25 TECHNIQUES TO BETTER USE YOUR TRIPOD
Using your tripod well allows for much sharper photos. But using your tripod is more complicated than just unfolding your legs and taking pictures.
I share with you all the techniques I know to make sure you use your tripod to the best! My ambition is to offer you the most complete article ever written on the web on the proper use of the tripod. If you know other techniques do not hesitate to share them in the comments and I will add them to this reference article!
Criteria for choosing a tripod
Weight : you want a light weight to be able to carry it. Weight does not make stability. But too light and it may bend under the weight of your device and sway in the wind.
Maximum height of the deployed tripod : at what height are you comfortable for working? The taller you are the more you will need a large tripod.
Maximum height of the tripod deployed without the extended central column : extending the central column makes it easy to gain height, but at the expense of stability. You will have the best stability without extending your central column.
Minimum working height : particularly useful in macro . Can you work with your tripod on low objects?
Closed size : will it fit into your suitcase? Measure the diagonal of your suitcase before purchasing your tripod – this will save you from traveling with the tripod in the aircraft cabin.
Weight supported by the tripod : one of the most important elements to judge the stability of your tripod
Tripod material : plastic / iron / aluminum or carbon? I recommend aluminum which is light and affordable. Carbon is super light but tripods are often 2x more expensive for 15% to 30% weight reduction. Carbon absorbs vibrations very well but breaks more easily.
Ease of use : a 3-section tripod will be quicker to deploy and more stable than a 5-section tripod.
Tripod features : some central columns can tilt at different angles or even turn over. Some tripods can easily transform into monopods. Some tripod legs can be transformed into rubber feet or pointed feet. But the most important feature is the hook under the central column: you can hang your photo bag on it to gain stability (it’s “free” weight since you’re already carrying it!)
And above all its stability, which is not easy to judge by simply reading the technical characteristics! This is why we all buy so many tripods – we all hope to find an inexpensive and lightweight stable solution.
The tripod: legs and head
A tripod, finally a good tripod, it is 2 autonomous components. The legs and the head. The head, or the tripod head is the part that will fix your camera and that you will use to adjust the angle of your camera. Since your stabilization system is only as good as the weakest link in your system, give as much importance to buying a good tripod head as good legs. Here are the different types of tripod heads :
3-axis ball joint : it is a system inherited from video. I do not know why the photographers bother with this system. Each time you want to move your device on an axis it is another lever that you must activate.
Ball head : this is what you need. Your device fixed on a plate is clipped on a ball. A simple lever unlocks the ball, you orient your camera as you wish and you reattach the ball when you are well oriented. Look no further – that’s what you need.
There are other heads, like the video head, the panoramic head , but since I told you that you needed the ball head, I will stop there 🙂
Tripod feet settings
1. Put your tripod on solid ground.
Avoid grass or sand: your tripod base would not be stable. If not far from your lawn you have stones, place your tripod there. If you have no choice (for example you are at the beach!) Then you have 2 options: push the tripod legs hard into the sand: this will offer better resistance.
Or even better: find 3 shells, stones, pavers or bricks to put under your tripod:
2. Inside, avoid carpets and rugs
Like grass or sand, these are surfaces that do not provide good support and will make your camera vibrate
3. Use the right foot for the right surface
Almost all tripods come with rubber feet. Some tripods come with the possibility of changing feet, or even as in the example below, simply unscrew the rubber foot to be able to use a metal tip.
I advise you to use this metal point on the grass, on the carpet and to get rid of thieves (a flash of flash at full power followed by 2 shots of tripod with the points and you should be quiet, if not repeat the maneuver ). Avoid the metal tip on your grandma’s parquet otherwise it may use the tripod against you.
4. Avoid surfaces likely to vibrate
For example a very floating parquet or a terrace. If you have no choice, try to leave the vibrating surface before shooting (using a self-timer or remote shutter )
Part 2: the legs of the tripod
5. Do not use the center column
All my tripods have a central column. It is not stable. So avoid using it if you can because you lose a lot of stability!
6. Use the large sections of your tripod first
Your tripod folds into 3, 4 or 5 sections. The more sections you have, the thinner the last sections (those close to the feet). If you do not need to work at full height then you have the choice of unfolding only a few sections.
Always choose to fold the smaller sections. You will gain stability. For example below I folded a large section: it is not good!
7. Do not unfold your entire tripod
Do you really need this photo to work with your 1m80 tripod? I’m not saying for a portrait, but if you’re in front of a panorama, can’t you work at 50cm? You will gain immense stability by keeping many sections of your tripod folded up!
8. Point one leg of the tripod towards the subject you are going to photograph
This allows you to position yourself quietly between the 2 rear legs and thus little touch your tripod.
