head is often detachable and can be replaced by a different style head. Each style is designed for a different purpose and each photographer has their own preference. If you've never tried another type of head before, you may be surprised to find what others have to offer.
Ball and Socket
For easy and quick control, a ball head is your best bet. In one fluid motion you can pan, tilt, and flip the camera into just about any orientation. Some have knobs that allow precise adjustments and let you control the dampening of the head to work best with your camera setup. Others have a grip that you can simply pull to adjust and release to lock. One major concern with this type of head is weight limit. They are not particularly good at handling a large load, and if you put too much gear on it, you might find your ball head creeping a little bit as it struggles with the weight. More expensive ball heads will be able to handle heavier loads, but only to a certain extent.
Pan and Tilt
This is the most common type of tripod head. With this head you can tilt the camera up and down and pan the camera left and right with a small lever. There are two-way heads and three-way heads. A two-way head just lets you pan and tilt, but a three-way head lets you flip the camera from a horizontal position to vertical position and vice versa. These heads are usually very affordable, but like any other type of camera gear, there are more expensive varieties.
These heads are designed specifically for heavy telephoto lenses. They are made to handle the weight of your camera setup by balancing it on the tripod collar of the lens. Mounted correctly, the camera and lens should sit almost weightlessly on the gimball head. You still have control over the horizontal and vertical axes, and you can even adjust the tension for each independently to give you the smoothest panning and tilting ability. These can get very expensive but are definitely worth it if you are shooting with a large telephoto lens.
Geared heads are much less common, and many photographers may have never even heard of this style. There are fewer varieties, and you will not often find people using these in the field. Geared heads are designed for precision and make use of several knobs to allow you to fine-tune your framing. But what you gain in control, you lose in speed. These are typically used for medium and large format cameras, but can be used with others. Because of they are engineered for precision, they often go for more than your typical tripod head.
Very similar to pan and tilt heads, a fluid head uses a miniature liquid hydraulic system to enable smooth panning and tilting. This is typically used for video as it avoids jerky movements made by the camera operator. The resistance the head provides is adjustable, which allows for ultimate control over the speed and smoothness of panning and tilting. As these are more elaborate than your typical pan and tilt heads, they are also more expensive.
Written by Spencer Seastrom