Monday, September 16, 2013
Ten Reasons To Use A Tripod Other Than Long Exposures
Think you know why you need a tripod? Think again
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2. What if the composition is perfect, but you want to refine elements within a scene? Tripods are ideal for that too, as they allow you to make subtle changes to elements within a shot—say the props in a still life, or the position of a portrait subject's hands or feet—without reinventing the photograph with every new exposure as you would if you were handholding. In this case the tripod becomes the literal foundation of your exposure so that the composition doesn't change from shot to shot, allowing you to easily see what other subtle changes you are making. Simple stuff, but oh so powerful.
3. Even if you're working with a fast shutter speed, tripods are still very helpful. I often find that when working in the studio with a pretty fast shutter speed of 1/125th, that if I'm not careful with my handholding, I'm sure to create a subtle bit of focus blur on a portrait subject's face. The chances of this blur are amplified if I'm using a long telephoto lens, but even with just a 50 or 70mm lens I've seen camera shake in evidence. I'm not alone when I say I've had more than one shot ruined because of this—and it's something that nine times out of 10 can be simply solved with a tripod.
5. Sometimes it can be very difficult to get your camera into the perfect position for a given photograph. Maybe the ideal vantage point is high above your head, or maybe it's just uncomfortably low to the ground. Either way, a tripod can alleviate some of the stress of getting to these tricky angles. Once you've reached that peculiar vantage point, the tripod obviously holds the camera there, so that you can make multiple attempts in creating the best photograph. And sometimes it would simply be impossible to handhold a camera in a position that a tripod enables—at least not with much accuracy or repeatability. I'd call that important, wouldn't you?
6. If you happen to be shooting straight down at a subject, there's no better way than with the help of a tripod. This way you can work to keep your shadow off of the subject, as well as helping to refine the angle of view and minimize distortion from this tricky-to-see angle. For more help in a situation like this, I like to tether my setup so I don't have to try to get my eye on top of the tripod-mounted camera. This way I can conveniently see the composition via the laptop, rather than struggling to get up to the viewfinder. It's not a vantage point I use all the time, but it is something I employ when needed. And it would be a lot harder to do it well without a tripod.
8. Sometimes I make multiple exposures of a scene in order to composite them together into one superior finished image. Occasionally it's to increase the dynamic range of a particularly contrasty scene, but more often than not it's just so that I can modify scene elements or add bits of lighting here and there throughout the composition. A tripod is a necessity if you're making multiple exposure composites or panoramas. Not only should you use a tripod for this, but you'll want to leave your camera untouched as much as possible once the work begins, as there's nothing worse than kicking the tripod out of registration after many exposures.
9. If you want to create a repeatable photograph, there's no better way than to keep putting your camera in exactly the same place. And for that, a tripod is ideal. For instance, let's say you want to photograph a particular landscape across the four seasons. If you can mark the position of your tripod legs somehow, you're halfway there. The rest is just keeping track of the details of how you set the tripod legs and head. Note that you had the tripod at full extension, for instance, with the head rotated 35 degrees. Don't forget to note the details of the camera and lens, too. Being able to return the camera to the same exact position is no easy feat, but a tripod makes it much more doable.
If you have your own favorite reasons to use a tripod, please share them in the comments.