- General purpose tripods
- Travel tripods
- Table top tripods
- Video tripods
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Sooner or later, a beginner photographer is going to ask the question, “Should I use a tripod?” The inevitable answer to that question then leads to the next question, “What is a good tripod for me to buy?” And finally, “How do I use this tripod?”
Among the top tripods of 2019 and early 2020 is a tripod or two that will work for you. When looking for the best tripods for current cameras, there will be some things in common for DSLR users and for mirrorless users, and there will be some different considerations as well.
Likewise for the various types of photographers. A nature photographer may have different criteria than a portrait photographer, but there is also a whole lot of overlap.
Use a Tripod for Image Sharpness
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A good tripod, used properly, will improve the final results for photographers in many situations.
One of the biggest reasons for using a tripod is image sharpness. Anything from slow shutter speeds to heavy lenses can negatively affect image sharpness due to movement. Using a good tripod eliminates camera movement, one of the more common reasons for unsharp images.
Use a Tripod for Special Techniques and Effects
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Other reasons for using a tripod are related to some of the special effects available from modern digital cameras. HDR and panoramic photography both rely on tripods for the best results.
Portraits are another excellent reason to use a tripod. For instance, if you are attempting to employ classic lighting techniques such as Rembrandt lighting or butterfly lighting, having your camera on a tripod makes it easier to set up and makes your results more repeatable.
You may be selling on Etsy, eBay, Amazon, or Facebook Marketplace. The tripod comes in handy here, too. It helps simplify the lighting and arranging the shots, plus ensures excellent image sharpness.
Don’t Forget Video!
I’ll say this as gently as possible: Shaky cam does not make for good video. Even though we could possibly develop a very good technique for holding our camera steady for still images, shooting video makes all movement stand out.
YouTube vloggers can benefit from using a budget-friendly tripod such as the E-Image EK610 (shown above) during their video shoots. Vlog viewers will appreciate smooth, shake free videos that are easy to view, which will lead to more views and subscriptions for your vlog.
What’s the Best Tripod to Purchase?
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It will come as no surprise that there is not going to be one answer to this question. The needs of any two photographers could be wildly different from each other.
For instance, the best tripods for DSLRs may need to be sturdier than the best tripods for mirrorless cameras. Primarily due to size and weight.
A small MFT mirrorless camera with a kit lens may weigh less than my last value meal, so a small and lightweight tripod may be good enough.
DSLRs, including entry level APS-C format cameras, tend to be larger and heavier than their mirrorless cousins, so a more substantial tripod would deliver better results, and will give you peace of mind concerning stability and the safety of your equipment.
Going back to vloggers and other videographers, a tripod such as the E-Image GA752 and a versatile tripod head provides superb stability for larger cameras with heavier lenses.
Other larger camera rigs may include professional and prosumer level full frame format DLSRs or fast super telephoto lenses which can be quite heavy. You don’t want to put a large and pricey rig like that on a small, lightweight tripod.
Types of Tripods
There are several types of tripods that are used in photography, one or more will be the best tripod for your needs.
Many times, you can use a tripod for more than one purpose. As an example, you could use a general purpose tripod for both your still photography and for shooting videos. And vice versa. A good tripod for video can be used for most other types of photography.
The best tripods for travel often collapse to a very small size, making suitable for using as a table top tripod.
Some of the best tripods for general use are convertible tripods. They have a removable center column that can be used as a monopod.
Many of the better tripods for DSLRs have interchangeable tripod heads. This way, you don’t have to spend double on a video tripod along with a general purpose tripod. Just buy one or the other and then add a different tripod head to round out your capabilities.
How To Use a Tripod
The most important thing about properly using a tripod is simply to be in the mindset of using one. In other words, get out your tripod and prepare to put it into action.
You will want to make sure your camera is properly mounted and secured to the tripod. A common feature of many of the best tripods is the quick release system. You mount a plate to your camera or lens, and then that plate is attached to the tripod head.
Whether using a quick release system or not, be sure to screw in the stud for a nice tight fit. Snug it up with finger pressure, but avoid over tightening.
Watch your balance. Spread out the legs and try to get the head of the tripod leveled out. This will guard against having the center of gravity too far in one direction so as not to accidentally tip over the entire rig. You can easily level by extending the leg sections, then adjust the tripod head for fine tuning the leveling.
Tripods Are Basic Tools for Good Photography
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One of the best next purchases for beginning photographers is a decent tripod. The best tripods allow you to get the sharpest images possible, employ special techniques such as panoramic photography, and do so without being difficult to use.
Once you get used to a good tripod, you’ll wonder why you waited to get one!