9. On a slope, keep your central column well perpendicular
Think of the center of gravity of your tripod! In the example below I have the 3 legs of the tripod all unfolded. As I am on a slope I have the tripod which is about to tip over: I did not dare to put a camera on it. We can certainly compensate for this angle with the tripod head but your tripod will be completely unbalanced.
If your tripod has a spirit level on the shoulders (and not only on the head) you can balance it with this level, otherwise it must be done by eye.
Indeed, the spirit level on the head is useless for our problem. In the example above the spirit level indicates that I have good, but look at the angle of the head!
10. On a slope, have 2 legs down
The most stable way to fix your tripod on a slope is to have the most legs down. Like this:
On the small leg I have a whole folded section (count: 2 sections on one side and 3 on the other). Obviously this is the smallest section that I folded!
11. Tighten everything!
I am often a victim of this problem: I want to mount my tripod too quickly and all my sections are not perfectly tight. Suddenly my camera begins to sink…
So when you set up your tripod tighten everything, leg sections and head levers.
12. Spread your legs!
Your tripod will be the most stable with the legs completely apart. So when you put your tripod on the ground, spread your legs all the way out. Obviously not yours…
13. Add weight
The heavier your tripod the more stable it is. Almost all good tripods are equipped with a hook that allows you to attach a weight underneath. Everything is good: your photo bag, a plastic bag filled with stones or sand, or even a sleeping baby.
Beware, however, of a new problem that may arise: your weight moves with the wind and therefore makes everything move!
The head is the connection between the legs of the tripod and your camera.
14. The problem of portraits and tripods
The only advice I can give you is if you do a lot of portraits with your tripod. The problem is that by putting your camera vertically, you tilt the center of gravity with your camera which becomes eccentric relative to your foot.
Suddenly the manufacturers have developed an L-shaped plate that allows you to use your camera in portrait mode on your tripod. If you are looking for it is called L-bracket or L-plate.
15. Remember to check your levels
This is especially useful when you work at a wide angle by the sea: nothing can be seen better than a sea that is not straight!
If you do not have a level on the head of your tripod, you can buy a spirit level to put in the claw of your flash for a few dollars.
On your camera and lens
16. For your telephoto lenses, use a foot collar
The telephoto lenses are long and heavy. By leverage they will exert a lot of force on your camera head. Using a collar allows you to better manage the gravity cnet. If your telephoto lens can accommodate a foot collar and you use it on a tripod I highly recommend its purchase. Some telephoto lenses will be delivered with, others will not. I bought necklaces from “alternative” brands with some success.
Make no mistake when purchasing your foot collar: they are not compatible between objectives. The fotoloco lens base has the reference of most foot collars.
17. Use the lock on your mirror
Your mirror vibrates your camera when triggered. You can avoid this effect by disconnecting the shot and lifting the mirror. The shooting is then done in two stages and avoids the vibrations due to the mirror.
18. Use your camera’s self-timer
I advise you to trigger very gently. But thanks to the self-timer you allow the camera to stop vibrating after you take your hand off. I often work on 2 seconds.
19. Use an external trigger
20. Turn off optical stabilization
Much ink has been spilled on this subject: is it really necessary to turn off optical stabilization when using your camera on a tripod? The answer as often is “it depends”, and here it depends on the type of stabilization you have. But in any case know that it can not hurt to turn off the stabilization of your lens and that sometimes it can do good. So in front of these probabilities it is in your interest to turn it off.
21. Watch out for diffraction
The diffraction is an optical phenomenon that deteriorates the image quality when you have your diaphragm very closed, for example f / 22. So just because you’re on a tripod doesn’t mean you can close your diaphragm completely . Know the best dive range for your goals and work in this area.
Your behavior for using the tripod properly
We arrived at the top of the tripod but there is one more element: you!
22. Avoid touching your camera or legs while shooting
If you touch your camera or if a part of your body touches the tripod, you will transmit vibrations to your camera. It’s not good!
23. Find your composition before setting up your tripod
Working with a tripod will slow your pace as a photographer, and that’s a good thing! I advise you before unfolding the legs of your tripod to think carefully about your composition . So you won’t have to move your tripod afterwards.
24. Do not walk around with your camera attached to your tripod
Yes, it really makes an adventurer photographer with his equipment as a bundle. But you will be an adventurer who is not very proud when your device hangs up or when you jostle someone with your foot.
Buy a tripod with quick plates and pick up your device between 2 trips.
25. Protect your tripod from the wind
Little experience tip. If you work with a telephoto lens in a lot of wind, your equipment will vibrate. Position yourself so as to protect your equipment from the wind: open your cape or jacket to isolate the equipment as much as possible. Inflate yourself, without touching the equipment. He will thank you!