Why Use a Tripod

November 04, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Blue Mesa Lake PanoramaCurecanti-Mirror-1448

Most of my photography students hate using a tripod. I hated them too, when I was learning photography. Over time, I’ve learned to love this indispensable piece of equipment however. They are a pain to learn and slow to use in  the beginning. Here are a few reasons that I cannot live without my tripod.

Tripods hold the camera still

The first function of a tripod is to hold the camera still when the chosen shutter speed is too slow for successful hand-held photographs. Using a good tripod during long exposures can insure sharp photos during photos from seconds to hours long. They are also necessary for images using long telephoto lenses since any motion by the photographer is greatly magnified by the telephoto lens. This is the most-obvious reason to use a tripod.

The tripod makes panoramic photos possible

I shoot lots of panoramic images. I love the format and they are great solutions to decorating long, skinny spaces like over a sofa. To create a successful panorama it is necessary to take multiple, overlapping images and to stitch them together in software. The best way to accomplish this is to use a tripod with a camera platform that can pivot around the axis of the camera. To keep the finished image from running up or downhill, the camera platform must be level. It must remain level for all the photographs needed for the panorama. The tripod is a necessity for good panorama photography like the image above.

The tripod helps you think about composition

The third and most important reason to use a tripod is to aid in artistic composition of your photographs. By allowing you to let go of the camera without your initial composition changing you can take time to fine-tune your images. This seems unimportant on the surface but most professional photographers will adjust their initial composition during a sequence of images. By being able to step away from the camera and refine the composition we are able to create tighter, more compelling images which highlight the necessary elements of the photograph and eliminate those that don’t enhance or strengthen the story we’re trying to tell with the image. Tripods help you think. Thinking about what to include or exclude from a photograph is absolutely critical for great images.

I’m not trying to say that good photographs cannot be created without a tripod. I’ve made many myself. All things considered, however, I would rather use a tripod if I have the opportunity.

Tripods help you get perfect light

The images in my last post “Waiting for the Light” are a perfect example of how the tripod was used to retain a strong composition while waiting for better light in the scene. Over the course of 45 minutes I was able to create numerous exposures without changing the composition of the photograph. The only change was the light and shadows moving across the scene. Without the tripod I probably would have abandoned the scene before the light got great, thus coming home with a mediocre image instead of a really strong, compelling landscape. The tripod made the image possible and was a necessary part of the gear required for the final photo.

Those are a few of my favorite reasons for using a tripod. I know there are others. What are your reasons?

 

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