Why Photographers Use a Tripod

Tripod & Hat

In his book, “Backcountry Journal, Reminiscences of a Wilderness Photographer,” Dave Bohn, mountain and wilderness photographer writes, “The trouble with photographers, and anyone else attempting anything creative, and in fact doing anything, is that they get addicted…(and)…I was addicted to the tripod as a necessity for the photography of large landscapes.”

I will admit that there are times when I use my camera lazily, releasing the shutter after having aimed my camera at some interesting landscape without using a tripod. Then I quickly view the LCD in the hope of seeing a sharp image file. But, if I really care about the image, and want the best success at producing a quality enlargement, I should definitely use my tripod.

Last night I picked up my tattered old copy of Bohn’s book, “Backcountry Journal, Reminiscences of a Wilderness Photographer” and read for a while. I have had it since it was printed in 1974, and like to reread a few pages every so often.  Photographers I know are aware that I like using a tripod for landscape photography, and have heard me say, “ If you don’t like using a tripod it means you never have used a good one”. Today it’s popular to spend extra money on “vibration reduction,” or “image stabilizing,” lenses with the notion that this technology will allow the photographer to do scenic photography without needing a tripod. Many modern photographers are of the belief that the difference between a blurry and a sharp enlargement is megapixels or vibration reduction lenses. I disagree and say the difference is a good, stable tripod.

I’m not saying photographers shouldn’t get image stabilizing lenses, as they are great to use in certain situations and conditions when you can’t use a tripod, and must use slower shutter speeds. Nevertheless, using a good tripod that allows one to stand up straight, take time to analyze the scene, problem solve, compose, and contemplate is an excellent experience. In addition, it keeps the camera from moving.

When I select a tripod I want one that extends above my head so I can use it on hills. I don’t like bending over to peer through my camera’s viewfinder. I prefer tripod legs that can be extended out horizontally when the ground is uneven.  I don’t want a crank to raise the center column as that is just added weight, and becomes one more thing to get caught on things. I like a column lock that turns to lock and unlock so I can easily move the camera when I need to adjust it up or down.  An important feature on the tripod I select is a strong and easily available quick release on the tripod head. The tripod head is another subject completely and my advice is get one that has a reasonable size ball surface and that is lightweight.  A tripod shouldn’t be so heavy that it’s a bother to carry as I walk up and down the hills around my backwoods home. And here is an important reason: I also want a sturdy-enough tripod that is capable of supporting my camera, and I am always amazed when someone buys a cheap, little tripod to hold their camera and lens which are worth well over the thousand dollar plus mark.

I suggest buying from people that have used, or at least can discuss, the tripods they sell.  The department store outlets will allow you to bring it back if you aren’t satisfied, but I am sure they are not interested in paying for the damages to your camera and lens that crashed to the ground while using their bargain tripod.

In recent years more and more quality tripods have become available and are worth owning and using. All one needs to do is spend some time researching and checking reviews. Hopefully you spent time selecting your digital camera and lenses and my advice is to take the time and also purchase a really good tripod to go along with them.

I really enjoy everyone’s comments. Thanks, John

My website is at at www.enmanscamera.com

8 responses to “Why Photographers Use a Tripod

  1. I KNOW, I KNOW, YOU BEAT ME UP REGULARLY FOR NOT PACKING MY TRIPOD. I PROMISE TO TAKE IT WITH ME IN FUTURE….AND SHOOT IN RAW WHILE I’M AT IT. DAMN IT, YOU WIN.

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    • Either you are really passionate about your words or your keyboard is stuck on caps… Nevertheless, I think you’ll do better when shooting landscapes with a tripod and, of course, you shouldn’t be wasting time and the possibility of good image by keeping your camera set to JPG..

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  2. I totally agree! I take my trusty Bogen with me everywhere. If I’m not using my tripod I’m using my monopod. Although there are situations where neither one will work, I always have them with me. I know a lot of photographers who think they are not necessary, but I think they are wrong.

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    • Even though we have never shot together, just from seeing your excellent work – I would expect that you’d use a tripod.
      I am surprised when someone does say they don’t like tripods…Oh well. I once attended a workshop by Photographer and author Scott Borne where he quipped. “the difference between getting an image accepted for a magazine cover or not getting excepted, is a tripod.” At the time I was envious of his beautiful, wooden Ries tripod.
      I appreciate that you took the time to comment Roy.

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