- No Tripod? No Problem! Use One of These Alternatives
- Photography Gear for Traveling Solo
- How To Pack Light for a Photography Trip
photo by pepmiba via iStock
Modern digital cameras are incredible photography machines. In addition to their outstanding image quality, most of the DSLRs and mirrorless cameras from entry level up to professional grade have some sort of image stabilization technology that lets us take pictures in marginal lighting conditions.
But those features aren’t able to cover every situation when you may need to stabilize a camera. So, we buy tripods to hold our cameras. Sometimes, though, a tripod is either impractical or maybe we just forgot ours. What can I use instead of a tripod?
I will show you some tips, tricks, and an idea for a makeshift tripod or two that you can use to stabilize a camera.
Especially for outdoor photography, a good monopod is one of the most useful tools a photographer can have. I also like to use mine as a walking stick for trails or simply to climb that one hill in the neighborhood.
What is a monopod? Basically, a monopod is a one legged tripod. It’s a single pole with a tripod head on top to hold the camera. The monopod pole is usually extendable in several segments. They are lightweight, strong, and versatile.
Monopod use is fairly straightforward, you plant the leg on the ground and you pretty much complete being the tripod with your own two legs. For using long lenses or in marginal light conditions, a monopod can provide just enough extra solidity to help stabilize a camera.
Monopods have limitations, they can’t be used for shooting situations that require absolutely no movement such as nodal point rotation for spherical panoramas, ultra long exposure photography, or HDR photography needing perfect frame to frame registration.
The Octopad is a unique and useful camera mount that is a weighted semi rigid pad with a non slip bottom and a ball head on top. It is small enough, light enough, and cheap enough to be in your camera bag, car glove box, and your bicycle saddle bag.
The weighted mount can be placed on almost any type of surface up to about a 45 degree angle and stabilize a camera completely. Since it’s not super heavy and has a pretty small footprint, you probably won’t be able to utilize a panorama mount without moving it, but it is definitely secure enough to use for low light, HDR, or ND filter long exposures.
Besides using the Octopad as a makeshift tripod camera mount, you can mount lights or other accessories with it, such as video recording on location for your YouTube channel and placing lights and a microphone exactly where you need them.
GorillaPod is actually a tripod, but with unique construction and features. It is a small table top tripod with articulated legs that can also act like a grip or clamp. Used normally, GorillaPod sits on a table or any other mostly flat surface and holds your camera with the ball head on top.
Take a close look at those legs. You can twist and coil those legs into shapes that allow for wrapping them around a fencepost, tree limb, stair railing, bike handlebars, and so on. In some of these positions, it may not be able to hold a lot of weight, but for most cameras with a kit lens attached, it’ll do just fine.
The legs are very well made and sturdy, but after a while of being used in mud, dirt, branches, and et cetera, the articulated joints get jammed up with crud making them hard to use. This will either take quite a while or some extremely hard use, so most of us will get a lot of good use out of one before this happens.
If you’re in a situation where you need just a little bit more stability, a ¼ - 20 thread eye bolt and a piece of string can save the day, as shown in the video above by CNET.
Here’s how this makeshift tripod works. Screw in the eye bolt to your camera’s tripod socket, tie about 4 to 6 feet of string, twine, or fishing line to the eye part of the bolt, hold the camera up to your eye (with proper hand holding stance), and step on the string. The increased tension adds just enough stability to make possible a clean shot in marginal light.
It will take a little practice to get used to this method, but it can come in handy when you’re stuck wondering what can I use instead of a tripod to stabilize a camera.
photo by PavelIvanov via iStock
Within reason, of course. I don’t want my new camera on the arm of a rocking chair or the back of a recliner while it’s in use, but a handy ottoman, end table, or desktop can really save the day when there is no tripod or tripod alternatives handy.
You’re stuck with whatever height and angle the furniture is, but maybe there is a stack of books nearby or a suitcase that can be placed on the table or desk or couch to act as a makeshift tripod.
Turn Off Image Stabilization
photo by LightFieldStudios via iStock
Whenever you do use a tripod or any of these makeshift tripod ideas, be sure to turn off the in camera image stabilization feature. Otherwise, your camera may actually cause image blur on its own by trying to stabilize when it doesn't need to.
Keep shooting, keep looking around for alternatives to your existing gear or techniques, and give us a shout if you have another alternative or makeshift tripod.