One thing that seems to separate the photographer pros from the amateurs is gear. If you see a photographer on the street with multiple lenses, bags, and cameras, you'd likely assume him or her to be a serious hobbyist or a professional. One of those pieces of equipment that usually stands the pro apart from the beginner is a tripod. Why? Because if it's perceived as cumbersome or additional work, must amateurs won't bother with it. Kind of like the difference between those who get out of their cars to take a photo versus those who just roll down the window!
If you've looked for a tripod, you know that they come in many sizes, but they all serve one main purpose, and that's to add stability to ensure a sharp image. I'll give you three good reasons you should separate yourselves from the amateurs and take the time to set up a tripod. The few seconds to minutes that it takes could make the difference between capturing a great image versus pushing delete, delete, delete...
#1: Low Light, High Hopes
Low light is a photographer's number one reason to use a tripod, and these two chess players is a great example of why. With each long exposure, the odds of a blurred image are increased greatly. If you're going to take the time to set your camera's settings to slow shutter speeds, open apertures, higher ISOs, then - please - take that extra moment to put your camera on a tripod.
You can tell by the grain in this image, albeit intentional, that the ISO is set quite high (it was set at 640 - you can tell from the EXIF information in the image). This is a good giveaway that they're in a low light situation. The image is also ever so slightly blurred, which may be what the photographer's intentions were, but if you want crystal clear, sharp images, your tripod (and still subjects!) is the solution here.
This late evening capture presents another great low light example. The building's sharp edges can be attributed to the photographer's use of a tripod. Handheld after dusk is risky and makes it nearly impossible to capture a clear image. The photographer took the time to pull out his tripod, level it, set the height, and attach his camera. The payoff was worth the effort, I'd say!
#2 Take A Load Off
A long day of carrying around gear can be somewhat tiring. Although it may seem like adding a tripod to the bulk of equipment just makes it worse, it in fact makes things easier. Why? Because holding a camera after a long day on a shoot can lead to arm and hand fatigue, which can only result in shaky hands and blurred images. A lot of landscape photographers are hiking and climbing through the mountains, down long roads, and along riverbanks to get the right shot. It's a workout! And if they're out there long enough, fatigue will become the enemy. Let your tripod do the work of carrying the burden for a bit!
Landscape photographers are also always waiting for the sun to rise or set and for that exact moment when the light is just right. In their setting up, there's ample time to include a tripod. The depth of field in this image is quite sharp, which means the f-stop was likely at least 6.7 - 9.5... an often "sweet spot" range for landscape photographers. The higher the f-stop, the lower the shutter speed, and hence the need for a tripod to ensure a sharp photo such as this beautiful landscape!
Stop the Flow!
To blur a moving subject, whether it's a car, person, or a waterfall like in this example, a slow shutter speed is required to achieve this effect. If you're noticing a trend here, slow shutter speeds equal tripod needs! If you don't have a tripod, make it your next investment!
Likewise to the waterfall, this image of car lights along a city street at night required the use of a tripod in order to capture the desired blurred effect. It's this type of creativity that means investing in the gear needed to make it happen.
Low light, landscape captures, and slow moving objects are three good reasons to make the tripod a part of your photography gear. If it's already something you own and you're not using it, I challenge you to make it the first thing you set up on your next shoot. See how many photos you're keeping rather than deleting. You'll thank me later!
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