When to Use a Monopod vs. a Tripod

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When to Use a Monopod vs. a Tripod

When a photographer or film-maker needs a stable base to use to take photographs or shoot video from, a tripod or a monopod is usually used. Using one of these devices can help to avoid or reduce the camera shake and blur that can often occur when hand-held cameras are used. A tripod is a device that has three legs which are most often extendible. This allows the photographer or videographer to alter the height of the tripod depending on the subject height or type of scenery that is being photographed or filmed. The camera usually attaches to a tripod by means of a rotating head. This enables the person taking the photograph to position the camera in order to get the desired shot after the camera is mounted onto the tripod. A monopod is also used for stability and to reduce or stop camera shake, but it differs from a tripod because it only has one leg. A monopod, due to its one leg, cannot stand alone or independently; it always needs the photographer to hold on to it. A monopod does, however, provide a more stable position to take pictures from rather than simply holding a camera by hand. There are many different advantages and disadvantages of both tripods and monopods. Different situations require use of a tripod rather than a monopod, and vice versa, because it depends on the type of photos being taken or filming being done. This guide will discuss how useful both Monopods and Tripods are and when to use them both.

When to Use a Tripod

A tripod is an essential accessory for all photographers and film-makers. Whether using a DSLR camera or a video camera, using a tripod in conjunction with the camera will increase the quality of resulting photographs and videos. Photographs should always be sharp and in focus unless blur is the desired creative effect; therefore, a tripod is useful in many situations when the photographer’s hand is not enough to steady the camera properly. Tripods can also be used to hold up an off-camera flash or perhaps a lighting unit. Tripods come into their own in situations where there is low light or when it is necessary to take a photograph with a long exposure. The longer the exposure and the longer the shutter is open for, the more likely it is that the camera will move slightly if it is held by hand or placed on something unstable. Therefore, using a tripod to stabilize the camera helps prevent any unwanted blur or shake the resulting photograph or film.
Tripods are also very useful in nature photography. They can be set up in advance in a particular position so that the photographer can remain still and quiet behind the camera, hoping for the wildlife or animal intended to be photographed will come into frame. This also means that the tripod can hold the camera while the photographer gets the distance right and makes sure the picture will be in focus. In this way, the photographer is ready to quickly take the snap of the wildlife when the chance arises rather than having to fiddle with the camera settings at that point. Many photographers will take a tripod on long walks or hikes when trying to capture wildlife in photographs or natural landscapes which require a walk to get to them. In these cases, sometimes a tripod can be cumbersome and a monopod may be a better choice. However, some tripods are more lightweight than others, especially ones made of carbon fibre. Aluminium tripods can often weigh 20 per cent to 30 per cent more than a tripod manufactured from carbon fibre. This can make a difference to whether it is worth carrying a tripod or a monopod to certain photography locations and so is something to consider when buying a tripod. The advantage of an aluminium tripod is that it is heavier weight and therefore more stable than perhaps some carbon fibre ones. .
Tripods have legs that lock into place by way of a locking mechanism. This enables the tripod user to pull the legs out to extend them and lock them into place, allowing the tripod to stay at a specific height. A monopod also has the ability to have its one leg locked into a certain height. The downside of a tripod is that it is slower to extend the legs and lock them, which is important when the photographer wants to capture a scene quickly and then perhaps move on or move the height of the tripod to get a different angle. A monopod in these instances could be more useful as the leg will extend or contract very swiftly.
Tripods are essential when taking night photography shots. To get a crystal clear, sharp and in-focus photograph at night, the camera should have no movement at all when the shutter is open and the photograph is being taken. This means that a tripod is vital to provide stability. However, using a tripod and then pressing the shutter release button will still cause some slight movements, which will be especially evident if the night photograph is enlarged for printing. Therefore, a shutter release cable or a remote shutter release is also highly useful to work in conjunction with the tripod. This allows the photographer to stand away from the camera and remotely release the shutter, meaning the camera stays completely still and isn't knocked at all when the shutter button is pressed.
Traditional tripods can be quite large; they usually come in heights as tall as a person, as do monopods. However, small tripods, such as table top tripods, can also be purchased. The downside of these tiny tripods is that they will not hold a DSLR, only a compact camera as they are quite flimsy. A stronger, yet still small, tripod is a Gorillapod. A Gorillapod is lightweight and made of plastic and has flexible legs instead of extendible ones. It can be stood on a wall or any hard surface and can also be bent around a railing or fixed to a tree, for example, to get the required angle and view. There is no such similar type of device for a monopod because by its very nature it will not stand independently, and a tiny monopod would be somewhat useless.

