It’s rare that you’ll see a pro photographer without a tripod tucked under his or her arm, and for good reason: it’s arguably the most useful accessory you can buy for your camera after a lens.
A good tripod will live with you and bear the marks and scars of your adventures. These days most tripods are adaptable and designed for a multitude of photographic disciplines, from portraits to landscapes.
Features such as monopod legs, removable and reversible centre columns and ball heads increase the versatility and functionality of these time-tested supports, and there are few photographic genres that wouldn’t benefit from the help of a three-legged friend.
How to match the right tripod with your style of photography
Look at the high street, or more likely online, and you’ll see a wealth of tripod options. So how do you know which is best for you and how much you should spend?
Think about your style of photography. Do you need something big and solid or small and lightweight to get the type of shots you like to take? I personally look for a tripod with a decent working height. I don’t want to be crouching down when the tripod is at its max height.
I don’t mind a little added weight if I’m going to be using filters for long exposures or spending a day in the studio, but if I’m out and about for a day’s hike, I’ll try to pack something made of carbon fibre that won’t weigh on my shoulders. That said, my tripod choice really depends on the type of pictures I’m going to be taking that day.
Let’s run through a few different shooting scenarios and look at the options.
The best type of tripod for long exposures
Whether shooting in low light or you’re extending exposures with the use of filters, you’ll need a steady base.
Many tripods will give you a good steady base, but the longer the exposure the steadier that base will need to be.
3 Legged Thing Winston’s design is simple, with the single centre column, 3-section legs and AirHed 360 providing a good working height. Weighing in at 2.4kg means that the tripod has the weight to be unaffected by most winds, thus ensuring a shake-free shot.
Fixing the composition and getting lighting right
Some of the UK’s best landscapes can only be reached by foot, which means you have to carry all of your kit. You’re also likely to need a filter or two to make the most of these scenes by balancing the exposure. It all adds to your load so you need to be careful with your tripod selection.
A lightweight tripod such as the 3 Legged Thing Billy enables you to get a good, workable, full-height tripod that can be quickly adjusted to capture the scene you want, yet at 1.38Kg it won’t weigh you down too much.
Capturing stunning vistas on a level base
Large scale panoramas are always striking and easy to shoot with the right equipment.
3 Legged Thing’s Albert fitted with the AirHed 360 is a professional travel solution, and the 360 head enables the easy capture of frames you need for a panorama.
Equally at home in the Studio
Tripods aren’t just for exterior use and are equally at home in the studio.
A tripod enables you to frame your shot and maintain consistent composition from shot to shot. That’s especially important for product photography. Once the composition is set, the lighting can be moved to illuminate the subject.
Tripods with a little bit more
The days when a tripod was just a camera support are long gone. These days, many have additional features that greatly extend their use.
Most of the 3LT line-up, for example, feature a monopod leg which can be unscrewed and used separately. Their centre columns can also be removed and reversed for low vistas, enabling you to shoot steady, shake-free images from unusual vantage points. And then there are all the many great tripod accessories.
As well as letting you swap from horizontal to vertical shooting, for example, an L-Bracket can let you attach additional accessories or even become a kind of simple gimbal for wildlife and sports photography. Meanwhile, Docz 2 can be added to the monopod leg to help capture smoother video, and can even be used as a table top or low level tripod itself.
Tripods, whatever the size and type, enhance and expand your photography. In fact, there is rarely time or place where a tripod won’t help you take better images.