Step up your photography game – the tripod

Let’s face it. We live in a time when everyone is a photographer. That brought a broader interest and, more importantly, larger demand for photography. No matter what has contributed to this (mostly smartphones), that situation is good for everyone. Photography is everywhere now, and you can’t help it. Also, photography is now a core component of many digital industries, such as ads, marketing, and blogging. Whatever your reason to take a picture is – for example, stock photography – you want it to be top-notch. Even if you’re a simple traveler or blogger showcasing your lifestyle on social media, you know your content will be a needle in a haystack. If your pictures don’t stand out somehow, they’ll be on the bottom of the endless content streams we take just seconds to analyze in our devices.

 

Today, everyone is a photographer. Try to stand out!

 

Yet, many people continue to photograph without basic notions of photography. And especially the underlying element that controls it: light. Obviously, neither this post or this blog represents a photography course for anyone (well, not right now). I can, however, inform people looking for an easy way to improve their pictures that such a thing exists. It’s the tripod. Yes, I’m sure you know what it is. And of course, if you already use it correctly, this subject should be less useful for you. On the other hand, if you want to know more about tripods or actually get one, I’ll give you two practical reasons why it’s a good choice.

 

1 – Low-Light Scenarios

Let’s begin with low-light situations: night and interiors, mostly. Did you ever notice that low-light shots you take with a phone, or a larger camera with auto-settings, are crappy? There’s an explanation for that. Such devices automatically compensate for the lack of light using techniques that decrease photo quality. Specifically, this is usually made with an increase of ISO, which means your pictures will be noisy (not going to explain what ISO is now). This happens because the camera needs more light to make that shot correctly.

But there are many ways to give the camera more light. One of them is to give it more TIME to capture, i.e. the shutter speed. For dark environments though, we easily enter the realm of seconds-long durations, which leads to a problem. You can’t hold the camera in your hand still enough. With a tripod, however, you can keep your camera secure for as long as it needs. That way, it’s then able to keep the ISO at a quality level (low) and do a long exposure. And alas, you unlock superior quality in low-light conditions!

On your right, you can see the effect of digital noise provoked by auto-settings when shooting with low-light. The picture on the left was taken with a tripod.
2 – Full Sharpness

A tripod is not only used in low-light situations though. It can also improve other plain-day scenes, such as street photography. For example, see if you can recognize this scenario. Using auto-settings, your camera (especially DSLRs) blurs the background and focuses the foreground. While that’s generally good for portraits, wouldn’t you want sometimes to keep EVERYTHING sharp? You can achieve that by closing the aperture of the camera (increasing the f value). That’s a setting which the camera generally keeps low because of the same reason above, i.e. it needs more light to compensate. Again, with the tripod in place, you can amp the f value and get sharpness across the whole shot!

In the first two pictures, you can see the results of using a wide aperture or low f value (shots focused on the front and on the back of the fly respectively). With a tighter aperture (higher f value) you can get more of your subject focused.

The tripod can get you many other creative effects, such as light painting, hiding tourists, astrophotography, etc.

 

The tripod frees you from the automatic chains of the camera!

 

When trying to explain how tripods can be used, I ended up introducing the three pillars of photography: ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. Please keep in mind that these very important concepts should be further consolidated, something which I intend to do in the near future. However, you should be comfortable with them sooner or later if you really want to take photography seriously, and this was a good way to show you why tripods matter. Also, you need to use the manual or semi-automatic modes (Av, Tv or P) to be able to change the parameters I mention above.

This is just the first of many BTW posts about tripods. Later I’ll introduce you to my own tripod gear and how I use it on my own. I shall also explain what features to look for when buying a new tripod. And if you still need some motivation, amazing examples of pictures which exist due to the use of a tripod will come to you!

 

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