How to choose a tripod: a complete guide
How to choose a tripod: a complete guide

What should a photographer look for when buying a tripod? Canadian photographer Gavin Hardcastle gives advice and experiences.

How to choose a tripod: a complete guide
How to choose a tripod: a complete guide

Gavin Hardcastle, a photographer from Canada, decided to create this guide after an unfortunate incident. He was already taking a short flight from Bangkok to Cambodia and the flight attendant was handing him a towel when he remembered about the tripod. The tripod, an excellent carbon fiber tripod with a ball head, remained in the airport storage locker, where you are supposed to put your belongings before going through customs. The photographer spent midnight in Bangkok in search of his hotel, and here is the result. As he waited to board the flight, he forgot a precious piece of equipment. Gavin realized that he would never see his favorite tripod again.

Therefore, in Cambodia, the author had to look for a new one. Of course, the country is developing, but Siem Reap remains a black hole when it comes to choosing a tripod. All that we could find was a plastic tripod for video cameras with a long handle, which strives to poke into the eye while shooting.

How to choose a tripod: a complete guide
How to choose a tripod: a complete guide

Gavin spent the next four days trying to cope with his anger. It seemed that the past had returned, and now he is forced to work with his first tripod, bought without relying on experience. The tripod I bought took five times longer to set up than the lost tripod. And if not for the influence of a calm auto-rickshaw, the photographer would not have resisted, broke the plastic tripod on his knee and threw it under the wheels of the bus.

It's no surprise that aspiring photographers don't like using a tripod to shoot.

A good tripod changes things completely

If, buying a tripod, you are in pursuit of cheapness, then two things will surely happen to you:

  1. You spend so much time adjusting the camera position that by the time you are ready to take a picture, you will lose interest in life.
  2. You will understand that the 45 dollars that you spent on the purchase could have been invested in the purchase of a normal tripod, which you still have to buy anyway.

Naturally, it is difficult for beginners to shell out $ 400 for a tripod, but the heart bleeds for the masters when they see the aspiring photographers torment themselves, setting up their tripods. As soon as such a "teapot" works with a normal tripod, he sees a ray of light in the dark kingdom. And he comes to the conclusion that a cheap tripod is a landfill filler.

You can assume that since you are using a tripod to hold the camera, then you have plenty of time to find focus for the frame. Sometimes it is, sometimes it is not. The scenery changes quickly, especially if you are shooting. Weather conditions and wildlife won't wait for you to adjust the tripod.

What to look for when buying a tripod and accessories?

How quickly the tripod legs unfold

I hate tripod legs that need to be loosened and tightened. I prefer latches that open quickly and allow you to quickly change the length of the tripod legs. Fastening of the telescopic structure in expanded form is done with one movement of the thumb. So if your tripod has four threaded leg sections, then you will be setting up the tripod for the shot when I move to another shooting location.

How to choose a tripod: tripod leg locks
How to choose a tripod: tripod leg locks

How quickly the ball head adjusts

Once the tripod is installed and secured, it's time to select a position for the camera. I prefer those that use a single screw to lock the camera. This means that by turning the lever two times, I can lock the camera in the desired position.

How to choose a tripod: ball head
How to choose a tripod: ball head

It is also important to buy a head that will allow you to quickly switch from landscape photography to portrait photography. Many cheap head models have clip-on handles that must be loosened in order to rotate the camera and then reattached. A terrible feeling when you fiddled with the camera, trying to find the right position, and your lock changes the position of the camera from a slight movement of the breeze.

Easy attachment of the unit to a tripod

The tripod platform, with the help of which the camera is attached to the head, brings me to white heat in cheap tripods.

Attaching your camera to a tripod should be quick and easy. When buying a tripod, ask your store assistant for a demonstration of how to install the camera and try doing it yourself several times until you are sure that this model is right for you.

How heavy a tripod can be

This is only a personal choice, which depends on your needs and ability to carry heavy loads. There is always a trade-off between portability and stability. Heavy tripods will laugh in the wind, while super-light carbon fiber tripods will vibrate. However, you can hang the bag of rocks on the load hook to increase stability.

How big should a tripod be

Here again, it all depends on your plans. Learned from the bitter experience of being lost at the airport, I prefer to buy a tripod that can be folded into my camera bag. Of course, not everyone is suitable, but if you are not going to shoot in extreme weather conditions, do not chase after size and massiveness, then …

How to choose a tripod: dimensions
How to choose a tripod: dimensions

How much does it cost to spend on a tripod

It is important to decide what you are ready for. If you, like me, are not very careful with your tripod, do not put everything you can afford in the store. I mock the tripod by filming in oceans, rivers, deserts and mountains. If I'm lucky (and I won't forget it in the storage room), the tripod will last for two years. It doesn't make sense to pay a lot of money if I can buy an acceptable tripod with a good ball head under $ 400.

Do I need to buy a level

This is an optional condition, but it would be nice to have a level on the tripod itself and on the head. If you have a digital level camera, a tripod bubble level is rarely needed. But if you have all the equipment without levels, buy one and install it in the flash socket.

Why do you need a tripod at all?

If you want to take pictures with great depth and the highest possible image quality, get used to the idea that the tripod will become part of your anatomy. A tripod is a must for long exposure shots. But if you shoot weddings, events, portraits, then the tripod can interfere with movement.

Which brands to give preference to?

I can't recommend any specific manufacturer, but try to try as many tripods and heads as possible from different brands. Reading the reviews can help you make choices, but to find the perfect tripod and head combination, you need to hold it in your hands. Look for specialist photography retailers for a wide variety of hobbyist and professional tripods.

In defense of cheap tripods

To be honest with the $ 45 tripod I bought in Cambodia, it was worth the money. It didn't break, it was light. And it was made for video shooting, and not for static work.

How to choose a tripod: in defense of cheap tripods
How to choose a tripod: in defense of cheap tripods

It is now kept in my studio to showcase the differences between the $ 45 and $ 400 tripods.

What functions of a tripod are important to you? Share your recommendations and experience with our readers.

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