No one really understands the monopod. It looks like a cane. It’s often regarded as a poor man’s tripod. The photographer still has to hold the camera when using a monopod, so many photographers might wonder… what’s the point?
In truth, the monopod does have its limitations for many subjects, but there are some very specific situations in which it shines and will make all the difference for your photography. Sports and music photographers, in particular, swear by them.
In these genres you are often working with low or challenging light conditions. And most of the time you likely have a telephoto lens mounted to your camera. Without any sort of stabilising device, you will undoubtedly experience camera shake. So why not use a tripod, you might ask?
When is the last tie you set up a tripod at a live music gig? Or on the sidelines of a professional sporting match?
When to use a monopod
A monopod is best used when it’s not practical to use a tripod but you need some kind of stabilisation for your camera.
Monopods are staples because of their portability. They are light and compact, yet expand to great heights. They’re unobtrusive and easy to use in crowded spaces.
A monopod gives your camera a minimal amount of support, but a lot of the time this is just enough to enable you to get the shot you want. It might mean you can dial in that shutter speed a stop slower than you would have achieved if shooting handheld.
Another thing to consider is the extra support it gives your body. Working with telephoto lenses is a deceptively taxing task. Those heavy lenses take their toll on your body over time by the simple act of lifting it up and holding it stable.
A monopod shoulders some of that weight, and it can give your arms a rest in between songs or pauses in the action.
How to mount your camera to a monopod
Monopods are different from tripods in that most come without a head. Instead, most often feature a built-in tripod collar because they are used with long lenses so much of the time. Your monopod simply screws into the bottom of this collar.
How to hold a monopod
Knowing when to use a monopod is one thing. Knowing how to hold a monopod correctly ensures you get your image.
There are ways of positioning your body that can make the monopod more stable than others. The most popular way of holding a monopod is to stand it upright in front of you, gripping it with both hands. Then spread your feet slightly apart.
If you think about what you’ve just done here, you’ve essentially just created that poor man’s tripod! The monopod, along with your two legs, forms a very stable triumvirate!
Another common way of holding a monopod is to rest the base against the back of your foot. With the pole then pressed against your leg and your hand holding it against your body, you have a very stable platform from which to shoot in low-light venues.