Professional photographers would agree with me on this when I say there’s a thumb rule for clicking hand held photos; the shutter speed must be the reciprocal of the focal length. To put it simple, if you are shooting at 200mm, your shutter speed must be 1/200 sec. Rules are followed under very ideal conditions. When you are out there shooting in biting cold, this doesn’t help. Perhaps an IS lens from Canon (or a VR lens from Nikon) can do a little favor. But how far can it help? A long exposure shot or a very fast moving subject? It is the tripod that we need.
Parts of a Tripod
Before we could learn about how to use a tripod, it is better we have some understanding on the primary parts of a tripod. A tripod consists of
Legs and extensions
A tripod head is where the camera is seated and can be raised or lowered in most of the tripods. The head assembly, though is an integral part of the tripod, is still available in the market as a separate piece.
There are two types of head assemblies, viz., three way assembly and ball assembly. A three way head assembly lets the user to move the camera in all three axes. A ball assembly head uses a spherical ball upon which the camera sits and hence the camera can be moved in all three axes. The camera can be removed from the ball head assembly using a single button click. Photographers who remove the camera off the tripod prefer ball head assembly.
Legs and Extensions
As the name says, a tripod has three legs opening apart at 120 degrees. Few tripods have a cross-bar brace which connects all the three legs and hence the leg spread is restricted. But most of the tripods do not have a cross-bar brace and hence the legs can be spread to any extent and doing this, the camera can be brought down to the almost ground level.
While most of the tripods’ legs can be collapsed co-axially, very few heavy duty tripods will not fold up. The legs of the tripod are made of plastic or rubber to make the tripod stand sturdy on any surface and sometimes feet have a spike which makes the legs stand sturdier on muddy surfaces.
A camera plate has a standard male screw which can be fixed to the camera’s base containing the female slot.
This camera plate sits on the head assembly of the tripod. When a camera is removed off the tripod, it is understood that the camera along with the camera plate is removed. It is advised to keep the camera plate with the camera than the tripod for easy usage.
An adjusting knob lets the photographer to move the camera in any possible direction by swiveling the knob.
A sturdy camera will not shake while using the knob. Adjusting knob is used while shooting panoramic shots.
How to Use the Tripod
Now that we know the parts of a tripod lets quickly learn about how to use the tripod. As mentioned before, the camera plate is better to stay with the camera. The camera attached to the camera plate is made to sit on the head assembly and the knob on the head assembly has to be tightened.
The legs are extended by unfastening the latches on the legs. Once the legs are extended to the required height, the latches are tightened. Please note that not all legs have to be extended to the same level. On an uneven surface the legs are extended accordingly so that the camera is placed evenly. A bubble level or a spirit level which comes in most of the tripods by default helps a lot when the ground is uneven. If your tripod does not have a bubble level, then buying one is highly recommended.
So now, the camera is properly fixed to the tripod. Using the head assembly and the adjustment knob, the camera can be moved or swiveled without actually moving the tripod to take spectacular photos.
A tripod for an Amateur
Tripods basically come in two materials, carbon fiber or aluminum. A carbon fiber tripod is often expensive than an aluminum tripod. An aluminum tripod is heavy and hence can be sturdier. Carbon fiber is not as heavy as aluminum but they are good at absorbing vibrations.
An amateur has to look into the following options – budget, the type of camera and the lens. If you have a decent budget, then it is advised to buy tripods from Benro, Manfrotto or Induro. If you’re tight with your budget, then Velbon comes handy. Also please note that there are plenty of lightweight tripods available in Amazon. The first tripod is not the only tripod you will buy.
Photography is incomplete without a tripod. There are times, your hands might fail, but a sturdy tripod will not.