When to Use a Monopod

Like a tripod, a monopod is a particular style of camera support, with the main difference being it has only one leg, whereas a tripod has three. It needs to always be held by the photographer as, with only one leg, it cannot remain standing on its own. A monopod therefore is not such a good choice for night photography or photography in low light, for example. A monopod, while keeping the camera more stable than hand holding the camera, is not as stable as using a three legged tripod that can stand independently. Whilst taking photographs in low level light or at night, one of the most important things is the complete lack of movement from the camera as it is very easy for the photograph to blur when a long exposure is used, such as is needed at night. Whilst a monopod offers some stability, there will still be some movement, and in addition as it will not stand on its own, it is not possible to use a remote shutter release with it, as is often needed in night photography.
Where a monopod does come into its own and is more useful than a tripod is when something very portable is needed, such as going on a long hike to take photographs. A monopod will fold up quite small in comparison to a tripod. It is also lighter and can often fit into camera back packs. It is a compromise between wanting to use a tripod, but not wanting to carry something heavy as it affords more stability than using the camera by hand, but less than using a three legged tripod. A monopod can be made from the same materials as tripods, with carbon fibre and aluminium being the most popular. As with tripods, a monopod made from carbon fibre will be more expensive than an aluminium one, but will weigh less. When out walking and also taking photographs, many monopods can also double as a walking pole or stick, which is something that tripods do not offer.
Monopods can be perfect for taking pictures of, or filming, events such as motor-sport. When taking photographs of motor-sport, there may often be a slight jostling for position with other photographers, especially in prime positions such as over humps or tight corners in car rallies. A monopod takes up less space on the ground than a tripod and it is possible that the photographer can squeeze into a space that wouldn't be possible with a tripod. Additionally, photographs of motor-sport often involve panning, in order to either freeze the car while blurring the background to show motion, or the other way around. Using a monopod, panning is easy as the photographer can turn their whole body and the camera while using the one leg of the monopod for some support. With a tripod, the panning will be restricted to using the rotating motion of the tripod head to pan; as such, the panning may not be fast enough to capture a good shot. Monopods are light and portable and therefore are easy for the photographer to pick up and move location when taking pictures of motor-sport. Similarly, other fast action sports, or sports such as athletics can be photographed with the aid of a monopod
The table below summarizes when to use a monopod vs. a tripod


Night photography or low light photography. The tripod allows use of a remote shutter release.
When time taken to set up the scene or photograph is not an issue.
When space permits use of a tripod


Motor-sport or action shots, especially those that require panning.
When camera equipment is needed to be carried a long way and something not too heavy is needed, a monopod is better choice than a tripod.
When walking or hiking, a monopod can also be used as a walking stick.
When space is limited, a monopod takes up less ground space than a tripod.

Buy Tripods and Monopods on eBay.

Tripods and monopods can be bought in camera shops, the high street, and also on eBay. When buying a tripod or monopod on eBay, first go to the eBay homepage. Click on the All Categories tab and then proceed by clicking the link which says Cameras & Photography, followed by clicking on the link on the left hand side and opening the category entitled Tripods & Supports. From that page, find the link towards the left hand side which is labelled Tripods & Monopods. The available item listings can then be searched, or the search can be refined further by using some of the options on the left hand side of the eBay page. There are different choices or brands that can be selected as well as different types of tripod or monopod. In addition, specific terms can be entered into the search bar at the top of any eBay page.


When taking photographs, a tripod or monopod can often be useful to avoid blur in the photograph, or any camera shake. There are benefits to both tripods and monopods, and which type is used by the photographer can depend on the situation. Tripods are more useful than monopods in low light and night photography situations, while monopods are more useful when something more portable or easy to set up is needed or when taking photographs that require quick panning of the camera such as motor-sport pictures.

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