There are times when taking a picture while holding the camera just will not be able to give the right image, or the image itself will not be stable enough. This is where using a tripod comes into its own. Tripods are indispensable when a certain style of image is required and the conditions where the photo is to be taken are beyond the ordinary, particularly if very sharp photos need to be taken. In situations like this, not only is the use of a tripod crucial, but the type and setup of the tripod vitally important too. Follow the guide below to learn how to setup a tripod to provide the best possible photos for the camera in use.
When to Use a Camera Tripod
It can be difficult for a beginner to know when to shoot a photo using a tripod. A general rule of thumb is to establish when holding a camera when shooting while cause the photo to be blurred. To work this out, the speed of the exposure needs to be one over focal length. So for a 35mm camera, the exposure time must be at least as fast as one over the focal length in seconds. So if using a 100mm focal length on a 35mm camera, the exposure time needs to be 1/100 seconds long. If this is not the case, blurring will probably be caused. Zooming in on the point of interest can magnify the movement of the camera, as the further away, the more impact a shaky hand will have. The camera shutter speed will also have an effect, depending on how steady the camera is held, the sharpness of the lens in use, the camera resolution and the distance from the point of interest. And as always, if in doubt, use a tripod. Cameras that have image stabilisation or vibration reduction will help reduce the amount of blurring in photographs when held by hand, but will not fully eliminate the problem.
Selecting a Camera Tripod
Most camera tripods come in two sections; the main tripod (with the legs sections) and the tripod head (where the camera sits). Cheaper models of tripod will not have the option to change the tripod head, these are known as pan and tilt models, and can usually be found in models suitable for most budgets. Tripods come in different heights and the choice will depend on how high the tripod can go. Photographers of landscape usually require a model that is higher than normal for panoramic shots, and macro photographers will have more use for models that can go closer to the ground. There are two types of tripod head – pan and tilt and ball head. The first is usually cheaper as it can only focus the camera in 3 different directions. Ball heads allow for quick and easy movement so the camera can be positioned in any direction very quickly, however they can be difficult to use. Other types of tripod include a monopod, which is a simple piece of equipment consisting of an adjustable pole, with a fitting for the camera on the end. The advantage of these models is that they are light and stable, and commonly used for photographs involving time delay as they are unlikely to move. A table top tripod is a handy device for those on trips as they are extremely small pieces of equipment, usually extending to only 50cm high, and 20cm when fully collapsed. They can be placed on surfaces to take photographs. However, they are not particularly stable and useful only for short periods, not for professional photographers on a day-to-day basis.
Condition of the Terrain
This is not usually a problem when the tripod is being used indoors, but always worth considering nonetheless. If photographs are being taken outside, it is a strong possibility that the ground will be uneven. A poorly balanced tripod will not give out sharp photographs. Knowing how to setup a tripod on all surface types is an important skill in using this piece of equipment. If the ground is not level, the legs of the tripod should be adjusted to suit the height of the ground, either by lengthening them, or changing the angle, or a combination of both. If the photograph is to be taken at a low level, the tripod should be taken apart, with the central column unscrewed so that the camera can be placed at the height required. This is an important part of photography that focuses very closely on images at minute detail, such as plants or small wildlife. Some tripods, particularly budget ones, are very light, so taking photographs in windy conditions can be difficult. If a heavier tripod is either not owned or impractical, for example, when taking photographs on a mountain or large hill, try weighing the tripod down with the camera bag or something else with a strap that can be hooked onto the top of the tripod.
Setting Up a Tripod
There is more to taking photos with a tripod than simply placing a camera on the tripod and clicking away. Being able to achieve sharp photographs is the mark of a good photographer, and a properly positioned camera will be able to give a great shot. Follow the steps below to setup a tripod properly in order to get the best photographs.
Extend the larger sections of the legs first. These will be the top sections of the tripod legs. These sections are more rigid than the lower sections, so are sturdier and less prone to wobbling.
Keep the central column of the tripod low into the main body. Raising the column makes the camera more unstable, and this section is usually the most unstable in affordable tripods. Avoid raising the column unnecessarily, especially if the weather is windy.
Check that the feet of the tripod are on stable ground and level. If the ground is wet, slippery or loose, try to wedge the feet so that they are given enough support not to move. If the ground is soft, such as wet grass, gently push the bottom of the legs of the tripod into the ground to give extra stability.
As mentioned before, use something heavy such as a camera bag to weigh the tripod down. Some models come with a built-in hook for hanging the bag, and this should be utilised. If there is no such hook, the camera bag could be hung from the main body of the tripod.
What to Look for in a Good-Quality Tripod
Where possible, aim to purchase an aluminium tripod model. These have a good reputation for being both solid and lightweight. Find out what the size of the tripod is when extended at its full height, and look for a model that has very little movement. Most budget versions will not be fully static, however, in order to be effective, they should be fairly stable. An expensive tripod model should be extremely stable with little or no movement.
Most tripods have locks on the legs of the unit, which prevents the legs from changing height accidently during shooting. These locks should be present, easily opened and closed, and working properly. There should also be no damage to the locks beyond any normal wear and tear, in second hand models.
The best tripod models should also be very versatile, allowing the user to alter the height and angle of the legs so that a variety of camera angles can be used. If the central column can be removed, the tripod will be able to be used at really low-level for detailed shots.
Where to Find Camera Tripods on eBay
In order to find camera tripods on eBay, head first to the homepage. From here, using the links on the left hand side of the page, select Electronics and then Cameras and Photography. This will load the listings in the Cameras and photography section. On that page, go to the links on the left hand side again and select Tripods and Supports. The resulting listings can be further narrowed into categories of tripods, tripod heads and more according by brand, price, and other selections.
Alternatively, use the search engine on the main eBay homepage to look for products according to certain desired keywords.
Always pay close attention to the attributes of the camera tripod and make sure to set it up correctly before taking photographs. Following the guidelines described in this text will help. A good-quality tripod, high-quality camera and practice and experience can ensure the user takes fantastic photographs to be proud of.